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Here's Why NASA Will Shoot Colorful Clouds Across The Sky On Father's Day

18 June 2017, 7:32 am EDT By Alyssa Navarro Tech Times
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On Father’s Day, NASA will be performing a colorful light show visible across the East coast. The light show will help scientists visibly track how clouds move in Earth’s ionosphere.  ( NASA )

If you're on the East coast, you might be able to watch a spectacular treat from NASA on Father's Day. The space agency is planning to perform a much-anticipated light show on Sunday night after postponing the launch several times.

What's The Light Show For?

NASA will lift off its Terrier-Improved Malamute rocket, which will shoot colorful clouds across the night sky, on June 18 from 9:05 p.m. to 9:20 p.m. EDT. NASA's Malamute is a multi-canister system that ejects ampoules capable of forming artificial clouds.

However, these colorful clouds are not merely for show. The launch will allow scientists to gather information on a much larger area than what they were capable during a previous mission.

In fact, the light show will help NASA track particle motions in space. It is one of the many missions in a global initiative called "Grand Challenge," which aims to help researchers study two cusps or gaping holes in the magnetic field of Earth. According to Astronomy Now, these two holes leak almost 100 tons of air every day.

Although our planet won't run out of air soon, the Father's Day mission is important because scientists have yet to understand how the cusps on Earth's magnetic field work.

When the vapor tracers are released into the ionosphere, it will reveal how clouds move in that region. This may help experts better understand phenomena such as geomagnetic storms and auroras.

Details Behind the Launch

The launch was initially planned for May 31, but it has since then been scrubbed seven times because of poor visibility and unconducive conditions such as cloudy skies, high winds, and boats in the hazard area, NASA said.

During Sunday night's ascent, the rocket will release red and blue-green vapor that will create colorful clouds four or five minutes after the launch. These colorful lights or vapor tracers are formed when strontium, cupric-oxide, and barium interact.

"They're made of aluminum and about the size of a Coke can," said Keith Koehler, spokesperson from NASA.

Once the rocket is launched, these vapor tracers will be released at altitudes 96 to 124 miles high. It will pose no danger to residents in the mid-Atlantic coast. The payload will land in the Atlantic Ocean and will not be recovered.

How To Watch

Several ground cameras are stationed in Duck, North Carolina and at the Wallops Flight Facility in Wattsville, Virginia to view the vapor tracers. The light show will be visible from North Carolina to New York, and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia. Clear skies are required at the ground stations for this test.

If you aren't residing on the East coast, you can watch the live coverage of the mission on the Wallops Ustream site. NASA will also do a Facebook live beginning at 8:50 p.m. EDT.

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