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NASA Rocket Forms Dazzling Red And Blue-Green Clouds In The Sky

30 June 2017, 11:54 am EDT By Katrina Pascual Tech Times
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After several delays, the mid-Atlantic coast’s early morning sky was filled with luminescent artificial clouds Thursday, June 29, as a NASA sounding rocket launched. Learn more about the dazzling display and what the experiment is for.  ( NASA's Wallops Flight Facility | Facebook )

No, it’s not July 4 fireworks just yet.

After several delays, the mid-Atlantic coast’s early morning sky was filled with luminescent red and blue-green clouds Thursday, June 29, as NASA launched its sounding rocket. The experiment is part of a system that helps scientists better study and understand aurora and the ionosphere.

Launch Details

The Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket successfully launched at 4:25 a.m. from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, a NASA statement revealed.

The two-stage suborbital sounding rocket took off from the eastern Virginia shore with a 670-pound main payload. In the eight-minute flight, 10 soda can-sized canisters were ejected in space, deploying red as well as blue-green vapor forming artificial clouds seen from New York to North Carolina.

While preferable, clear skies were not required on this mission. Ground cameras, too, monitored the vapor tracers, providing data through an interaction with barium, strontium, and cupric oxide.

The tracers, positioned at altitudes of around 96 to 124 miles, will let researchers visually monitor particle motions in space from the ground. The multi-canister system is hoped to cover a much bigger research area than previously possible.

NASA reported that the event was witnessed by a large number of people, with Wallops receiving nearly 2,000 call-ins, emails, and pictures of the cloud display coming from across Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Of Delays And Safety Concerns

The rocket, which flew to an altitude of around 118 miles, was supposed to blast off on May 31 and then on June 1. The sounding rocket launch delays and rescheduling were mostly attributed to less-than-ideal weather conditions.

The last time on a Sunday morning, real clouds got in the way of testing and led to the postponement of the launch.

NASA previously guaranteed that the mission is not dangerous to humans, where the barium, strontium, and cupric oxide contained in the canisters not known to pose immediate risks.

Sounding rocket experiments have been taking place for the past four decades, giving the U.S. space agency enhanced knowledge for its space programs and initiatives. These rockets’ time in space is typically brief, or lasting around five to 20 minutes at once.

Next Up: Total Solar Eclipse

The “Great American Eclipse,” a total solar eclipse occurring on Aug. 21, is perhaps the next big spectacle for eager skywatchers.

Astronomers and skywatchers are set to tune their telescopes to witness the eclipse that will occur for several hours in states from the Southeast and passing across the Mountain West before proceeding to the Pacific Northwest. The event is anticipated to pass over the country along a stretch of land from Oregon to South Carolina.

For this celestial event, American public libraries will be distributing more than 2 million pairs of free special eclipse viewing glasses that will sweep over the nation. The glasses will come from an outreach program from the Space Science Institute (SSI).

To best enjoy this much-awaited event, Tech Times has compiled tips and techniques for memorable eclipse viewing. These include finding the most suitable viewing spot, knowing which states will witness a total or partial eclipse and at what exact times.

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