NASA Fires A Rocket into An Aurora
On March 3, NASA launched a rocket straight into an aurora over Alaska to study how its curls and swirls form.
Auroras are beautiful sights to behold, and NASA is seeking to gain a better understanding of how they develop the specific shapes they do. To that end, a sounding rocket was launched into an aurora in the early morning of March 3 over Venetie, Alaska.
Sounding rockets, also known as research rockets, carry scientific instruments into space for 5-20 minutes before returning to Earth and serve as a low-cost alternative to satellites. This one was part of the GREECE mission - the Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics-Electron Correlative Experiment - which seeks to understand what sets the aurora's shape curling and swirling.
"The conditions were optimal," said Marilia Samara, principal investigator for the mission at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "We can't wait to dig into the data."
Auroras appear in the high latitude regions of the world - the Arctic and Antarctic - and are caused by charged particles colliding with atoms high up in the atmosphere. Ions flowing from the Sun become trapped in Earth's magnetic field, travel toward the poles, and collide with oxygen or nitrogen atoms in the air; the resulting light is the energy released by these collisions. Some auroras illuminate the night sky with enough brightness for observers to be able to read by the light they shed.
Source: NASA, via Discover
Rockets for great science!
Really do hope that there is some neat information to come out about the exact ways the shapes manifest themselves.
With all the coverage they are generating lately, it appears someone at NASA just woke up.
That or they finally have a budget again.
Either way: rock on, NASA!
Every time they talk about cutting NASA budget.
Just remember the times they give a giant metallic middle finger to nature and to communists! FOR SCIENCE!
Some people have the best jobs. It was some dudes job to launch a massive rocket using what is pretty much a sustained explosion into the sky because they're a bit curious to how they form. I'm envious.
"We need to know more about Auroras." "Let's fire a rocket into one. For science!"
Money well spent.
This is good news. Auroras have always interested me.
And I know this isn't what I was supposed to get out of the story, but I'm just picturing some dudebro going, "What if we shot it with a missle?" And then it was. I salute you, dudebro.
Aww.. I was hoping for something more sensational!
NASA Fires A Rocket into An Aurora. World erupts into firey chaos
NASA Fires A Rocket into An Aurora. The great Elder Gods awaken.
NASA Fires A Rocket into An Aurora. Aliens send message "Stop poking us!"
Who says science isn't fun? BOO YEAH!