Backed Aurora Experiment Adds Eerie Extra Dimension to Polar Light Show

Rodiano Bonacci
Aprile 10, 2019

He added: "We saw two orange dots rise into the sky and disappear".

Two Black Brant XI-A sounding rockets launched from the Andøya Space Center at 10:14 p.m. UTC.

The unusual light show was actually part of a NASA-funded AZURE (Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment) experiment to learn about the flow of particles in the ionosphere and to find out more about the contribution that an aurora makes to the amount of energy leaving and entering Earth's geospace system.

NASA and USA scientists are joining those from Norway, Japan, Canada and other countries to investigate the physics of heating and charged particle precipitation in this region called the geomagnetic cusp - one of the few places on Earth with easy access to the electrically charged solar wind that pervades the solar system.

The US space agency's AZURE programme launched two rockets on Friday (Saturday NZT) from the Andøya Space Center which released tracer materials created to glow in the atmosphere. Winds in regions of the ionosphere move these particles around, and although this vertical wind is an incredibly important part of our atmosphere, we now don't know much about how it works. The vapors were released over the Norwegian Sea at 71 through 150 miles altitude.

During the launch, the rockets deployed chemical tracers - trimethylaluminum (TMA) and a barium-strontium mixture - that ionize in sunlight, enabling researchers to track the flow of neutral and charged particles. According to the US space agency, the movement of the colorful clouds and their dispersion allowed scientists to observe the flow of particles in two key regions of the atmosphere.

Despite not causing any hazard, residents were definitely a little under prepared. "A short while later odd lights and colorful, expanding clouds appeared I first did not have an explanation for".

A light show appearing in the skies over northern Norway last week sparked speculation of an alien spacecraft visiting Earth.

AZURE is the first of eight sounding rocket missions launching over the next two years as part of an global collaboration of scientists known as The Grand Challenge Initiative - Cusp.

We hope they all look as fantastic as Friday's display.

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