What happens when researchers launch four rockets into the northern lights over Alaska?
This beautiful video.
Photographer Ronn Murray braved temperatures of -43 degrees Fahrenheit to film the launch of the rockets from NASA’s Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. Two of the launches are captured in this clip, and he says he may produce a full-length clip soon.
The Terrier-Improved Malemute and Terrier-Orion sounding rockets were launched into the aurora carrying two university-developed experiments: The Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment, or M-TeX, and the Mesospheric Inversion-layer Stratified Turbulence, or MIST.
The MIST and M-Tex payloads deployed trimethyl aluminum vapor trails between 50 and 87 miles above the Earth. The whitish clouds that formed were photographed from several ground stations to help detect turbulence in the upper atmosphere.
The experiments explored the Earth’s atmosphere’s response to auroral, radiation belt and solar energetic particles and associated effects on nitric oxide and ozone.
Richard Collins, M-TeX principal investigator from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, said, “Recent solar storms have resulted in major changes to the composition of the upper atmosphere above 49 miles (80 kilometers), where enhancements in nitrogen compounds have been found. These compounds can be transported into the middle atmosphere where they can contribute to ozone destruction.”
“However, the meteorological conditions do not always allow such transport to occur. Thus, the impact of solar activity on the Earth is not just about how the sun is a source of energetic particles but also how the Earth’s meteorological conditions determine the fate of these particles in the atmosphere,” Collins said.