HomeAstronomy & SpaceNASA rocket launches from Alaska in search of aurora answers

NASA rocket launches from Alaska in search of aurora answers

NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket soared high out of Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks at 2:27 a.m. The rocket will help astronomers to learn more about pulsating aurora.

The Loss through Auroral Microburst Pulsations experiment seeks to determine whether the pulsating aurora is connected to another phenomenon called microbursts. Higher-energy electrons from the Earth’s magnetosphere driven toward Earth in bursts that last about one-tenth of a second. It is faster than the pulsating aurora but similar to the flickering inside the pulsations.

A pulsating aurora looks patchy and happens within minutes or sometimes hours after the conclusion of a discrete aurora. It is the familiar curtain-like type of aurora.

The launch of the rocket has been postponed since Feb 24. Because of the opening of the launch window. Scientists needed the right combination of active aurora and good weather at a camera site in Venetie. It is located more than 130 miles north of the range.

Weather and aurora activity improved in current days. Space physics researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Alexa Halford, detected pulsating aurora over Venetie early Saturday. Scientists determined that launch conditions were favorable.

Good data was received from all instruments aboard the sounding rocket. The launch was the first at Poker Flat since January 2020.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute owns Poker Flat. It is located at Mile 30 Steese Highway. Scientists operates it under a contract with NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.


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