NASA’s Artificial Aurora Will Light Up the Sky Tonight & Here’s How to See It
UPDATE: The launch has been canceled many, many times. The latest scheduled launch for June 24 has been canceled. The launch has been rescheduled for Thursday, June 29 at 4:25 – 4:48 am.
NASA will give the east coast a colorful show Monday night when it fills the sky with luminescent clouds resembling an aurora. The spectacle will be the result of a sounding rocket test originating at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Skywatchers will be able to see the show between 9:04 pm and 9:19 pm ET. Rather, they'll be able to see it if conditions cooperate. NASA has already had to call off four tests due to windy conditions, cloud cover, and "boats in the launch range hazard area." The team requires clear skies in one of two ground stations for the test to work.
If conditions are favorable, the bursts of color should be visible along the shore from New York to North Carolina and as far west as Charlottesville, Virginia.
If you aren't in the mid-Atlantic eastern seaboard, you can catch the aesthetically pleasing experiment via a NASA livestream slated to start at 8:30 pm ET. NASA will also open the visitor's center at Wallops if you'd prefer to be at the heart of the spectacle.
The glowing sky will be the result of NASA testing a new "ampoule ejection" system used to research the ionosphere and auroras. After launching the rocket, the team will send up ten canisters which will release blue-green and red vapor, known as vapor tracers, to create artificial clouds. (NASA says the tracers do not pose a risk to anyone on the ground.)
In the announcement, NASA says "the multi-canister ampoule ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously allowed when deploying the tracers just from the main payload." It should also provide a pleasing, but short show for anyone with their eyes pointed up.
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