By: April Carson
This week, NASA launched two rockets into the Northern Lights. The rockets, which were launched from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska on Wednesday, are part of a larger project known as the Polar Bear experiment.
The goal of the Polar Bear experiment is to study how the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) form and evolve. To do this, NASA will be using a new type of instrument known as a “two-dimensional digital array camera.”
NASA is interested in learning more about how natural light shows, like auroras, interact with the planet's atmosphere.
The Earth's magnetosphere is bombarded by solar wind when the planet is experiencing a geomagnetic storm, resulting in the Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis.
The green and blue hues are caused by the solar wind interacting with Earth's magnetic field.
The Sun's energetic charged particles strike atoms in the Earth's atmosphere and convert them to a higher-energy state.
Light is released when the atoms return to their lower energy condition.
Researchers are still unclear about auroras and their influence on the atmosphere, which is something NASA aims to clarify.
The atmosphere of Earth is composed of five primary layers.
We reside in a neutral stratum known as the troposphere, which is filled with air we consume.
The more distant a planet's atmosphere is from Earth, the more susceptible it is to solar radiation and solar winds.
We do not yet know what role auroras play in our troposphere.
We’re used to air made of neutral particles in the troposphere, Earth's lowest atmospheric layer, according to NASA.
“Organic life forms on Earth are composed of magnetically balanced atoms and molecules with all of their electrons accounted for.”
But, “hundreds of miles above us, our air takes on a distinct new character.”
“Electrons are extracted from their atoms by the Sun's unfiltered rays, which gives them a positive charge.”
“Plasma is a state of matter that exists when a formerly non-reactive gas has been exposed to an electric current.”
Each launch will involve two rockets: one that releases the camera payload, and another that serves as a target. The rockets will release the camera payload into the aurora borealis and then follow it down to capture the footage.
The entire process will take about 10 minutes, and the team is hoping to get some incredible footage of the northern lights in action.
The space plane's ability to stay in place for a few minutes while collecting data will be demonstrated.
Researchers can watch how auroras affect the wind with each rocket's colored vapor trail.
The other rocket will be checking the temperature and plasma density.
This isn't the first time that NASA has launched rockets into auroras. In fact, it's become something of a tradition for the space agency.
In 2012, NASA launched four sounding rockets in quick succession from Norway's Andoya Rocket Range. The rockets were used to study how auroras interact with Earth's upper atmosphere.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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