NASA paints the night sky: Five rockets in five minutes burst into orbit, sending glowing clouds into the atmosphere

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2121082/NASA-launches-5-suborbital-rockets-Virginia-sending-glowing-clouds-atmosphere.html

By Beth Stebner

PUBLISHED: 09:37 EST, 27 March 2012 | UPDATED: 15:58 EST, 27 March 2012

NASA has launched five rockets into space that will measure the jet stream by releasing chemical clouds into the atmosphere.

Blasting off from a facility in Virginia, the rockets began their ascent into space early this morning from NASA’s space centre on Wallops Island.

All five rockets were launched in a five-minute span, deploying 80 seconds apart from one another.

The launches had been delayed several times because of bad weather and wind concerns.

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Lift off! Five rockets were launched before dawn today in a NASA mission to help scientists understand the upper level jet streamLift off! Five rockets were launched before dawn today in a NASA mission to help scientists understand the upper level jet stream
Five in five: The five suborbital rockets were launched within 80 seconds of one anotherFive in five: The five suborbital rockets were launched within 80 seconds of one another
Visualizing the invisible: Chemical tracers form white clouds that allowed scientists and the public to visualize upper level jet stream windsVisualising the invisible: Chemical tracers form white clouds that allowed scientists and the public to visualize upper level jet stream winds
Lighting the sky: The white clouds were visible from the groundLighting the sky: The white clouds were visible from the ground

Each of the five rockets will help scientists study high-altitude jet streams that have been measured at speeds of up to 400km an hour.

Following the launch, each of the five rockets release chemical, milky-white tracers into the jet stream more than 60 miles above the earth.

The tracer – called trimethyl aluminium – forms white clouds that allowed scientists to see the wind patterns.

They are illuminated by the rays of the sun, despite being below local horizons, space.com reported.

Glowing: The ATREX rockets launch chemical tracers such as these that can be tracked by special cameras to help study winds in Earth's atmosphereGlowing: The ATREX rockets launch chemical tracers such as these that can be tracked by special cameras to help study winds in Earth’s atmosphere
Waiting game: Before the launch, the rockets were placed in a foam box to maintain the temperature of the solid-fueled rocket motors and the payloadWaiting game: Before the launch, the rockets were placed in a foam box to maintain the temperature of the solid-fueled rocket motors and the payload

According to NASA, residents along the East Coast, as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as North Carolina, reported seeing the streaks in the night sky.

The experiment, officially called the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX), will help scientists understand the jet stream.

According to space.com, time-lapse photography from several sites along the East Coast will reveal where the chemical clouds drift, thus giving scientists more knowledge of the jet stream.

The jet stream is in a region of atmosphere with much electrical turbulence as well, which can disrupt radio and satellite signals.

Ahead of the launch, space scientist Miguel Larsen said: ‘This area shows winds much larger than expected.’

Dress rehearsal: Four of the ATREX rockets stand in the vertical launch position during a night-time rehearsal at the Wallops Flight Facility last weekDress rehearsal: Four of the ATREX rockets stand in the vertical launch position during a night-time rehearsal at the Wallops Flight Facility last week
Game plan: The red dots over the water show where ATREX will deploy chemical tracers to watch how super fast winds move some 60 miles up in the atmosphereGame plan: The red dots over the water show where ATREX will deploy chemical tracers to watch how super fast winds move some 60 miles up in the atmosphere
Night flight: The launch happened early this morningNight flight: The launch happened early this morning
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Posted on March 27, 2012, in Science / Technology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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