Clemson rocket launches test Alaskan auroras

March 16, 2007
Clemson rocket launches test Alaskan auroras

It may have been 40 degrees below zero at the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska, but aurora and weather came together one recent winter night in a perfect match for Clemson University researchers and students who launched four rockets to study heat in the upper atmosphere.

Four 30- to 40-foot-long NASA suborbital sounding rockets were launched into the night sky within a period of 16 minutes as part of the HEX 2 project, a collaborative effort between the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and Clemson.

"We had absolutely ideal conditions for the launches," said Clemson physics professor Miguel Larsen. "We are interested in the auroral displays because they produce electrical currents that heat the atmosphere. Wind patterns become altered as the atmosphere heats up, and this can cause changes in satellite orbits and interference with radio communications."

The rockets carried chemical tracer experiments from Larsen and instruments from Clemson assistant physics professor Gerald Lehmacher. At 60 miles above the ground, the chemical tracer glows and can be tracked as it is carried by winds high up in the atmosphere. The instruments measured the changes in atmospheric pressure created by the heat.

The rocket range is located 30 miles north of Fairbanks. The data will be analyzed to yield a three-dimensional picture of the neutral winds and density changes that occur during auroral disturbances.

Source: Clemson University

Explore further: GO FIGURE: Figuring the odds of Earth's global hot streak

Related Stories

Sounding rocket to observe currents in atmosphere

June 20, 2013

Swirling through Earth's upper atmosphere is a layer of charged particles called the ionosphere. Constantly on the move, currents through the ionosphere can be much more complicated than winds at lower altitudes, because ...

NASA jet stream study will light up the night sky

March 7, 2012

High in the sky, 60 to 65 miles above Earth's surface, winds rush through a little understood region of Earth's atmosphere at speeds of 200 to 300 miles per hour. Lower than a typical satellite's orbit, higher than where ...

Engineers explore environmental concerns of nanotechnology

February 1, 2010

As researchers around the world hasten to employ nanotechnology to improve production methods for applications that range from manufacturing materials to creating new pharmaceutical drugs, a separate but equally compelling ...

Recommended for you

Seeing quantum motion

August 28, 2015

Consider the pendulum of a grandfather clock. If you forget to wind it, you will eventually find the pendulum at rest, unmoving. However, this simple observation is only valid at the level of classical physics—the laws ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.