NASA launches suborbital rockets from Virginia

March 27, 2012
Image: NASA

Milky white chemical clouds were briefly visible in much of the night sky along the Eastern seaboard on Tuesday after NASA launched a series of rockets to study the jet stream at the edge of the earth's atmosphere.

The five sounding rockets began blasting off just before 5 a.m. from NASA's Wallops Island facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Each of the rockets was fired about 80 seconds apart and released a chemical cloud so that scientists could `see' little-understood winds about 65 miles above the earth's surface. Firing multiple rockets allows scientists to track the high-speed winds over hundreds of miles.

NASA said it received reports that the chemical clouds were visible as far south as Wilmington, N.C.; west to Charleston, W.Va.; and north to Buffalo, N.Y. The clouds were also visible above major metropolitan areas like Washington and New York.

The winds NASA is studying travel at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour in an area of the atmosphere where there are strong electrical currents.

In this photo provided by NASA, a sounding rocket launches from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., Tuesday, March 27, 2012, as part of the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX). Five rockets were launched from the site before dawn Tuesday for the ATREX mission to help scientists understand the upper level jet stream, which is located 60 to 65 miles above Earth's surface. (AP Photo/NASA)

Data gathered from the experiment should allow scientists to better model the electromagnetic regions of space that can damage satellites and affect radio communications.

Scientists also hope the experiment will help explain how atmospheric disturbances in one part of the globe can be transported to other parts of the globe in a day or two.

NASA had been trying to launch the rockets since March 14, but had a series of delays due to bad weather. NASA needed skies to be clear in Virginia as well as coastal North Carolina and New Jersey, where the space agency had cameras set up to capture images of the clouds.

Explore further: Launch madness at Wallops in March - '5 in 5'

More information: http://www.nasa.gov/mission-pages/sunearth/missions/atrex-nightlight.html

0 shares

Related Stories

Launch madness at Wallops in March - '5 in 5'

March 5, 2012

Launch madness will hit the east coast in March as NASA launches five rockets in approximately five minutes to study the high-altitude jet stream from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

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 ...

NASA rocket launch scheduled March 15, 2012

March 13, 2012

NASA is scheduled to launch five suborbital sounding rockets in just over five minutes March 15 from the Wallops Facility in Virginia as part of a study of the upper level jet stream.

NASA five rocket ATREX mission moved to March 20

March 19, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA has rescheduled the launch of five suborbital sounding rockets from the Wallops Facility in Virginia as part of a study of the upper level jet stream to no earlier than Tuesday night, March 20.

Recommended for you

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

Image: Hubble sees a youthful cluster

August 31, 2015

Shown here in a new image taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is the globular cluster NGC 1783. This is one of the biggest globular clusters in the Large Magellanic ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

yyz
not rated yet Mar 27, 2012
It's a bit hard to see all the delicate tracery of the artificial clouds in the video but a slideshow with photos of the event show these clouds quite well: http://www.flickr...12/show/

More cloud photos and a short time-lapse of this awesome-looking display can be found here: http://www.univer...minutes/

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.