Clemson rocket launches test Alaskan auroras

Mar 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: X-rays probe LHC for cause of short circuit

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sounding rocket to observe currents in atmosphere

Jun 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, ...

NASA jet stream study will light up the night sky

Mar 07, 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 ...

Recommended for you

X-rays probe LHC for cause of short circuit

Mar 27, 2015

The LHC has now transitioned from powering tests to the machine checkout phase. This phase involves the full-scale tests of all systems in preparation for beam. Early last Saturday morning, during the ramp-down, ...

New insights found in black hole collisions

Mar 27, 2015

New research provides revelations about the most energetic event in the universe—the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a much larger black hole.

Swimming algae offer insights into living fluid dynamics

Mar 27, 2015

None of us would be alive if sperm cells didn't know how to swim, or if the cilia in our lungs couldn't prevent fluid buildup. But we know very little about the dynamics of so-called "living fluids," those ...

Fluctuation X-ray scattering

Mar 26, 2015

In biology, materials science and the energy sciences, structural information provides important insights into the understanding of matter. The link between a structure and its properties can suggest new ...

Hydrodynamics approaches to granular matter

Mar 26, 2015

Sand, rocks, grains, salt or sugar are what physicists call granular media. A better understanding of granular media is important - particularly when mixed with water and air, as it forms the foundations of houses and off-shore ...

User comments : 0

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.