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The aurora borealis – or northern lights – wow many a casual observer as they swirl about the sky but they mesmerise scientists for different reasons, sparking questions about the lights’ role in Earth’s meteorological processes and the impact on the planet’s atmosphere.
So NASA set out to find some answers. The US space agency on Monday launched four suborbital sounding rockets carrying portions of two experiments into auroras from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska.
The experiments, the Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment, or M-TeX, and the Mesospheric Inversion-layer Stratified Turbulence, or MIST, explore the Earth’s atmosphere’s response to auroral, radiation belt and solar energetic particles and associated effects on nitric oxide and ozone, NASA said.
NASA has released a composite shot, made up of 30-second exposures, of all four rockets blasting off. The first two rockets launched within a minute of each other, followed by a half-hour gap, after which the other two rockets took off, also within a minute of each other. See the full image here:
Image via NASA/Jamie Adkins
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