Photos of the Day: NASA Test Creates Artificial Aurora

This is the rocket that will release the dye and tiny particles that will become clouds

A NASA sounding rocket launched early this morning and lit up the skies over the U.S. East Coast with colorful clouds, ringing in an early July 4 celebration.

A total of ten soft drink-sized canisters were released in the air at an altitude of 96 to 124 miles.

As barium, strontium, and cupric-oxide interacts with the atmosphere, the vapour creates clouds of blue-green and red.

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The space agency has not stood still while waiting for this mission to get underway.

The mission was completed at 4:25 a.m. from the Wallops location on Chincoteague Island, Virginia. The agency is calling it "an early Independence Day fireworks display".

NASA released a map showing exactly where the mission took place.

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The canisters, about the size of a soft drink can, released blue and green vapour that formed luminous clouds which were reportedly visible from NY to North Carolina.

The test was rescheduled 12 times after its initial May 31 launch date to ensure optimal weather conditions. Scientists could use the red and blue-green artificial clouds that formed to track the movement of particles in Earth's ionosphere, which is in its upper atmosphere.

They were released 100 miles above the ground, posing no risk to observers. This particular flight includes a multi-canister ampoule ejection system which enabled the tracers to spread over a wider area than before.

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For the last few weeks, Nasa has been trying to launch a rocket in space with the aim of creating artificial clouds in the sky but bad weather and poor visibility meant the United States space agency had to repeatedly postpone its mission.


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