Not everything NASA studies is beyond the exosphere and one example of this is one of the current missions. One of the next rockets that the agency will launch will have the mission to create artificial clouds during its flight.
This is not an attempt to create artificial rain as we saw a few weeks ago in China, but to study the auroras and their interaction with the ionosphere and the highest parts of the earth's atmosphere. A mission for which they use sounding rockets , which have been used for forty years for missions of smaller distances to make measurements and records and are usually cheaper.
Thus, this is one of the three missions with which NASA wants to explore the Earth's magnetic environment and its impact on the highest parts of the atmosphere. In addition to how the magnetosphere, solar winds and the Sun itself affect the auroras, what is wanted is to obtain new information on the composition of the atmosphere.
A cloud for winds and not for rains
There will actually be a simultaneous launch of two Black Brant IX rockets. One will rise to 324 kilometers while the other will reach approximately 172 kilometers, and the latter will be in charge of forming the artificial clouds. In this way they will be able to realize a vertical measurement of the interior of the auroras that is unprecedented, according to NASA.
The artificial clouds will be created with trimethyl -aluminum (TMA), a compound that reacts with oxygen to obtain aluminum oxide, carbon dioxide and water vapor. A process that occurs naturally in the atmosphere and in this case will be made at a height of between 97 and 161 kilometers with an approximate duration of ten minutes.
What do you expect to see with this? As predicted by scientists at the Goddard Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the ionosphere's response to electric fields is an increase in neutral winds within an auroral arc. That is, with these clouds of TMA they expect to record the winds that occur inside the auroras.
Like fireworks, or even that
In addition to being a naturally occurring process in the atmosphere, the US agency guarantees that given the height of the experiment there will be no surface consequences or any type of risk. As reassuring fact further notes that the amount of TMA to be used "is much lower than that used in the fireworks of a July 4."
This mission has a total of five planned launches and the first was in January , with the launch of this next between today and March 3. The time for this next release will depend on weather conditions and aurora activity, and can be followed live from YouTube.