NASA sounding rocket releases artificial clouds above mid-Atlantic

This shows how soon communities near Virginia will see the colorful clouds

Sounding rockets have been used since the 1950s to study the upper atmosphere and ionosphere as part of scientists' efforts to understand the Earth's near-space environment.

Following several delays, NASA launched a Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket early Thursday morning from the Wallops Island Flight Facility.

Readers on the Mid-Atlantic coast may have been able to see something odd last night after a sounding rocket launched from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

NASA says those artificial clouds allow scientists on the ground to movement of particles in Earth's ionosphere, which is in its upper atmosphere. (Obviously, delaying the mission over half a dozen times was all part of the plan.) To that end, NASA was successful: According to a press release, Wallops received roughly 2,000 reports and photos of cloud signings, from NY to North Carolina.




The total flight time was around eight minutes.

During the flight, ten canisters, about the size of a soda can, were deployed into the atmosphere around 6 to 12 miles (9.65 to 19 kilometers) away from the 670-pound (304 kg) primary payload. The payload landed in the Atlantic Ocean, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) out to sea from its launch point in Virginia.

As one might imagine, such a highly-visible event was witnessed by a large amount of people.

The Wallops facility received 2,000 reports and photos captured by onlookers of the colorful clouds up and down the Mid-Atlantic coast, including Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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