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TONIGHT: NASA Will Try Again to Make Fake Clouds on the East Coast


The previous launches didn’t happen because of weather and wayward boats. But NASA’s trying again.

By Shara Tibken | 13 June 2017

Update, June 13, 9:15 a.m. PT: The rocket launch has been postponed again. The next attempt is set for Tuesday from 9:04 to 9:19 p.m. ET.

CNET — Sixth time’s the charm? NASA sure hopes so.

The US space organization will try, yet again, to launch a rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to make fake clouds along the East Coast. The aim of the launch — slated to take place Monday between 9:04 p.m. and 9:19 p.m. ET — is to test a new system that helps scientists study auroras and the ionosphere.

If the launch goes as planned, a NASA sounding rocket (a small, sub-orbital rocket often used in research) will release several soda-size canisters of vapor tracers in the upper atmosphere that may appear as colorful clouds. The clouds may be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia.

The tracers use vapors made up of lithium, barium and tri-methyl aluminum that react with other elements in the atmosphere to glow, letting researchers visually track the flows of ionized and neutral particles. It’s a bit like being able to dye the wind or ocean currents to be able to get a visual picture. […]

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