HomeNewsNASA Plans to Launch Two Rockets Into The Northern Lights This Week: Here’s Why

NASA Plans to Launch Two Rockets Into The Northern Lights This Week: Here’s Why

by Jonathan Howard
(Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

While NASA doesn’t do all the things it used to do, they are still planning something cool with the northern lights, AKA aurora borealis. The space agency is planning on sending two rockets into the beautiful phenomenon of lights. The green waves have puzzled and delighted humans for tens of thousands of years.

Now, NASA isn’t blowing up the northern lights or anything like that. Instead, they are hoping to find some answers that we have been lacking. All in the pursuit of science!

NASA is Doing What?

  • NASA plans on “punching” two rockets through the norhtern lights
  • The exercise should help researchers figure out how the green light phenomenon interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere
  • NASA has planned the event for March 23
  • Aurora borealis is caused by solar wind and the Earht’s magnetic field interacting

The green and blue lights have dazzled humans for as long as we’ve existed. While the lights are generally something you see in the northern hemisphere, closer to the pole, sometimes they come a bit further south. Here in Kentucky, I feel like the local news says something about it every 5 years or so.

NASA is all about finding answers to those questions that we still have. We (humanity) know that these lights have something to do with how the magnetic field on Earth and strong solar winds interact with one another. This phenomenon happens so high up in our atmosphere that it makes it very difficult to study.

This mission is going to be coming out of Alaska. The team will launch the sounding rockets from Poker Flat, straight into an aurora. Each rocket has a small vehicle along with it that will detach and hover in the air for a brief period of time. In those precious seconds, tons of data will be collected for researchers to study.

The first rocket will go up and release a chemical that basically dyes the air. This will let researchers see how the air moves and the wind travels in the aurora. Meanwhile, the second launch will take the temperature and the density of the atmosphere. For all of you physics nerds out there, these findings are going to be really interesting. Perhaps we will find out something new about our planet that we never knew.

NASA Trying to Understand the Northern Lights with Rocket Launches

While there are things that NASA doesn’t do anymore like missions to the moon and other missions they would in the past, research like this is really important as well. To study and understand something even more than we did before, and something as beautiful and iconic as aurora borealis. That’s something that gets me a little geeked out and excited.