Here’s Why NASA Is Trying To Create Colorful Clouds In The Night Sky


Image: NASA
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NASA’s small rocket launch from the coast of Virginia has been postponed – again! This time the blame is on cloudy skies that would have impeded the researcher’s ability to observe the sky, forcing the launch of the Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket to tomorrow.

The rocket is set to create green and red artificial clouds in the sky by releasing canisters filled with various chemicals that will be seen along the US East Coast. The troubled launch is part of the study to observe particle movement in the upper atmosphere, which will help NASA study out planet’s aurorae and other parts of the atmosphere electrically charged by solar and cosmic radiation.

Image: NASA

The chemicals aren’t toxic and are basically vapor tracers that help make visible clouds in the sky. The constituents comprise of barium, lithium, and tri-methyl aluminium; the same chemicals used in fireworks. NASA has been using small rockets to deploy vapor traces for quite some time now, but this time they are also carrying a specialized contraption called the “multi-canister ampoule ejection system.” After the rocket launches, this contraption will burst out multiple canisters laden with tracers that will cover a wider area of the sky.

Area of potential visibility. Image: NASA

The launch will take a total of 10 canisters, each measuring about the size of a soda can, which will be deployed about 4 to 5.5 minutes after launch. The multi colored clouds created will allow NASA scientists to track the movement of particles at high altitudes and verify their models of particle motions. The canisters will spew traces at around 96 to 124 miles up, but still, people will be able to watch the show from New York to North Carolina if the skies are clear.

“Canisters will deploy between 4 and 5.5 minutes after launch releasing blue-green and red vapor to form artificial clouds,” NASA said in a statement. “These clouds, or vapor tracers, allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.”

Other people can watch the colorful clouds on the live stream here, i.e. if and when NASA finally decides to go ahead with the launch.

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