NASA is planning to light up the nighttime skies from Carolina to New York with luminescent clouds that will be blue-green and red in color, as the agency is planning to launch a rocket from Virginia’s Atlantic Peninsula that will release various chemicals into the atmosphere.
According to the space agency, a handful of minutes after takeoff, the rocket will release up to ten soft-drink-size canisters that will spray the chemicals: barium, strontium, and cupric oxide into the atmosphere.
The canisters will deploy between 4 and 5.5 minutes after launch forming blue-green and red artificial clouds. These clouds, or vapor tracers, allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.
The development of the multi-canister ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously allowed when deploying the tracers just from the main payload.
Ground cameras will be stationed at Wallops, Virginia, and in Duck, North Carolina, to view the vapor tracers. Clear skies are required at one of the two ground stations for this test.
NASA says the vapor tracers will be released at altitudes 96 to 124 miles high and pose no hazard to residents along the mid-Atlantic coast.
The vapor tracers may be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia.
The total flight time for the mission is expected to be about 8 minutes. The payload will land in the Atlantic Ocean about 90 miles from Wallops Island and will not be recovered.
The launch, however, has been delayed thanks to what has proven to be a very wet past few weeks.
Originally scheduled for May 31, the launch was delayed until early-June and then again yesterday.
Wednesday evening, NASA released a statement saying, “Weather is not conducive for a launch attempt June 14 or 15,” adding that a new launch date would be named in the days ahead.
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