Today, NASA will launch two rockets into the Aurora Borealis or Aurora Borealis to try to understand how solar storms interact with our atmosphere.
Today, March 23, NASA plans to do something we’ve never heard of before. The US space agency will launch two rockets into the mesmerizing Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. It may sound weird to you, but there’s a good scientific reason behind NASA rockets firing into the famously patterned lights. And the reason is that NASA wants to better understand these lights that are generated by massive bursts of energy released by solar storms. This radiation, which also contains electromagnetic radiation, hits the earth’s atmosphere and causes the aurora borealis. Scientists want to understand exactly how these lights containing charged particles interact with our gaseous atmosphere.
What are the Northern Lights
We know a lot about the aurora borealis. We know that these are waves of dancing lights seen near the northern hemisphere and appear almost like a curtain. Generally, they appear in fluorescent green luminescence, but their appearance can vary from bright orange to a yellowish tint. The famous scientist Galileo Galilei was the first to coin the term aurora borealis for this phenomenon in 1619. We also know that these aurora borealis are seen in this particular geography 10 to 20 degrees from the poles. Lights from the northern hemisphere are called aurora borealis or aurora borealis and those from the southern hemisphere are called aurora australis.
NASA seeks to uncover the truth about solar storms and the Aurora Borealis
Although a lot is known about them, there are still things scientists don’t quite understand about the Northern Lights. In particular, they don’t understand how they interact with our atmosphere. Our atmosphere is divided into several layers. The lower few layers are called a neutral gas atmosphere because they contain oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc. in their respirable neutral state and the electrons are in stable orbits.
The upper layer of the atmosphere, however, is heavily ionized due to the constant bombardment of electromagnetic energy from the Sun. During solar storms, these events intensify further, and the energy often knocks electrons out of the stable gas orbit and adds a positive charge to them. This charged state of the atmosphere creates the fourth state of matter called plasma. And these two layers of atmosphere exist together, sharing a boundary. And we know very little about these borders.
This is where NASA wants to improve its understanding. It appears that during a solar storm event, which eventually gives rise to the aurora borealis, these plasma and neutral gas atmosphere boundaries behave abnormally. During the Northern Lights, these boundaries can rise, fall, or even fold into each other, and so far no one knows why.
NASA Solar Storm Mission
The NASA mission is called Ion-Neutral Coupling during the Active Aurora or INCAA mission. Today, NASA will deploy two sounding rockets, which will explode about 100 kilometers into the sky, around the region where the boundaries of the upper and lower atmosphere intersect. These rockets contain small launchers that will float in space for a few minutes and then return to Earth, carrying vital information.
The first vehicle will release colorful chemicals called vapor tracers to find out how the winds near the Northern Lights move. The second vehicle will measure the plasma temperature and density near the aurora.