Rocket Launch Creates Artificial Aurora

rocket launch caused aurora
Vapor tracers released into Earth’s atmosphere as seen from Langley Research Center’s NASA 522 aircraft. Credit: University of Alaska Fairbanks/Jason Ahrns

A rocket launch in Norway caused an artificial Aurora of sorts. As you can see in the photo it was actually launched straight into a faint aurora. But the rocket launch itself didn’t create the aurora like phenomena. It was due to vapor tracers released by the rocket. Below you can read more about why they did this experiment. Safe to say it look super awesome!

The CREX-2 sounding rocket successfully launched Dec. 1 at 3:25 a.m. EST from Andøya Space in Norway, traveling to an altitude of 392 miles. The payload released vapor tracers used to track air movements within the cusp section of the atmosphere. But what is the polar cusp?

We have many questions about what goes on high up in Earth’s atmosphere. One area in particular is the polar cusp, a funnel-shaped gap in Earth’s magnetic field that allows solar winds direct access to Earth’s atmosphere. When spacecraft travel through this region around 250 miles above Earth, they experience a space-like “speed bump” due to higher air density — about 1.5 times denser than other areas at that altitude.

The CREX-2 mission hopes to answer what invisible force is supporting the extra mass within the cusp. The mission is designed to measure the numerous factors that could potentially explain how the cusp’s dense air stays suspended.