Look Up, Dad! NASA’s Father’s Day Launch to Create Colorful Clouds

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NASA is hoping to make this Father’s Day one to remember with a nighttime rocket launch that will create artificial glowing clouds. These could be visible to millions of people along the U.S. East Coast tonight (June 18).

A Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket will launch into the night sky between 9:05 p.m. and 9:20 p.m. EDT (0105-0120 GMT) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. If all goes well, the rocket will create brilliant red and blue-green clouds of vapor as part of a canister-ejection technology test. Weather permitting, the clouds could be visible to observers on the East Coast between New York and North Carolina, and as far inland as Charlottesville, Virginia.

You can watch the rocket launch live here, courtesy of NASA Wallops, or directly from the Wallops center here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-tv-wallops. NASA’s live webcast will begin at 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT) and will be accompanied by a Facebook Live event at 8:50 p.m. EDT (0050 GMT) on the Wallops center’s Facebook page here. 

NASA plans to fly a Father's Day rocket launch from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on June 18, 2017. The rocket and its glowing clouds may be visible along the U.S. East Coast, but is very dependent on weather conditions.

NASA plans to fly a Father’s Day rocket launch from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on June 18, 2017. The rocket and its glowing clouds may be visible along the U.S. East Coast, but is very dependent on weather conditions.

Credit: NASA

The primary goal of tonight’s launch is to test a new canister (or ampoule) ejection system on the sounding rocket, NASA officials have said.

“The multicanister ampoule ejection system flying on this mission will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than [they were] previously able [to] during a sounding-rocket mission,” NASA Wallops officials wrote in an update. “Canisters will deploy during the rocket’s ascent, and they will release blue-green and red vapor to form artificial clouds between 4 and 5.5 minutes after launch. These clouds, or vapor tracers, allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.”

The mission is highly dependent on the weather, as the test requires clear skies over ground-camera sites at the Wallops Center and in Duck, North Carolina, NASA officials have said.

A Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket is seen on its launch rail ahead of a June 18, 2017 launch attempt from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

A Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket is seen on its launch rail ahead of a June 18, 2017 launch attempt from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

Credit: NASA

In fact, this is the eighth time NASA has tried to launch this mission so far this month. Since June 1, the agency has been repeatedly thwarted by high winds, cloud cover and even boats in an offshore hazard area (where parts of the sounding rocket fall into the Atlantic Ocean).

If you live in the Wallops Island area and would like to watch the launch with NASA, you can visit the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, which will open to the public at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT) tonight.

You can also download the “What’s Up at Wallops” app to find out where and when to look to see the launch from your location. Wallops officials are expected to post updates on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Editor’s note: If you capture an amazing image of the sounding-rocket launch or the colorful artificial clouds that you would like to share with Space.com and its news partners for a story or photo gallery, send photos and comments to: spacephotos@space.com.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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