More Images From Aurora Flights

On January 29, two sounding rockets simultaneously flew through the veil of an aurora to collect data from both the top and bottom edges of the arc. Dr. Scott Bounds, the principal investigator for the Auroral Current and Electrodynamics Structure (ACES) mission, provided Universe Today with images from the flight, showing the rockets flying through the aurora, near Poker Flats, Alaska. The above image shows a single-stage Black Brant V rocket that flew through the lower portion of the aurora. It reached an altitude of nearly 83 vertical miles, flying for roughly eight minutes. (See below for more images.) Other rockets have flown through aurorae previously, but this is the first time two rockets were used together. These two flights for the ACES mission will provide insight on the structural subtleties of the aurora, finding details that researchers may have missed when previous measurements were done using only a single vehicle (see our original article on the flights).

ACES rocket reaches for the top of the aurora. Credit: Dr. Craig Heinselman.
ACES rocket reaches for the top of the aurora. Credit: Dr. Craig Heinselman.

The image here shows a two-stage Black Brant IX rocket launched at 12:49 a.m. on January 29 that reached an altitude of more than 226 miles and flew for just under 10 minutes.

Dr. Bounds of the University of Iowa said the payloads of each ACES rocket performed well during flight, and the ACES team will begin to analyze all of the data collected, which should keep them busy for the next year. Bounds said this information will help refine current models of aurora structure, and provide insight on the high-frequency waves and turbulence generated by aurorae.

Thanks to Dr. Bounds for sharing these images with Universe Today, and to Dr. Craig Heinselman the photographer. Below is an image taken by Dr. Bounds of an aurora in 2002, taken where the ACES flights originate at the Poker Flat Research Range near Fairbanks, Alaska.

Aurora from 2002 in Poker Flats, Alaska.  Credit: Dr. Scott Bounds
Aurora from 2002 in Poker Flats, Alaska. Credit: Dr. Scott Bounds

7 Replies to “More Images From Aurora Flights”

  1. “It was the question why the wanderers — the planets — moved as they did that triggered off the scientific avalanche several hundred years ago. The same objects are now again in the center of science — only the questions we ask are different. We now ask how to go there, and we also ask how these bodies were formed. And if the night sky on which we observe them is at high latitude, outside the lecture hall — perhaps over a small island in the archipelago of Stockholm — we may also see in the sky an aurora, which is a cosmic plasma, reminding us of the time when our world was born out of plasma. Because in the beginning was the plasma.” — Hannes Alfvén, physicist, 1970

  2. I wonder what kind of guidance system they have on those things? I mean, how do you navigate through a transparent sheet of plasma 100 miles tall?

  3. O Roar a roar for Norah,
    Norah Alice in the night,
    For she has seen Aurora
    Borealis burning bright.

    A furor for our Norah!
    And applaud Aurora seen:
    O where throughout the summer
    has our Borealis been?

    Walt Kelly

  4. Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
    Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

    Gosh a mickel, dickle pickle, gee-willie-wobbles, dog my cats and rowrbazzle!

    -another Pogo fan.

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