January 29, 2013

East Coast Jumps for Joy Over Scheduled Light Show


Today January 29, if the weather allows of course, NASA will be sending a rocket sky high that will yield a brilliant light show here on the East Coast. If you are lucky enough to live within this region, be sure to look up into the night’s sky at around 5:30 p.m. EDT. 

According to reports, the light show, which promises to be more spectacular than even the brightest decorated house during the holidays, is part of a test scientists will be conducting that will “unleash a chemical tracer that should create two bright, red-colored lithium vapor trails in space that may be seen by observers across the mid-Atlantic region, and possibly from even further away.”

Basically how the experiment works is two cloud trails will appear that are made up of solid metal lithium rods or chips embedded in a thermite cake. The thermite is then lit on fire, which then releases heat to ignite the lithium. The rocket will send out not one but two streams of lithium, which can be seen when released at high altitudes located in close proximity to the sun.

Too lazy to get off the couch? Don’t you worry, because you can still stay in the warmth of your home with your potato chip bag in hand by electing to watch the launch on SPACE.com thanks to the power of the Internet. The video goes live at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

Image via Shutterstock

Libby West, mission project manager with the NASA Sounding Rocket Program, said in a statement, 'We will ... determine which configuration is best for observing various science phenomena in space.'

She added, “This launch is a technology test flight for two upcoming missions. We will be testing two different methods for creating the lithium vapor to determine which configuration is best for observing various science phenomena in space."

Yet, the weather doesn’t always cooperate when cool things like this are planned, and if it should rain or become too foggy, the launch will be rescheduled for some time between Jan. 30 and Feb. 1.

If you happen to be stuck at something called “work” during this time frame, never fear my dear, because NASA will be powering two more similar tests in 2013, with the first slated to take place in April and the second in June.

The space organization has been extremely busy as of late, also revealing today that its communications network that analyzes satellites and spacecraft encircling Earth is about to be completely revamped. In fact, the TDRS-K satellite is being touted as only one of three new satellites that will be powered into space between now and 2015, costing in the range of a mere $350 to $400 million.

“Any day we support over 100 missions," Badri Younes, a scientist in the Space Communications and Navigation office in NASA added. "Anything you see going to space has to be enabled by us."




Edited by Allison Boccamazzo



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