NASA Launches Rocket from Alaska to Study Aurorae

Mar 10, 2022 | Daily Space, Earth, Rockets

NASA Launches Rocket from Alaska to Study Aurorae
IMAGE: The LAMP mission, short for Loss through Auroral Microburst Pulsations, launched at 2:27 a.m. AKST (6:27 a.m. EST) Saturday, Mar. 5, 2022, on a Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket. CREDIT: NASA

Not all scientific payloads need to spend years in space to collect their data; sometimes they just need a few minutes. That’s where sounding rockets are used.

Aurorae are one of the most visually interesting atmospheric phenomena. There are many different kinds of aurorae, from the normal kind to STEVE to a type called pulsating aurorae.

A pulsating aurora is what it sounds like — an aurora that pulses every few seconds. The reason these aurorae pulsate is unknown, and scientists want to figure out why. The current theory involves chorus waves, a type of electromagnetic wave first noticed by radio operators in World War I because the frequency, when played as audio, sounded like talking.  It turns out that these waves have exactly the same frequency as the observed aurora pulses from low-energy electrons. Another observation is that these pulses happen along with X-ray bursts called microbursts, from high-energy electrons.

The experiment launched, called LAMP (Loss through Aurural Microburst Pulsations), will investigate the two energy ranges and determine if both events – the waves and bursts – are caused by the same thing. It launched from the Poker Flats Research Range at 11:27 UTC on a two-stage Black Brant 9 sounding rocket. The LAMP payload flew through the aurora, counting three different levels of electron energy. The payload was recovered under a parachute, and the principal investigator said the data was good.

More Information

NASA press release

NASA Rocket Team to Chase Pulsating Aurora (NASA)

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