Scientists launch rockets to study turbulence in the upper atmosphere

February 27th, 2009 - 3:14 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 27 (ANI): A team of scientists from Clemson University, US, recently launched a salvo of four rockets over Alaska to study turbulence in the upper atmosphere.

The launches took place at Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks as part of a NASA sounding rocket campaign.

After six days of cloudy and snowy weather, we had perfect conditions with a clear, moonless night sky over interior Alaska, said Gerald Lehmacher, associate professor of physics and astronomy, Clemson University, and principal investigator for the experiment.

We needed excellent viewing conditions from three camera sites to photograph the luminescent trails the payloads produced in the upper atmosphere, he added.

The rockets were 35-foot, two-stage Terrier Orions.

They released trimethyl aluminum that creates a glowing vapor trail nearly 87 miles up. Sensitive cameras on the ground track the trails.

From that, Lehmacher and his team can analyze upper-atmospheric winds by tracking how the vapor trails form, billow, disperse and diffuse.

Two of the rockets had an additional deployable payload with instrumentation to measure electron density and neutral temperature and turbulence.

In January, Clemson physicists traveled to Norway to carry out a joint experiment with Japanese scientists to study atmospheric winds and circulation from heating created by electrical currents associated with Northern Lights displays.

The measurements were made with instruments flown on a Japanese S-310 rocket launched from the Andoya Rocket Range in northern Norway, as well as a suite of sensitive radar and camera instruments on the ground. (ANI)

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