If you're the sort who finds rockets, space, and science fascinating and live in the mid-Atlantic region of the country, you need to keep your eye on the skies today. NASA is set to launch five different rockets over mere 5 minutes today from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The five rockets are the core of the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment. All five of the rockets are suborbital.
Each of the rockets releases chemical tracers at altitudes of 50 to 90 miles above the surface of the earth intended to help track high-altitude winds. These Winds are said to blow at up to 300 mph. Not only will some people in the area be able to see the five rockets soar into the upper atmosphere, but sky watchers will also be able see the chemical tracers the rockets release. The chemical tracers will create a milky-white cloud.
These clouds are expected to be visible to the people on the ground in parts of South Carolina up through the New Jersey area. The rockets are also launching at night making for an even better show. The chemical tracers will be viewed by cameras on the ground at the launch station. The goal of the study is to determine why scientific theory suggests that this high-altitude jet stream-like part of the atmosphere should travel at 50 mph, yet occasionally tops 300 mph, and routinely exceeds 200 mph. The launch window for the rockets extends from March 14 through April 3 and opens no later than 11 PM EST nightly and closes no later than 6:30 AM EST the following day.
"The reason for doing this mission is that we really don't understand why there are such large winds at those heights," Miguel Larsen from Clemson University said.