Nasa finally lights up the skies with colourful artificial clouds after several delays

For the last few weeks, Nasa has been trying to launch a rocket in space with the aim of creating artificial clouds in the sky but bad weather and poor visibility meant the US space agency had to repeatedly postpone its mission.

Now finally, after almost three weeks of waiting, the spacecraft has blasted off into the outer atmosphere, carrying 10 canisters of special chemical vapour to create blue, green and yellow clouds in the sky.

The Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket took off from Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and spent eight minutes in flight.


The canisters, about the size of a soft drink can, released blue and green vapour that formed luminous clouds which were reportedly visible from New York to North Carolina.

The aim of the launch was to visually track particle motions in space, particularly in the ionosphere (the layer of Earth’s atmosphere that is ionised), with help from these colourful clouds known as vapour tracers.

“The vapour tracers are formed through the interaction of barium, strontium and cupric-oxide,” Nasa said ahead of the launch.


Nasa’s Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket during lift-off (Terry Zaperach/Nasa)

“The tracers will be released at altitudes 96 to 124 miles high and pose no hazard to residents along the mid-Atlantic coast.”

Sounding rockets have been used since the 1950s to study the upper atmosphere and ionosphere as part of scientists’ efforts to understand the Earth’s near-space environment.

They are used to carry out scientific experiments during sub-orbital flights and test some of the technical equipment used in space programmes.


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