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A NASA Experiment Is Going to Light Up the Sky With Beautifully Colored Clouds Tonight

If you’re currently on the east coast tonight, look at the sky between 7pm and 9pm: NASA is performing an experiment test of some new tech that will comprise discharging colorful vapor tracers 130 miles above the Earth. It, definitely, will provide a great show for stargazers. The vapors will be emitted from a sounding rocket propelled from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA clarifies that it has truly been adding various vapor tracers into the atmosphere since the 1950s—these tracks help researchers understand “the naturally stirring flows of ionized and neutral particles” in the upper atmosphere by adding color tracers and trailing the flow across the sky.

Tonight, NASA says it’s discharging four different payloads of a combination of barium and strontium, producing “a cloud with a combination of blue-green and red color.” Here’s an illustration of a barium discharge provided by NASA; on the upper left you can see the barium’s “ionized constituent, which has become drawn out along the Earth’s magnetic field lines.” The notion is to check how well this suborbital rocket can emit payloads, ultimately being used to shuttle micro-sats and other experimentations. It’s also a test to check how well the rocket’s shipments can be for using vapor tracers to study the atmosphere itself, including occurrences like the aurora borealis, according to NASA.

But for us, it’ll just be a lovely light show: NASA says the vapor traces will be observable as far north as central Long Island, and as far south as Jacksonville, North Carolina. So keep an eye out, and do post your pictures here.

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