Artificial Noctilucent Cloud Experiment from Wallops Island, VA.

Date: Thu Sep 10 2009 - 04:57:38 UTC

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    Let's see how long it takes them to get this off the ground . . . 
    --  joe rao
    WALLOPS ISLAND,  Va., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A rocket experiment
    that may shed  light on the highest clouds in the Earth's atmosphere will be
    conducted Sept.  15 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
    The Charged Aerosol  Release Experiment (CARE) will be conducted by the 
    Research Laboratory  and the Department of Defense Space Test Program using 
    NASA four-stage  Black Brant XII suborbital sounding rocket.  Using ground
    based  instruments and the STP/NRL STPSat-1 spacecraft, scientists will 
    an  artificial noctilucent cloud formed by the exhaust particles of the
    rocket's  fourth stage at about 62 miles altitude.
    The launch is scheduled between  7:30 and 7:57 p.m. EDT.  The backup launch
    days are Sept. 16 through  20.  The rocket flight and the resulting cloud 
    be seen throughout  the mid-Atlantic region. The artificial noctilucent 
    also may be visible  the following morning just before sunrise.
    Ground based cameras and  radars will be based at various observation 
    along the Atlantic coast  and in Bermuda.  Because of the optical 
    the launch will  require clear skies not only at Wallops but also at the
    multiple observation  stations.
    The Spatial Heterodyne IMager for MEsospheric Radicals  instrument on the
    STPSat-1 spacecraft will track the CARE dust cloud for days  or even 
    The SHIMMER instrument has previously viewed natural  noctilucent clouds for
    the past two years.  The CARE will be the first  space viewing of an 
    noctilucent cloud.
    Data collected  during the experiment will provide insight into the 
    evolution, and  properties of noctilucent clouds, which are typically 
    naturally at  high latitudes.  In addition to the understanding of 
    clouds,  scientists will use the experiment to validate and develop 
    models  that predict the distribution of dust particles from rocket motors 
    the  upper atmosphere.
    Natural noctilucent clouds, also known as polar  mesospheric clouds, are 
    in the upper atmosphere as spectacular displays  that are most easily seen 
    after sunset.  The clouds are the highest  clouds in Earth's atmosphere,
    located in the mesosphere around 50 miles  altitude.
    They are normally too faint to be seen with the naked eye and  are visible 
    when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while  the Earth's 
    is in darkness.
    A team from government agencies  and universities, led by the Naval Research
    Laboratory, is conducting the  experiment. In addition to the Naval Research
    Laboratory, participants  include the DoD STP, NASA, University of Michigan,
    Air Force Research  Laboratory, Clemson University, Stanford University,
    University of Colorado,  Penn State University and Massachusetts Institute 
    Technology/Haystack  Observatory.
    The launch will be web cast, beginning one hour before the  opening of the
    launch window, at
    In addition, the launch status can  be followed on Twitter at:
    Keith  Koehler, NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Va.,  +1-757-824-1579,; Richard Thompson, Naval Research  Laboratory,
    +1-202-767-2541,; or Tonya  Racasner, SMC 
    Affairs, +1-310-653-2369,
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