BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A space weather experiment should be visible here in Maryland, as NASA launches a rocket to create some colorful clouds.
The test is set to happen Thursday between 4:25 a.m. and 4:42 a.m., provided the earthly weather cooperates.
Space weather is most visible when it fires up auroras, the Northern and Southern Lights.
It’s caused by the bombardment of highly energized particles from the sun, striking earth’s protective magnetic field.
This week, NASA hopes to study those particles over the mid-Atlantic, by creating a kind of artificial aurora.
Launching a small rocket from NASA’s Wallops Space Port in Virginia, which will dispense soft drink-sized canisters of colored vapor to create clouds of blue and red visible to people on the ground.
“We expect them to be able to see it, especially in the D.C.-Baltimore area,” said NASA spokesman Keith Koehler. “Really, from New York to North Carolina.”
The artificial cloud will be created 96 to 124 miles up in the ionosphere, giving scientists a glimpse into how highly energized particles interact with air molecules.
But the clouds won’t last long.
“About 5 to 10 minutes after the deployment,” said Koehler.
While it takes rockets to study these highly energized particles, they do have down to earth effects on technologies we depend upon every day.
“Looking at our power systems, our telecommunications systems, all that type of thing,” Koehler said.
Threatened by space weather, to be studied Thursday, provided regular weather clears.