Two successful rocket launches in Norway on Friday have left locals stunned, confused, and in awe of an incredible artificial light show.
After two orange dots launched through the air, expanding glowing clouds and colourful lights appeared suddenly – but it was not an alien attack, as some outlets have been suggesting.
Instead, the rockets were part of AZURE (Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment) – a NASA-funded experiment to learn about the flow of particles in the ionosphere.
Two sounding rockets were blasted off into the sky, from the Andøya Space Center in northern Norway.
The AZURE mission successfully launched back-to-back aboard two sounding rockets in Norway tonight. These colorful clouds created a light show in the sky, helping researchers track the flow of neutral and charged particles in Earth’s ionosphere. Details: https://t.co/aAp7FJDPgk. pic.twitter.com/vCZ3wFzzBo
— NASA Wallops (@NASA_Wallops) April 5, 2019
Auroras are a visible product of collisions as charged particles from space smash into Earth’s. Winds in regions of the ionosphere move these particles around, and although this vertical wind is an incredibly important part of our atmosphere, we currently don’t know much about how it works.
According to NASA, the AZURE rockets measured the atmospheric density and temperature, as well as deploying tracers such as trimethylaluminum and a mixture of barium and strontium – a combination that ionises when exposed to sunlight.
“These mixtures create colourful clouds that allow researchers to track the flow of neutral and charged particles, respectively,” explain the NASA team back in 2018.
“The tracers will be released at altitudes 71 to 155 miles (114 to 250 kilometres) high and pose no hazard to residents in the region.”
The clouds were then tracked to measure the winds and flow of particles as the glowing spots dispersed.
Despite not causing any hazard, residents were definitely a little under prepared.
Norway news website VOL explained that the police received many reports about the lights, and Michael Theusner, who captured a timelapse of the footage while recording the Northern Lights explains that even he was a little nervous about the idea of aliens.
“[When] strange lights and colorful, expanding clouds appeared I first did not have an explanation for,” he explained in the description of a YouTube video of the event.
“It looked like an alien attack.”
This is only the first of eight rocket missions to be launched in Norway over the next two years.
We hope they all look as amazing as Friday’s display.