AURORA ROCKET LAUNCH: On Feb. 22nd, shortly after midnight, bright green auroras erupted over Alaska’s Poker Flat Research Range. Researchers from Dartmouth College promptly launched a rocket into the glowing maelstrom. Photographer Marketa Murray of Fairbanks captured the event in a perfectly-timed self-portrait:
“We tuned into the Poker Flat Research Range radio for a heads-up that the rocket was about to launch,” explains Murray. “The picture shows both stages of the Black Brant IX sounding rocket burning for the ionosphere.”
The goal of the mission, named ISINGLASS (Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude Studies) is to decipher the mysterious shapes of the aurora borealis. Some auroras look like flames, others like swirls, ripples or curtains. The rocket was designed to scatter an array of sensors into the auroral zone, mapping the particles and fields underlying these forms.