NASA To Launch Colorful "Clouds" On The East Coast

Photo: Courtesy of NASA.
If you missed last week's blood moon due to pesky clouds, well, there's another reason to look to the sky this evening. But this time, the clouds are what you'll be looking for.

According to Gizmodo, NASA will launch a single "sounding" rocket (a type of research rocket) at the Wallops Flight Facility in Chincoteague, VA at some point between 7 and 9 p.m. on the evening of October 7. During this time, NASA explains, it will be testing the Black Brant "sounding rocket, launch vehicle and spacecraft systems, and sub-payload ejection technologies."
But this is no ordinary rocket launch. Residents of the mid-Atlantic region will be able to see brightly colored trails in the night sky. According to NASA, the rocket's test payload ejection technologies will send out mixtures of barium and strontium — both elements used in fireworks — some 130 miles up in the air. The result? Colorful clouds of those elements' vapors, hazing up the sky.

Timing-wise, expect to see these clouds "approximately six minutes after launch," NASA's website says. The barium vapor will create a green, hazy cloud; strontium will be seen as red.
Advertisement
The purpose of the test is to gauge whether the rocket is capable of deploying payloads in suborbit, a function that would eventually be used to launch micro-satellites into orbit around the earth. The vapors that will be visible during tonight's display help track the altitude of the payload ejections and visually show wind patterns in the upper atmosphere. For most of us, though, this all just means an extra layer of "wow" while stargazing.
NASA says stargazers in Long Island and New York, as well as Virginia and North Carolina, should be able to see the Christmas-colored launch. Get ready for an overloaded Instagram feed.