NASA’s rocket aims to uncover the mystery of the Earth’s polar cusp

“At about 250 miles above Earth, spacecraft feel more resilient, as if hit by speed,” said Dr. Mark Conde, a physicist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and principal investigator for CREX-2. a statement. . “This is because the air in the cusp is visibly denser than the air elsewhere in the orbits of spacecraft around the Earth. But no one knows why or how. ” “You can’t grow a mass in a region with a factor of 1.5 and do nothing else, otherwise the sky will fall.”

To understand how the extra mass remains there, the rocket will study the electrical and magnetic effects of the interaction between charged particles from the Sun and the upper atmosphere. It will also measure wind behavior, which could support a number of possible scenarios. Within 17 possible days of the 2019 launch window, there were none viable. The launch window opens on December 1. Everything is going well, CREX-2 will launch from the Andenes in Norway and will finally provide answers to what is happening at the particular polar cusp.

At least in theory. For the experiment to work, you need good weather conditions to launch the rocket but also to observe the clouds in the right places at the right time, because there can not be too much light. The winter months are ideal and students will be placed in Scandinavia, the Svalbard Islands and even on a plane from Reykjavík, Iceland.

The colored clouds formed by the release of steam tracers from two missiles allow scientists to measure the winds. Image Credit: NASA / Lee Wingfield The rocket will release 20 containers the size of a soda can, each with its own rocket engine. They will launch in different directions and release steam tracers at different altitudes. These are the same particles found in fireworks. They will shine due to exposure to oxygen and capture sunlight, and when scattered by the wind, they will create bright clouds. This will tell the scientists what is going on inside the cusp.

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