By BROCK VERGAKIS
Skywatchers along the East Coast may be able to see a NASA experiment that will launch a series of rockets to learn more about the little-understood jet stream winds that circle the Earth at the edge of space.
On a clear night between March 14 and April 4, NASA plans to launch five rockets in five minutes from its Wallops Island facility in coastal Virginia.
Each rocket will release a chemical leaving a long, milky-white cloud to track the winds that scientists will monitor from cameras on the coasts of North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey.
The clouds should be visible to the human eye for about 20 minutes from roughly Myrtle Beach, S.C. to southern New Hampshire, and as far west as Morgantown, W.Va.
“People will be able to see it. They can also photograph it pretty easily,” said Miguel Larsen, a Clemson University professor who is the mission’s principal investigator.
The possible viewing area covers major cities like Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, although it depends on ground lighting, cloud cover and the rockets’ trajectories. Those in a smaller area from New York City to the Outer Banks in North Carolina might be able to see the rockets’ glowing exhaust trails. NASA plans to post pictures and video taken by bystanders on its social media sites.
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- NASA to launch 5 rockets quickly to track winds (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- NASA jet stream study will light up the night sky (eurekalert.org)
- NASA Rocket Barrage to Study Winds at Edge of Space (space.com)