Poker Flat range launches rockets to explore aurora

Posted: Monday, January 22, 2007

FAIRBANKS - Four rockets were launched from Poker Flat Research Range to study the aurora.

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Observers Thursday night could see northern lights right after sundown but scientists at Poker Flat waited until 3:29 a.m. Friday to begin launching the research rockets.

"We wanted the (electrical) current to be in the right place," said Miguel Larsen, a professor at Clemson University, and the principal investigator for project JOULE II.

Rocket trajectory is fixed and launching was delayed until the aurora was in the most opportune position to collect data, he said.

The rockets, two Terrier Orions, a Black Brant V and a Black Brant IX, were launched in pairs 15 to 20 minutes apart.

"Everything went extremely well," Larsen said.

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