Rocket launches to study aurora winds

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003

FAIRBANKS - Four rockets will be launched during the next two weeks at the Poker Flat Research Range near Fairbanks for a study of the aurora winds.

Some of the rockets will release chemical tracers that may be visible as far south as Anchorage and as far north as Kaktovik, according to officials with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The wind will carry the tracers and they will be photographed at ground stations at Poker Flat, in Coldfoot and in Fort Yukon.

The study is to better learn about aurora winds because they can affect the orbits of satellites and interfere with long-range radio and satellite transmissions.

"The aurora arcs do a lot of heating. That heating creates winds and they're trying to quantify those winds," said Greg Walker, manager at the Poker Flat Research Range, which is operated by UAF's Geophysical Institute under contract with NASA.

The rockets will be launched within minutes of each other and will go to the ionosphere, which is where satellites orbit.

Instruments in the rockets also will measure light and small-scale electrical currents.

This is the second rocket launch this year from the Poker Flat range, about 30 miles northeast of Fairbanks.

The first launch also was for an aurora study. Five more launches are scheduled for this year.

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