'Space fireworks' were successfully released by researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Sunday. The three one-and-a-half minute bursts were visible from most of western Japan including Tokyo.
The fireworks-like display was created by a timed release of lithium vapor from a rocket launched from the JAXA Uchinoura Space Center in southern Kyushu. The first release occurred at 7:26 pm at a height of 250 kilometers. The second was made at 200 kilometers and the final release at 150 kilometers. The rocket fell into the Pacific about 500 kilometers south of Wakayama prefecture. (See a diagram of the space fireworks rocket trajectory.)
The resulting display was seen at a number of research locations, including the Tokushima-Kainan Observatory, located at Dairi-Matsubara beach in the town of Kaiyo, Tokushima prefecture (see space fireworks photo).
The intent of the program is to study the atmospheric flow in the ionosphere (from 100 to 300 kilometers). This is a difficult area for study, because it falls below the threshold for direct satellite sampling and above that of balloons.
This isn't really a case of fireworks in space, of course. The only person I know who seriously thought about using actual fireworks in space was Jules Verne, in his 1867 novel From the Earth to the Moon.
"Thus, powerful fireworks, taking their starting-point from the base and bursting outside, could, by producing a recoil, check to a certain degree the projectile's speed...
Barbicane had accordingly supplied himself with these fireworks, enclosed in little steel guns, which could be screwed on to the base of the projectile. Inside, these guns were flush with the bottom; outside, they protruded about eighteen inches. There were twenty of them. An opening left in the disc allowed them to light the match with which each was provided." (Read more about Jules Verne's space fireworks)
In making this suggestion, Verne was the inventor of what NASA would call retro-rockets.
Via Pink Tentacle.
(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission of Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction