ATREX Mission: NASA's Five-Rocket Barrage to Study Winds at Edge of Space

Four of Five ATREX Rockets Launching

NASA/Wallops Flight Facility

Four of five sounding rockets liftoff from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (Virginia) in this time-lapse photograph of the ATREX mission. The experiment took place on March 27, 2012, producing white clouds to study fast-moving winds high in the thermosphere. The first rocket was launched at 4:58 am EDT, with following launches occurring at 80-second intervals. [See more photos here.]

ATREX Trimethyl Aluminum Clouds

NASA/Wallops Flight Facility

Two of the clouds left in the wake of the ATREX experiment shine on March 27, 2012. The rockets released trimethyl aluminum, a substance that burns spontaneously in the presence of oxygen.

ATREX Mission Clouds seen from Virginia

Alicia Bruce

Skywatcher Alicia Bruce sent along this photo of the ATREX mission clouds taken on March 27, 2012, from Loudoun County, Virginia. She writes: "My husband and I are former meteorologists and self-described space nerds…. I saw the rockets shoot off from my backyard in northern Virginia. The first picture was taken at 4:58 am EDT as the first rocket was ascending. The streaks were faint and narrow at first, and then brightened. They were milky white, as stated they would be, and had a glowy, iridescent look to them. The rest of the rockets shot off one at a time, not long after the first. I believe I saw 4 of the 5, the 5th likely blocked by a neighbor's house. It was easy to see the jet stream winds blowing the chemical tracers from their original position. As for technical info, I used a Canon 7D and Canon 24-105 mm f/4 L lens."

ATREX Mission Clouds seen from Virginia #2

Alicia Bruce

Skywatcher Alicia Bruce took this photo of the ATREX mission clouds taken on March 27, 2012, from Loudoun County, Virginia.

ATREX Mission Clouds over Pennsylvania

Rick Darke

Skywatcher Rick Darke sent this image of the ATREX mission taken from Landenberg, PA on March 27, 2012. He writes: "We sleep in a room with glass window doors with a view to the south, designed to keep us connected to events in the night sky and landscape. By chance my wife and I woke up just after 5am and saw something new to us. We first assumed it was a meteor shower. We watched what I now know was a rocket (thanks to SPACE.com) streaming vertically down and I sprinted for my camera. I missed the sharply defined rocket trail but caught the diffusion with a Sony A77 and 16-50mm f2.8 lens on a tripod, 4 second exposure at ISO 1000."

ATREX Mission Clouds over New Jersey

Mike Black

Skywatcher Mike Black saw the ATREX mission clouds over Wall, NJ on March 27, 2012.

ATREX Mission Clouds Photographed by Edison Carrillo

Edison Carrillo

Skywatcher Edison Carrillo photographed the ATREX mission clouds on March 27, 2012.

ATREX Mission Clouds over New Jersey Close-Up

Mike Black

Skywatcher Mike Black saw the ATREX mission clouds over Wall, NJ on March 27, 2012.

Glowing Clouds from ATREX Mission: Jeff Berkes Near Philadelphia

Jeff Berkes

Astrophotographer Jeff Berkes snapped this amazing view from outside Philadelphia, Pa., of the glowing clouds at the edge of space created by NASA's ATREX mission, which launched five rockets to deploy a chemical that created the clouds for a jet stream study on March 27, 2012. [Full Story]

Glowing Clouds from ATREX Mission: View from Wallops Island, Va.

NASA

The chemical release of five ATREX sounding rockets created a series of glowing clouds in the high-altitude jet stream at the edge of space on March 27, 2012. Here is NASA's view from the Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va. [Full Story]

Trails from ATREX Rocket Launch

NASA

NASA launched five suborbital rockets in the early morning hours of March 27, 2012 to study the planet's upper level jet stream for the ATREX (Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment) mission. Each of the rockets released a chemical tracer that created milky, white clouds at the edge of space that were reported to be seen from as far south as Wilmington, N.C., west to Charlestown, W. Va., and north to Buffalo, N.Y. [Full Story]

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