May 21, 2024

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NASA will launch sounding rockets into the moon's shadow during a solar eclipse

NASA will launch sounding rockets into the moon's shadow during a solar eclipse

US News

NASA will launch three acoustic rockets toward the moon's shadow during a total solar eclipse on Monday to study how the phenomenon affects Earth's atmosphere.

The first Atmospheric Perturbations Probing Around the Eclipse Path (APEP) rocket will lift off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia 45 minutes before the eclipse. According to the agency.

The second will be launched during the peak of the eclipse, and the third will take off 45 minutes later.

NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia, will launch three rockets before, during and after Monday's solar eclipse. Berit Bland/NASA
The rockets will study the impact of the eclipse on the ionosphere, as well as radio and satellite communications. NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

The goal is to study possible perturbations in the planet's ionosphere during a total solar eclipse, which could have effects on radio and satellite communications.

Aroh Barjatya, a professor of engineering physics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, is leading the mission to launch the rockets, which will be used during the October 2023 solar eclipse.

Barjatya says the rockets have now been refurbished and are able to deploy several smaller rockets to help measure the impact of the eclipse on the ionosphere.

“Each missile will eject four secondary instruments the size of a two-liter soda bottle that also measure the same data points, so it's similar to the results of fifteen missiles, while only three are fired,” Barjatya explained.

APEP rockets are expected to reach an altitude of 260 miles, the same distance the International Space Station orbits Earth.

Each rocket is set up to deploy four smaller rockets to help study the atmosphere. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
The APEP sounding rockets will reach an altitude of about 260 miles above Earth. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

During the 2023 Eclipse mission, the rockets measured enough atmospheric turbulence capable of affecting radio communications, so Barjatya is keen to see if the latest test will confirm and expand on these findings.

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Monday's eclipse is a key moment for research, as the next total solar eclipse over the United States is scheduled to occur in 2044.

APEP launches will be broadcast live on the NASA Wallops YouTube channel and on NASA's solar eclipse broadcast.

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