Yeah, science! Nasa rocket streaks through the Aurora Borealis

Scientists are researching how the Sun interacts with Earth's magnetosphere

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The Independent Online

A small Nasa-funded rocket launched in Alaska earlier this month, gliding through the emerald 'auroral curls' of the northern lights.

The rocket formed part of the space agency's Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics-Electrons Correlative Experiment (GREECE), which will study the transfer of energy from the Sun to Earth, in this case, the aurora.

"Auroral curls are visible from the ground with high-resolution imaging," said Marilia Samara, a lead investigator and a space scientist at Texas' Southwest Research Institute. "And we can infer from those observations what's happening farther out. But to truly understand the physics we need to take measurements in the aurora itself."

Auroras are created when particles from the sun bombard the Earth

The rocket took measurements of particles and electric fields during its 10-minute flight, with scientists hoping to better understand how the curls form out of the plasma (superheated gas) inside the aurora, and learn more about how the Sun interacts with Earth's magnetosphere.

"The conditions were optimal," Samara added. "We can't wait to dig into the data."