NASA Launched Rockets Into the Northern Lights, and It's Strangely Beautiful

It's not just the tips of the galaxy that are amazing.

On Monday, NASA researchers were treated to an amazing light show right here on Earth. A team launched a series of rockets high into the Alaskan sky right in the midst of a dazzling northern lights spectacle. It made one breathtaking scene and reminded us how small we humans really are compared to the awesome grandeur of space.

While dealing with temperatures of minus-40 in the middle of the night, researchers at the Poker Flat Research Range successfully shot off four rockets into the light show to measures a number of factors and better visualize the upper atmosphere's turbulent air currents.

This photo below shows the incredible scene of seemingly tiny rockets blasting off into the deep depths of the sky during its incredible, natural light show. The swirls are stars, and the vapors released by the rockets are the small white clouds with the dashing aurora glowing in the background. 

Photographer Ronn Murray was also on hand during the launch to document everything in this vivid video:

Source: YouTube

Two teams, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Clemson University, constructed the four suborbital sounding rockets. One spewed out trimethyl aluminum, a type of gas that glows green once it mixes with oxygen. Researchers will study pictures of the gas dispersal to analyze the northern lights' turbulence. 

"The quality of our measurements should be very high," Rich Collins, a researcher with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, said in a school release. "I'm very happy and very exhausted."

With NASA continuing to face budget cuts, which are making the institution a shell of its former self, images like this still remind us what an amazing scene space is — and how insignificant we really are. 

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Jordan Valinsky

Jordan is a writer at the Live News desk. He's previously written for The Week, Betabeat, The Daily Dot and CNN.com.

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