February 12, 2007
Marc Lessard of the physics department at the University of New Hampshire was the principle investigator for the experiment to investigate various aspects of pulsating aurora. The 662 pound experiment housed in the nose cone of a 65-foot Black Brant XII rocket arced above the atmosphere 408 miles above northern Alaska. Pulsating aurora is a subtle type of aurora that seems to blink on and off in large round patches.
Lessard's experiment, called ROPA (Rocket Observations of Pulsating Aurora), was complex even by rocket-science standards. It had a main instrument cluster, known as a payload, and three sub-payloads, which separated early after the rocket cleared the upper atmosphere at an altitude of 140 miles.
Two of the sub-payloads had
their own rocket motors, propelling them away from the main payload
where they obtained measurements of the pulsating aurora, which
occurred near the latitude of Toolik Lake on Alaska's North Slope.
Dirk Lummerzheim of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical
Institute was on the ground at Toolik Lake. During the launch,
he identified what looked like pulsating aurora in the all-sky
camera at the research station there.
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