NASA will launch probe rockets in the shadow of the Moon during the solar eclipse

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NASA will launch three probe rockets in the shadow of the moon during Monday’s total solar eclipse study how the phenomenon affects the Earth’s atmosphere.

The first Atmospheric Perturbations Around the Eclipse Path (APEP) survey 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 eclipse peakand the third took 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 the eclipse has on the ionosphere, as well as radio and satellite communications. NASA Scientific Visualization Study

The goal is to study possible disturbances in the planet’s ionosphere during a total solar eclipse, which could have impacts 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 had been used during the October 2023 Solar Eclipse.

Barjatya says the rockets are now overhauled and capable of deploying several smaller rockets to help measure the eclipse’s impact on the ionosphere.

“Each rocket 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 from fifteen rockets, although only three are launched,” Barjatya explained.

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

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

During the 2023 eclipse mission, the rockets measured enough disturbances in the atmosphere capable of affecting radio communications, so Barjatya is eager to see if the latest test will confirm and expand on those results.

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

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

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