Musk mystery solved after SpaceX causes ‘rocket-powered’ aurora to turn RED from sky | Science | New

The dawn, sometimes called auroras, are natural light shows caused by the solar wind disturbing the Earth’s magnetosphere. Charged particles – mostly electrons and protons – rush into Earth’s upper atmosphere and excite it, causing it to glow. The resulting wavy patterns often resemble curtains of light that follow the lines of force of the geomagnetic field and typically glow in colors of green and pink.

Last Sunday, however, astronomers across the United States were surprised to witness an apparent aurora that shone rather ruby ​​red.

One such astronomer was photographer Christopher Hoffman of Saint Mary’s County, Maryland.

Mr. Hoffman said“I went out with newbie photographers to teach them how to set their cameras for night sky photography.

“We took a 30-second exposure, and when the exposure was over, I saw this glowing area covering the Milky Way.”

As the strange ruby ​​glow occurred when there was no ongoing geomagnetic storm, there had to be another explanation for the unusual phenomenon.

The glow appeared about ten minutes after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The launch was undertaken to deliver a satellite into low Earth orbit for US-based communications company Globalstar.

And according to space physicist Jeffrey Baumgardner, it was that launch that gave the skies above the United States a reddish hue.

READ MORE: Musk’s mystery as ‘four unidentified payloads’ spark fears

It’s not the first time that rockets have made the sky shine like this.

The launch of a Titan IV rocket from Kennedy Space Center on April 30, 2005 caused a similar red light show over the eastern United States.

This event was studied by M. Baumgardner and his colleagues in a 2008 article published in the journal Space weather.

They wrote: “Ionospheric disturbances unrelated to solar-terrestrial activity may be caused by the introduction of large amounts of rocket exhaust into the thermosphere-ionosphere system.

“The effect is a sudden depletion of total ionospheric electron content that results in severe spatial gradients over a large region.”

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