GREECE Launches into the Aurora

Greece Launch

Image Credit: NASA/Christopher Perry

On March 3, 2014, at 6:09 a.m. EST, a NASA-funded sounding rocket launched straight into an aurora over Venetie, Alaska. The Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics – Electron Correlative Experiment (GREECE) sounding rocket mission, which launched from Poker Flat Research Range in Poker Flat, Alaska, will study classic curls in the aurora in the night sky.

The GREECE mission seeks to understand what combination of events sets up these auroral curls as they’re called, in the charged, heated gas – or plasma – where aurorae form. This is a piece of information, which in turn, helps paint a picture of the sun-Earth connection and how energy and particles from the sun interact with Earth’s own magnetic system, the magnetosphere.

“The conditions were optimal,” said Marilia Samara, principal investigator for the mission at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “We can’t wait to dig into the data.” Other Co-I’s, were Robert Michell and Keiichi Ogasawara for Particles and Imaging and our own John Bonnell for Fields. Dr. Bonnell notes that this flight was a successful re-entry of SSL into the auroral sounding rocket business and bodes well for future efforts along the same lines.