For its second trip to space, the Aurora Current and Electrodynamics Structures II, or ACES II, instrument launched from Andøya Space in Andenes, Norway Nov. 20, 2022. ACES II is a NASA-funded rocket mission to measure the global electric circuit underlying the northern lights.
High above us, electrons from space stream into our sky. As they wind down Earth’s magnetic field lines, they strike gases in our atmosphere, causing them to glow. From the ground, observers see effervescent ribbons of ruby and emerald: the aurora borealis and australis, or northern and southern lights.
But auroras are just one part of a much larger system. Like a lightbulb plugged into an outlet, they are powered by a larger electrical circuit connecting our planet to near-Earth space.