There was an unexpected treat for stargazers in Norway this week – a spectacle new show of green, blue, and purple light.
But it’s not the result of aliens or UFOs – something much more human is the cause.
The lightshow was a result of a Nasa programme called “Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment” or AZURE for short.
The space agency launched two rockets from Andøya Space Centre in Norway last week which carried scientific instruments for studying the energy exchange within an aurora.
Two harmless gases were released into the atmosphere – trimethyl aluminum (TMA) and a barium/strontium mixture. These helped track the flow of neutral and charged particles with the auroral wind.
In a statement, Nasa said: “By tracking the movement of these colourful clouds via ground-based photography and triangulating their moment-by-moment position in three dimensions, AZURE will provide valuable data on the vertical and horizontal flow of particles in two key regions of the ionosphere over a range of different altitudes.”
AZURE is one of nine missions being conducted as part of the Grand Challenge Initiative (GCI) – Cusp, a series of international sounding rocket missions.