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The Planet

NASA's Artificial Clouds Are More Beautiful Than Any Fireworks

by Kate Ryan

June 30, 2017

If you were to look up at the sky early in the morning in Virginia on Thursday, you might’ve seen a cluster of floating green orbs and deduced they must be alien life-forms descending on Earth to wreak havoc. In actuality, it was NASA launching a Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Though no one would blame you for thinking otherwise, it was a spectacular sight. The rocket shot 10 soda can-sized canisters filled with colorful vapors into space, which, once released, formed beautiful artificial clouds. Spectators from as far as New York could see the clouds, which scientists used to better understand how particles move through space. (Though I’m sure they enjoyed the view as well.)

Prior to Thursday’s launch, the mission had been delayed several times with the initial launch set to happen earlier in June. Luckily for us, we got a pre-Fourth of July light show of cosmic proportions. According to NASA, the facility received nearly 2,000 messages and photos from people who were up at 4 a.m. to watch the launch. You can check out NASA’s photo from the evening below, but beware, it may ruin whatever fireworks show you had planned for next week. 

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NASA's Artificial Clouds Are More Beautiful Than Any Fireworks