Cool picture of rockets



Laser Rocket Aurora!
[Via Bad Astronomy]

This is one of the coolest pictures I’ve ever seen. And bonus: It’s science!

Geez, where to start? OK, this is the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska, where NASA launches what are called sounding rockets. These are not as big as rockets you might be used to, but they’re still hefty enough to get a payload up as high as 300 kilometers.

On Jan. 26, 2015, four such rockets were launched. In this wide-angle composite picture, you can see the fiery trails of the rocket as they headed skyward (I suspect the exposure started late or was interrupted for the launch on the right, since it starts already off the ground).

In each, you can see where the first stage booster cuts out, and the engine glow gets much dimmer. Then, higher up, the second stage ignites, propelling its payload even higher. The first stage booster continues up on a parabolic arc, then begins to fall. If you trace those arcs down, you’ll even see the impact points on the ground! That’s pretty wild.


So much science in a single picture. Like also seeing the aurora. Like seeing the stars move around the sky in this long exposure.

And look, the rockets were launched directly at the center of the wheeling stars.Cool.