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With sunspot activity on the rise in the latest solar cycle, aurora hunters are out in force, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks has released this cool image of a Feb 18 NASA sounding-rocket launch into the aurora borealis from Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks.Photo: University of Alaska FairbanksThe two-stage Terrier-Black Brandt rocket arced through a point 186 miles above Venetie, Alaska, deploying an array of antennas to gather information on space weather conditions that affect satellite communications.The Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling in the Alfvén resonator (MICA) mission involves researchers from Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Southwest Research Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of New Hampshire (UNH) and the University of Oslo. UNH released these additional images of the flight.The instruments on board the rocket sampled electric and magnetic fields as well as charged particles in Earth's ionosphere "that get sloshed back and forth by a specific form of electromagnetic energy known as Alfvén waves," says UNH. "These waves are thought to be a key driver of "discrete" aurora – the typical, well-defined band of shimmering lights about six miles thick and stretching east to west from horizon to horizon."
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