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NASA Rocket Launch Will Create Blue-Green and Red Clouds Tonight

NASA is launching an information-gathering rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia, this evening, that could give those nearby a strange sky show. If you are in Virginia or Delaware, you may see nightly-colored clouds!

The launch is scheduled to occur between 9:04 and 9:19 p.m. EDT. Experts estimate that the flight will take about eight minutes from start to finish. Approximately four or five minutes after the rocket takes off, NASA will deploy 10 soda can–sized canisters full of reactive chemicals. The cans will burst 96 to 124 miles in the air, producing enormous, vibrant blooms of harmless red and blue-green clouds formed by the interaction of barium, strontium, and cupric-oxide. (These are commonly found in fireworks.) If the weather cooperates, these vapor tracers should be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward into Virginia.

That is, if the launch goes according to plan. It may be delayed, as this is the fourth rescheduling of the launch. Mental Floss has more on the rocket and its mission, plus links to follow it if you aren't close enough to watch.

(Image credit: NASA)

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