Wallops to launch three sounding rockets during eclipse event

April 4, 2024
 |
Wallops Flight Facility

By Desiree Apodaca
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

NASA will launch three sounding rockets during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, to study how Earth’s upper atmosphere is affected when sunlight momentarily dims over a portion of the planet.

The Atmospheric Perturbations around Eclipse Path (APEP) sounding rockets will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to study the disturbances in the ionosphere created when the Moon eclipses the Sun. The sounding rockets had been previously launched and successfully recovered from White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, during the October 2023 annular solar eclipse. They have been refurbished with new instrumentation and will be relaunched in April 2024. The mission is led by Aroh Barjatya, a professor of engineering physics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, where he directs the Space and Atmospheric Instrumentation Lab.

The sounding rockets will launch at three different times: 45 minutes before, during, and 45 minutes after the peak local eclipse. These intervals are important to collect data on how the Sun’s sudden disappearance affects the ionosphere, creating disturbances that have the potential to interfere with our communications.

https://www.bojangles.com/

The next total solar eclipse over the contiguous U.S. is not until 2044, so these experiments are a rare opportunity for scientists to collect crucial data.

The APEP launches will be live streamed via NASA’s Wallops’ official YouTube page and featured in NASA’s official broadcast of the total solar eclipse. The public can also watch the launches in person from 1-4 p.m. at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center.

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