NASA sounding rocket observing nitric oxide in polar night

phys.org | 1/26/2020 | Staff
rach-rachrach-rach (Posted by) Level 3
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Aurora, also known as the northern lights, are a sight to behold as they dance across the sky when solar winds collide with the Earth's atmosphere.

However, they also contribute to a process that has an adverse impact on the Earth's ozone as nitric oxide is created during the auroral light show.

Abundance - Oxide - Polar - NASA - Polar

To better understand the abundance of nitric oxide in the polar atmosphere, NASA will launch the Polar Night Nitric Oxide or PolarNOx experiment from the Poker Flat Research Range operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

PolarNOx will fly on a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket between 8:04 and 9:04 a.m. EST (4:04 and 5:04 a.m. AST) on Jan. 26, 2020. The launch window runs through Feb. 8 and opens 3 to 4 minutes earlier each day.

Scott - Bailey - PolarNOx - Investigator - Virginia

Scott Bailey, PolarNOx principal investigator from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, said, "The aurora creates nitric oxide (NO), but in the polar night, unlike the sunlit atmosphere, there is no significant process for destroying the nitric oxide. We believe it builds up to large concentrations. The purpose of our rocket is to measure the abundance and especially the altitude of peak abundance for the nitric oxide. We don't know the altitude at which the nitric oxide settles."

Nitric oxide transport in Earth’s polar region. Credit: Cora Randall/Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado and Bailey.

Oxide - Conditions - Stratosphere - Ozone - Bailey

"Nitric oxide under appropriate conditions can be transported to the stratosphere where it will catalytically destroy ozone," Bailey said. "Those changes in ozone can lead to changes...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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