NASA rockets are looking for tornado-like swirls in the upper atmosphere
NASA’s rocket team will soon begin its mission to study giant tornado-like vortices in the upper atmosphere to understand weather patterns affecting the entire planet.
Call Vortex experiment (VortEx), the mission will launch from Andoya Space Centre In the town of Andenes in northern Norway. The launch window will be between March 17 and 26, according to the Andoya Space Center.
NASA said the primary goal of the mission is to find out how high-altitude winds produce a phenomenon known as buoyancy waves.
What are floating waves?
Float waves are large pulses of energy that drive changes as Earth’s atmosphere mixes with space.
According to NASA, float waves occur when a storm or turbulence suddenly pushes the air upward into an area of low pressure, causing it to oscillate as the atmosphere tries to balance itself.
They added that these oscillations cause waves, or ripples, to propagate away from the source of the disturbance.
“It could come from storm approach fronts, or winds hitting mountains and then being sent upwards,” said Gerald Lemacher, a professor of physics at Clemson University in South Carolina and the principal investigator on the Vortex mission.
If buoyancy waves propagate, they may also move upwards and pass through stable layers of the atmosphere. In doing so, they can produce giant whirlpools of air.
These whirlpools or whirlpools are believed to extend tens of miles across. NASA said that the vortices, because of their massive size, are too large to be measured and studied by conventional methods.
To get around this, Lehmacher designed the VortEx to measure vortices.
How will you study vortices rockets?
According to NASA, the VortEx mission will use four rockets, two of which will be launched simultaneously. Each pair consists of one high and one low flyer, which are fired a few minutes apart.
High-flying aircraft will measure wind speeds, NASA said, and they will peak at about 224 miles (360 kilometers). Flying low, as high as about 87 miles (140 kilometers), will measure the density of the air, affecting how eddies form.
The rockets will run their measurements for a few minutes before returning to the surface and plunging into the Norwegian Sea.
The VortEx launch will be livestreamed on the Andøya Space Center YouTube channel starting March 17 at 4:30pm ET