A rocket shoots directly into the heart of an Alaskan aurora

Earlier this week, a NASA-funded sounding rocket was hurtled directly into the Northern Lights over Venetie, Alaska. The launch created an absolutely stunning visual feast, one combining fire, ice — and glowing green plasma.

Called GREECE (Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics – Electron Correlative Experiment), it's an effort to study auroral curls. The launch site is located at Poker Flat Research Range in Poker Flat, Alaska.

NASA uses sounding rockets to pull information about the atmosphere from various altitudes. In this case, the GREECE rocket's onboard devices are measuring the conditions within the charged, heated gas (or plasma) in which auroral curls form. The experiment will help scientists better understand the sun-Earth connection and how energy particles from the sun interact with the Earth's magnetosphere.

[ NASA ]

Image Credit: NASA/Christopher Perry