NASA will launch the Vorticity Experiment (VortEx) from the Andøya Space Center in northern Norway between March 17 and 26.
VortEx’s primary objective is to investigate buoyancy waves, which are large pulses of energy that drive changes in the Earth’s atmosphere as it blends into space.
Buoyancy waves create oscillations as the atmosphere tries to balance itself out, leading to waves that spread away from the source of disturbance, creating vortices. Vortices are too large to measure and study with conventional approaches.
The VortEx mission will use four rockets that will be launched two at a time. The high-flyers will measure the winds at approximately 224 miles (360 kilometers) peak altitude, while the low-flyers reaching around 87 miles (140 kilometers) altitude will measure air density, which affects how vortices form.
The rockets will make their measurements for a few minutes before returning to the surface and splashing down into the Norwegian Sea. The study of buoyancy waves will help scientists better understand weather patterns that affect the planet.
A livestream of the VortEx launch will be broadcast on the Andøya Space Center YouTube channel beginning on March 17 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Gerald Lehmacher, a professor of physics at Clemson University in South Carolina, and principal investigator for the VortEx mission, explained that buoyancy waves could result from approaching storm fronts or winds hitting mountains and being sent upwards.
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