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Earth resists NASA's attempts to make red and green clouds

Strontium release dogged by normal boring clouds that blocked boffins' view

NASA's attempts to make red and green clouds have been thwarted by Mother Nature.

The aeronautical agency's cloud coloration cravings are, naturally, all in the name of science: the idea was to use a sounding rocket to launch “10 canisters about the size of a soft drink can” full of “vapour tracers” made of “barium, strontium and cupric-oxide”. Once released somewhere between 96 and 124 miles up, the vapour tracers were expected to make artificial clouds coloured blue-green and red. Earthbound boffins hoped they could then peer through those clouds into space, to advance our knowledge of track particle motions in space.

But the plan went pear-shaped after nature objected to the launch by sending clouds into the area above the two ground stations being used for observation. High winds didn't help matters either. A third launch attempt had to be cancelled after boats appeared in the North Atlantic region where the sounding rocket would likely splash down.

Now the weather forecast has turned nasty, leading NASA to scrub the mission until June 11th at the earliest, leaving the Terrier Improved Malemute Rocket on the launchpad for now.

NASA warned people living in an area triangulated by spanning New York, North Carolina and Charlottesville, Virginia they may see coloured clouds. But nature had other ideas. ®

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