Reports of UFOs skyrocketed last weekend along the east coast of the US after a NASA launched an experiment to study an unusual phenomenon called noctilucent clouds, or ‘night shining’ clouds. The Charged Aerosol Release Experiment (CARE) was conducted by the Naval Research Laboratory and the Department of Defense Space Test Program, created artificial noctilucent cloud using the exhaust particles of the rocket’s fourth stage at about 173 miles altitude. It created a bright object with a fan-shaped tail, prompting calls of concern from residents in Virginia and Massachusetts to local authorities. But this object was definitely identified. – universetoday
An eerie cloud that glowed briefly in the night sky Saturday was no UFO. It was created by humans – more specifically a NASA rocket built to make clouds that shine at night.
The rocket launched as part of an experiment to artificially create so-called noctilucent – or night-shining – clouds, the highest clouds on Earth. They naturally appear around 50 miles (80 km) above Earth’s high latitudes and are also known as polar mesospheric clouds.
Saturday night’s rocket experiment lifted off at 7:46 p.m. EDT (2346 GMT) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. It created a brief light show that was visible across the United States’ East Coast and sparked calls from curious skywatchers as far away as Boston, according to the Associated Press.
“It was very impressive … albeit short-lived,” said Joe Rao, an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium, who witnessed the event. Rao is also SPACE.com’s skywatching columnist.
The experiment created a man-made noctilucent cloud using the fourth stage of a NASA Black Brant XII suborbital sounding rocket that spewed exhaust particles 173 miles (278 km) above Earth. Ground-based radar and camera stations recorded the resulting cloud’s formation and illumination. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Department of Defense’s Space Test Program oversaw the launch, which it called the Charged Aerosol Release Experiment.
NASA has observed naturally occurring night-shining clouds using its AIM satellite. The Naval Research Laboratory and Space Test Program also uses a satellite called STPSat-1 to observe the phenomena and also used the spacecraft to observe Saturday night’s man-made cloud.
“We weren’t exactly sure what we were going to see, as this was the very first time that a noctilucent cloud experiment was attempted,” Rao said. “Would it be something obvious to the eye, or something rather faint?”
The result, he added, was spectacular.
Rao described the cloud as “a brilliant object” that displayed a wide, fan-shaped tail shortly after it was created. But the artificial phenomenon was over in just a few minutes.