By Dimitris Kouimtsdis,
Published by Daily Star, 11 August 2023
The Falcon 9 launched on Monday (August 7) in order to deliver 15 Starlink satellites and in the process punched a hole in the planet’s ionosphere, leaving a red aurora-like glow in the sky
Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket ripped a hole in the Earth’s atmosphere creating a red glow in the sky.
The Falcon 9 launched on Monday (August 7) from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California with the aim of delivering 15 Starlink satellites.
In the process however in punched a hole in the planet’s ionosphere — the upper layer of the atmosphere which is around 50 to 400 miles from the Earth’s surface — as its exhaust fumes — containing mostly water and carbon dioxide — reacted with the layer, creating a hole of ionised gases.
The ionosphere is filled with charged atoms, called ions, that glow red or green during the aurora, as they react with solar wind and radiation from coronal mass ejections or solar flares, which is what turned the Californian sky red.
This layer in the atmosphere is essential to radio communication because it reflects and refracts radio signals, which is why these holes could lead to anomalies in said communications.
These occurrences we quite rare in the past, but have become more frequent as the number of rocket launches increases, evident from the fact that the another Falcon 9 launch did the same thing just a few weeks ago.
Charles Lin, a professor of earth sciences at the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, told Ars Technica: “Humans are entering an era that rocket launches are becoming usual and frequent due to reduced cost by reusable rockets.
“Meanwhile, humans are developing more powerful rockets to send cargos to other planets. These two factors will gradually affect the middle and upper atmosphere more, and that is worthwhile to pay some attention to.”
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