Spectacular Night Launch from NASA Wallops Studies Early Universe

by Dr. Ken Kremer

Night launch of NASA Black Brant XII and CIBER. Credit: Ken Kremer

Night launch of NASA Black Brant XII and CIBER. Credit: Ken Kremer

The spectacular night time launch of a powerful Black Brant XII suborbital rocket from NASA’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore at 11:05 p.m. June 5 turned darkness into day as the rocket swiftly streaked skyward with the Cosmic Infrared Background ExpeRiment (CIBER) on a NASA mission to shine a bright beacon on star and galaxy formation in the early Universe.

A very loud explosive boom that shook the local launch area at ignition was heard by local residents and tourists over 10 miles away. The four stage Black Brant XII is the most powerful sounding rocket in America’s arsenal for scientific research.

“The data looks good so far,” Jamie Bock, CIBER principal investigator from the California Institute of Technology, told me in an exclusive post-launch interview inside Mission Control at NASA Wallops. “I’m very happy.”

The first massive stars to form in the universe produced copious ultraviolet light that ionized gas from neutral hydrogen. CIBER observes in the near infrared because the expansion of the universe stretched the original short ultraviolet wavelengths to long near-infrared wavelengths. It investigates two tell tale signatures of first star formation — the total brightness of the sky after subtracting all foregrounds, and a distinctive pattern of spatial variations, says Bock.

Read more about science launches from NASA Wallops here: CIBER and Daytime Dynamo Ken’s panoramic mosaic of NASA’s Curiosity rover conducting the first rock drilling on another planet was featured in the July issue of Popular Mechanics magazine, see p. 89.

Astronomy Outreach by Dr. Ken Kremer
Rittenhouse Astronomical Society: Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA:
Oct. 9, 8 PM, “Curiosity and the Search for Life on Mars (3-D).

Dr. Ken Kremer: Universe Today & AAAP
Please contact Ken for more info, science outreach presentations and his space photos.
Email: kremerken@yahoo.com website: www.kenkremer.com

This entry was posted in Mid-Summer 2013, Sidereal Times and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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