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The ampule doors on the sounding rocket payload are open during testing at the Wallops Flight Facility. Photo: NASA/Berit Bland

Glow clouds with hints of red and blue-green artificial colors are expected to light up the sky high over the Eastern Seaboard of the United States tonight, as part of a NASA mission to track the movement of particles in space just outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket was originally scheduled to be launched in the early morning hours of May 31 from the Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast, but has been scrubbed five times, due to high winds, too many natural clouds, and boats in the hazard area of the Atlantic Ocean.

The latest launch time is tonight, between 9:04 p.m. and 9:19 p.m. EDT. The total expected mission flight time is just eight minutes.

The rocket is expected to release its payload between 96 and 124 miles above the Earth, according to NASA. The main 670-pound payload will be complemented by 10 canisters about the size of a soda can which will be released between 6 and 12 miles away from the main load, they added.

The vapor tracers that scientists back on Earth will look up at will be formed through a reaction between barium, strontium and cupric-oxide.

The colors will be visible in a wide radius, from New York south to North Carolina, and as far inland as the city of Charlottesville in northern Virginia.

The last scheduled launch was yesterday – but the boats had wandered into the hazard area, where debris could potentially have caused damage or injury to the people aboard.

NASA assures residents along the Atlantic coast that there is no danger associated with the rocket launch, the debris, or the clouds.

This map shows the projected visibility of the vapor tracers during the May 31 mission. The vapor tracers may be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: NASA
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