Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur, has once again become a trending topic on social media and international press. However, this time, the buzz surrounds not his tweets on the platform formerly known as Twitter, now called X, but rather a SpaceX rocket allegedly creating a hole in the ionosphere during its recent launch, as reported by the specialized outlet ‘SpaceWeather’.
On the night of July 19, citizens of California, United States, were astonished by a vibrant red glow illuminating the sky. Many mistook it for the Northern Lights (aurora boreal); however, the source of the phenomenon turned out to be the Falcon 9 rocket, which produced a crimson trail for approximately 20 minutes as it ascended into the upper atmosphere.
According to ‘SpaceWeather,’ the red glow was a consequence of the rocket’s interference with the ionosphere. In this region of the atmosphere, gases become ionized, losing electrons and transforming into plasma.
Physicist Jeff Baumgardner from the University of Boston, speaking to Spaceweather.com, explained that ionosphere hole occur when a rocket burns fuel between 200 and 300 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. At this altitude, the carbon dioxide and water vapor emitted by the rocket cause ionized atoms to revert to regular oxygen molecules.
SPACEX PUNCHED A HOLE IN THE IONOSPHERE (UPDATED): “On the evening of July 19th… Sky watchers from southern California to Arizona witnessed a magnificent exhaust plume. At the San Francisco Volcanic Field north of Flagstaff, photographer Jeremy Perez saw something extra” https://t.co/Y9jqwQgd6E pic.twitter.com/mdmmANeaE1
— Justice (@Loveon999) July 22, 2023
“Live Science” clarifies that such ionosphere holes do not pose any threat to people on the ground and naturally close within a few hours as the recombined gases re-ionize.
Incidents of this nature have become more frequent in recent years due to the rising number of rocket launches worldwide.
Interestingly, this is not the first time such an event has occurred. In August 2017, another Falcon 9 rocket caused a hole four times larger in California, making it the most substantial recorded so far. Moreover, in June 2022, yet another Falcon 9 opened a hole along the East Coast, resulting in several red lights being visible in New York.
Despite the awe-inspiring spectacle, experts emphasize that these occurrences do not pose immediate danger and are a natural consequence of rocket launches in the ionosphere.
SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, has yet to comment on the specific incident, but the online buzz and media attention are undeniable. With the increasing frequency of rocket launches globally, such mesmerizing light displays may become more familiar, captivating both space enthusiasts and curious onlookers alike.
As the space industry continues to evolve and push the boundaries of human exploration, it becomes crucial for scientists and experts to closely monitor the potential effects of these rocket launches on Earth’s atmosphere. Understanding the intricate interactions between rocket emissions and the ionosphere will help ensure the sustainability of space travel and exploration in the years to come.
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