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NASA has successfully launched a rocket mission to determine the source of a "mysterious" occurrence in the North Pole that jams radio signals, slows down spacecraft, and even defies the laws of physics.
The occurrence takes place every day at around midday, where a 'hole' opens up in the sky's magnetic field in space, just above the North Pole.
For twenty years this 'polar cusp' has caused radio and GPS signals to distort in 'strange' ways, and even slows down spacecraft.
NASA has now launched the CREX-2 mission to investigate the 'cusp' at the pole, which allows dangerous solar wind to access the Earth's atmosphere.
"At around 250 miles above Earth, spacecraft feel more drag, sort of like they've hit a speed bump," said Mark Conde, a physicist and investigator for NASA's CREX-2 mission.
The air in 'the cusp' is roughly 1.5 times denser than it should be, which should make the sky "fall"—but doesn't.
Once the rocket reaches 250 miles altitude, it will shoot out twenty jet-fuelled canisters that will release glowing vapour into the sky.
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The idea is that these will 'paint' the sky and reveal how air moves in the polar cusp so that scientists can finally get to the bottom of this mystery.
"We're threading a needle," Conde added. "We get about an hour or two each day when conditions are suitable to do the experiment."
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Scientists and students will be stationed throughout Iceland, Svalbard, and other parts of Scandinavia in order to photograph the high-altitude light show and report back to NASA.
Maybe then, we can finally get to the bottom of this twenty-year mystery.
Hopefully the experiment won't interfere with the North Pole too much however, as there's one man in particular who needs the skies clear this month to do his job properly.
- Spaced Out
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