Light in the sky: Rocket launch out of NM visible in pre-dawn sky in AZ

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- If you saw a bright pink light in the northeast sky early Wednesday morning, you're not alone, and you were not seeing the beginning of an alien invasion.

NASA launched a research rocket from White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.

The rocket carried an experiment to study ionization at the upper levels of Earth's atmosphere.

At 100 miles above the Earth, the rocket released some harmless vapor, about as much as in a grill's propane tank.

"Colorful clouds may be visible over southern N.M. near dawn as the sun illuminates the vapor before it diffuses harmlessly away into space," according to a news release from White Sands Missile Range. "Data collected from this experiment will be used to develop enhanced models of ionospheric disturbances in near-Earth space and their effects on modern technologies."

Ground stations throughout the Southwest measured the ionosphere during the experiment. They also will monitor daily fluctuations in the ionosphere.

When conditions are right, launches out of White Sands are visible in Phoenix and surrounding cities.

White Sands Missile Range lies almost due east of Phoenix.

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