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NIGHTGLOW launched from Alice Springs, Australia on March 17, 2003 at 8:38 a.m. local time (March 16 at 6:08 p.m. EST).
Even at night, the Earth's atmosphere glows from reflected starlight, moonlight, man-made ultraviolet (UV) light and molecular processes. Our instrument is designed to measure this UV "nightglow", hence the mission name, NIGHTGLOW!
What we learn from the NIGHTGLOW mission will be used on future cosmic ray missions, such as OWL and EUSO.
NIGHTGLOW is flown from a high altitude (~120,000 ft) balloon, launched by the National Scientific Balloon Facility (NSBF). The balloon is filled with helium gas, and when fully inflated has a volume of 28 million cubic feet. It is hoped that a successful flight will take the instrument completely around the world - a flight that might last 14 days as the balloon is pushed by the upper altitude winds. The launch site is Alice Springs, Australia at -23 degrees latitude. Fully 3/4 of the flight path at that latitude is over water (Pacific and Atlantic Oceans).
The NIGHTGLOW mission is a collaboration between the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Utah, and the New Mexico State University Particle Astrophysics Lab to measure the UV glow (nightglow) of the Earth's atmosphere.