Elon Musk’s SpaceX Launch Creates Historic Hole in Earth’s Ionosphere
Elon Musk’s SpaceX made headlines with a rocket launch from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on July 19, which reportedly caused a puncture in the Earth’s ionosphere, as revealed in a Newsweek report.
The star of the show was the Falcon 9, SpaceX’s two-stage rocket designed for reliable and safe transportation of payloads and even people to Earth’s orbit and beyond. It boasts the title of the world’s first orbital-class reusable rocket, having completed an impressive 240 launches and 198 successful landings, as stated on SpaceX’s official website. As the Falcon 9 surged into space at high speeds, an intriguing spectacle occurred over Flagstaff, Arizona—a faint red glow in the sky that signaled the creation of an ionospheric hole.
Space physicist Jeff Baumgardner from Boston University confirmed that such phenomena are well-documented when rockets burn their engines around 200 to 300 km (approximately 120 to 190 miles) above the Earth’s surface. In this particular launch, the second stage engine burned at approximately 286 km (178 miles) near the F-region peak during that time of day, making it highly probable that an ionospheric ‘hole’ formed.
The ionosphere, known as the boundary of space, extends between approximately 50 to 400 miles above the Earth’s surface and contains charged particles called ions. This region plays a vital role in producing awe-inspiring auroras during geomagnetic storms, as solar plasma reacts with ions to paint the sky with stunning colors.
SpaceX’s latest launch has undoubtedly added an exciting chapter to our understanding of Earth’s ionosphere and its interaction with space-faring activities. As scientists delve deeper into the data, the knowledge gained from this event could pave the way for even safer and more efficient space missions in the future.