Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/453-1547)

January 17, 1991

Jerry Berg Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. (Phone: 205/544-6540) RELEASE: 91-9 CRRES EXPERIMENTS CONTINUE AFTER FOUR SUCCESSES The Combined Release and Radiation Effects Satellite (CRRES) is scheduled to resume experiments early Friday morning following four successful chemical releases in the last week. The next release opportunities will be for either a lithium or large barium release early Friday morning, with possible times of 12:20 a.m., 12:50 a.m., 1:20 a.m., 1:40 a.m. and 1:55 a.m. EST. Weather permitting, the release will be visible in the south-southeastern sky, slightly more than halfway between the horizon and the zenith. The CRRES releases aid scientists studying the way that charged particles interact with the Earth's magnetic and electric fields by creating artificial auroras. Natural auroras occur when high-energy particles from the sun strike the Earth's upper atmosphere. Understanding the Earth's magnetic field is important because disturbances in the field, such as those that create natural auroras, can disrupt high-frequency communications, produce damaging currents in terrestrial power systems and create magnetic storms that affect sensitive instruments on Earth and in space. Last weekend, one release each of barium and lithium were performed, and two more barium experiments were completed Monday night and early Wednesday morning.

"The chemical release operations went off without a hitch during these opportunities," said Dr. David Reasoner, CRRES project scientist at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. "The satellite and the U.S. Air Force satellite control facility have performed flawlessly. The optical instruments at the observing sites were pointed precisely at the release." - more -2The current CRRES chemical release "campaign" involves seven planned releases, with four opportunities to make the remaining three releases through Jan. 24. Late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, two releases were completed as scheduled. Cloudy weather over much of the United States did not permit the glowing barium and lithium gas clouds to be seen from the ground, but a more than sufficient number of observation stations in North America and the Caribbean were able to provide good observation support for the experiments. The 3.3-lb. barium release at 9:17 p.m. EST Saturday resulted in a cloud that glowed bright green initially and then changed to a dimmer purplish-blue as the barium atoms ionized upon exposure to sunlight. At 2:05 a.m. Sunday morning, the 1.6-lb. lithium release produced a red glow in the night sky, with observers estimating its size as approximately the diameter of the full moon and remaining visible for a few seconds. Its apparent brightness was relatively dim because of the human eye's low response in the red region of the spectrum, Reasoner said. Nevertheless, the cloud was reported, for its brief duration, to be the brightest object in the sky, he added. The lithium release was timed to coincide with certain positions of CRRES and NASA's Dynamics Explorer-1 satellite as well as the Japanese AKEBONO satellite. All three satellites have instruments for detecting the artificially injected lithium ions. The Monday night barium release occurred at 11:11 p.m. EST. Afterward, Reasoner hailed the operation, saying, "We believe we have accomplished a significant experiment. Excellent optical data were obtained from many sites, with one particular site tracking the

barium ions for two hours." The fourth barium release took place at 1:25 a.m. EST Wednesday morning. Given clear weather, remaining releases should be visible from the entire continental United States, most of Canada, Central America, the Caribbean and much of South America. During some of the release opportunities, the clouds may be visible low in the western skies from western Africa and Europe, several hours before dawn. For current information about upcoming release opportunities, the CRRES Coordination Center "hotline" message may be heard by calling 205/544-5356. This is not a toll-free number. - more -3CRRES is a joint program of NASA, through its Marshall Space Flight Center and the Department of Defense's Space Test Program. CRRES is operated and controlled from the Air Force's Consolidated Space Test Center, Sunnyvale, Calif. - end -

NASA news releases and other NASA information are available electronically on CompuServe and GEnie, the General Electric Network for Information Exchange. For information on CompuServe, call 1800-848-8199 and ask for representative 176. For information on GEnie, call 1-800-638-9636.