STATUS: What a day!! We started with very clear skies in Longyearbyen and acceptable winds at the range. Solar wind observations had definitely improved, too. As the day developed and we moved closer to local magnetic noon, we saw lots of green and red aurora come and go. As we got near the cusp region (our prime area of interest, usually located near magnetic noon) the situation was looking very promising, though the winds were starting to pick up at the launcher - and the race was on. To make a long story short, the interval when we could have (and WOULD have) launched was precisely the interval when the winds forced us to hold.

In more detail, see this figure, which is our allsky camera data (red aurora in the left circle, green in the right). Below the circles are keograms, showing a north-south slice of the allsky data and how it changes over time (red on top, green on the bottom). Beginning around 6:00 UT, you can see aurora start to brighten, with the green aurora fading around 7:15 and the red aurora drifting a bit southward. Around 7:00, we wanted to lower the count from T-15 minutes down to T-2 minutes (anticipating "the good stuff"), but were unable to do so because of winds. In spite of being down for winds, the science team charged ahead and decided that we would launch at 07:32 (that is, if we could have launched). The red blobs centered around 7:30 are what we want to fly over - red aurora with ion outflows measured by EISCAT. The images shown in the top frames are what the skies looked like just after the flight would have ended; the purple lines in the images are the rocket trajectory - it would have been an excellent shot!

In the meantime, the folks at the rocket range were launching weather balloons in rapid succession to try to get us "green" again as quickly as possible. Ironically, this occurred just at the aurora faded and we entered the "mid-day gap". Still, we were optimistic because (at least statistically) there should be more good stuff on the other side of the gap. Unfortunately, the solar wind worked against us a bit and when we crossed the gap the aurora was far to the north (and then our skied clouded over). A very tough day!!!

OUTLOOK: Fortunately, the forecast for tomorrow looks reasonably good in terms of clear skies, moderate winds (or so we hope) and adequate solar wind. We remain optimistic (do we really have a choice???)

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