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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, clouds of smoke envelop the Delta II rocket with NASA's THEMIS spacecraft aboard as it blasts off Pad 17-B at 6:01 p.m. EST. THEMIS, an acronym for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms, consists of five identical probes that will track violent, colorful eruptions near the North Pole.  This will be the largest number of scientific satellites NASA has ever launched into orbit aboard a single rocket.  The THEMIS mission aims to unravel the mystery behind auroral substorms, an avalanche of magnetic energy powered by the solar wind that intensifies the northern and southern lights.  The mission will investigate what causes auroras in the Earth’s atmosphere to dramatically change from slowly shimmering waves of light to wildly shifting streaks of bright color. Photo credit: NASA/Jerry Cannon

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, clouds of smoke envelop the Delta II rocket with NASA's THEMIS spacecraft aboard as it blasts off Pad 17-B at 6:01 p.m. EST. THEMIS, an acronym for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms, consists of five identical probes that will track violent, colorful eruptions near the North Pole. This will be the largest number of scientific satellites NASA has ever launched into orbit aboard a single rocket. The THEMIS mission aims to unravel the mystery behind auroral substorms, an avalanche of magnetic energy powered by the solar wind that intensifies the northern and southern lights. The mission will investigate what causes auroras in the Earth’s atmosphere to dramatically change from slowly shimmering waves of light to wildly shifting streaks of bright color. Photo credit: NASA/Jerry Cannon

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