You’ve never truly seen what a rocket plume looks like. They are extremely bright and therefore, have never been photographed properly and unless you want to stare directly into one, it will be nearly impossible to imagine. Although that’s difficult, considering there haven’t been cameras that could capture its image before.
However, NASA unveiled a new camera during its recent space launch test, which is able to show the detail in a rocket plume. And it looks pretty spectacular.
Normally cameras can’t properly capture something like a rocket plume. You can fiddle with the exposure settings, but reducing them darkens the rest of the image. Most cameras also only record one exposure at a time.
However, the new High Dynamic Range Stereo X (HiDyRS-X) project overcomes this by being able to record multiple slow motion exposures at once and combining them into a more high-quality video. It uses a similar technique to what night photographers use when they splice multiple images together in post to get an impressive image.
The photo below is of the plume taken without the camera, so you can clearly see the difference.
Photo credit: NASA
According to a statement from NASA, scientists tried out the camera while testing its booster, QM-2. They monitored the camera from a safe distance, but its automatic timer failed to go off, meaning scientists had to start it manually.
And apparently, the force of the booster test was so great that it disconnected the camera’s power source. So NASA got confirmation that its camera works, but also that its rocket is very powerful.
Currently, this is just a prototype. Scientists plan to build a second one with more advanced capabilities, including with alignment. We’re looking forward to seeing more amazing photos, NASA! Don’t keep us waiting.