BOULDER, Colo. -- If you see a piercing green light shooting into the sky Sunday night, it's not aliens, it's the work of scientists at Ball Aerospace. The Star Wars-like light beam is part of a satellite the company is working on that will one day measure the Earth's atmosphere from orbit. It tested a lower power version in Hawaii earlier (pictured).
"The testing will probably start shortly after dark and last several minutes or several hours, depending on how the scientists need to adjust the frequency," said Emilia Reed, a spokeswoman for Ball Aerospace, which is working on the Cloud- Aerosol Lidar and Infared Pathfinder Spaceborne Observations project. "If it's clear skies, with little cloud cover, the beam can be seen from Colorado Springs and Wyoming." Reed said the laser beam, which will originate from Ball Aerospace, would be quite spectacular at times. It was originally scheduled to be tested Saturday evening, but that was postponed until Sunday, she said Friday. Reed said the test won't start until 4 p.m., at the earliest. The test will last between five days and three weeks, depending on weather conditions. "At its greatest frequency, the beam will be about the circumference of a basketball hoop and very visible by human eye," she said. The laser beam is about 40,000 times more powerful than a common laser pointer pen. The company has taken special precautions to protect aircraft and birds that might fly into the beam.