* Update * – Look at the comments – we don’t think these are flares. We think the wires services all have this description wrong. What are your thoughts?
Looking at MSNBC’s The Week in Pictures (as I do every weekend) I found
this shot of the most recent launch – flares shot off just a minute or so before the craft launches. While these flares are too well choreographed to have any real function besides aesthetics, I wondered if maybe they were used to scare away birds or something, like the NASA article linked to below (I was at a nighttime launch of a Shuttle, and saw no birds – but the daytime Shuttle launch I saw looked a lot like the picture below – a ton of birds in the air around the launch site).
Anyway, I couldn’t really find out if the Russian flares were anything but pretty, but I thought both these pictures were cool. So here they are.
A close encounter of the "bird" kind during last year’s return-to-flight launch of Space Shuttle Discovery prompted NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to look at ways to reduce the possibility of future occurrences.
Source: NASA – It’s a Jungle Out There!