A rocket launched to collect information on the aurora's appearance and movement flew for five minutes before crashing in the mountains north of Fairbanks.
The 70-foot Black Brant XII rocket was launched Sunday from the Poker Flat Research Range. It should have flown for 40 minutes, said Greg Walker, the range manager.
Walker said range staff searching by air and on ground with snowmobiles found the rocket based on its final global positioning system transmissions.
"It was right where it was supposed to be," Walker said.
Range staff planned to retrieve the rocket debris and analyze it to determine what caused the crash.
The rocket was to fly through the aurora and investigate how and why the aurora moves and appears the way it does on Earth, Hartley said.
Poker Flat Research Range has been the site of more than 2,000 rocket launches since it opened in 1969. It is about 30 miles north of Fairbanks.