Photo by Ben Cooper / LaunchPhotography.com
With gorgeous weather slated for the rest of the evening, New Yorkers may be gifted a rare treat thanks to NASA: a first-of-its-kind rocket launch from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia should be visible just after sunset.
The egg-heads down south will be shooting the fiery phallus into space at 6:45pm. Hopefully the sun will have sunk below the horizon, making the otherwise clear skies dark enough to see it as it streaks through the atmosphere, but there’s really no guarantee.
The rocket, owned by Orbital Sciences Corporation, is capped off with a Cygnus cargo spacecraft that will make its way to the International Space Station. According to NASA’s info page, “Cygnus is loaded with about 5,000 pounds of science investigations, food, supplies and hardware for the space station and its crew.” It should reach its destination on November 2.
An example of what tonight’s launch could look like if the sun hits it just right. (Source: USCLA Dept. of Physics and Astronomy)
This is the fifth ever launch of the Antares orbital rocket, and the first time it’s blasting off after sundown, so nobody is really sure what you will be able to see. Making it even more dicey is that it’s not really happening at night, but rather at twilight.
We asked our resident space guru Ben Cooper, of Manhattan Beach, who photographs such rocket launches for a living, what to expect from tonight’s launch.
“This one won’t be quite as bright [as the one I photographed last year, seen above this post],” he said. “It is also possible that the upper stage exhaust will catch the sunlight and look like a white comet type thing. It’s hard to say what tonight will look like. The Antares rocket has never launched at night before. A similar past launch from California could look like [the adjacent photo] if it is impressive enough.”
The best places in the area to catch a view of the rocket is the waterfront along Southern Brooklyn. Plumb Beach, Manhattan Beach, the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Brighton Beach or Coney Island and the Shore Parkway greenway spanning Bay Parkway to the Verrazano are your best bets.
According to a map distributed by NASA, you should be able to see the rocket between 180 and 210 second after it launches, when it climbs high enough over the horizon. You can also keep tabs on the launch here, where NASA will host a livestream. Launch coverage begins at 5:45pm.
In the unlikely event that weather hampers the launch – it’s currently considered 99 percent favorable – it will be postponed until Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. If you get a great photo, make sure to send it to editor [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com!