For the longest time, Floridians had all the fun, getting to see NASA rockets launch into the night sky. Tonight, folks from North Carolina to Maine get to join that club, by watching the first moon mission to launch from NASA's Wallops Island facility in Virginia. It's just about as easy as walking outside, but here's some tips to maximize your chances of seeing it happen, live.
Tonight's launch sends the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) toward a 100-day mission orbiting the moon to study the lunar atmosphere. It's set to launch between 11:27 and 11:31 PM EDT, and Orbital Sciences, which builds the Minotaur V rocket powering the mission, has some handy charts to help you find it in the night sky. Here's what you'll see from the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (it looks like a rise and fall, but that's just a trick of perspective):
And from NYC's Battery Park:
Or, if you're in New York City and can't get a clear view of the sky (highly likely; they don't call 'em skyscrapers for nothing) check out the bigscreen at Times Square:
For a bunch more perspectives, and even a cool Google Earth download you can use to simulate your exact view, head on over to Orbital's mission page.
Here's how high off the horizon it'll get. For a rough estimate of how high to look, stretch your arm out and make a fist. Close one eye and aim your arm so the bottom of your fist touches the horizon. The top of your fist is roughly 10 degrees above the horizon.
And here's how long after launch you'll see it:
For the exact launch time, or if you're in a place where you can't get a clear view of the night sky, check out NASA's live feed of the mission. And no, we won't judge you if you mutter "godspeed" as you watch that little glowing blob going boldly into the night sky. [Orbital Science]
Images via Orbital Science