Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's a minotaur and a firefly

minotaur rocket carrying siena satellite

Take me where I cannot stand: Launching in Virginia, (probably) visible from upstate New York.

A rocket is scheduled to launch into space from a spaceport in Virginia this evening, sometime between 7:30-9:15 pm. Two local things about the launch of this Minotaur I rocket:

We should be able to see it
The rocket launch "will be HIGHLY visible on the east coast," according to NASA, as long as there isn't too much cloud cover. Here's info on how to spot the rocket -- it boils down to look the south/southeast about 90 seconds after launch. As you face that direction, the rocket will be arcing from right to left, south to east, about 10 degrees over the horizon.

A tiny satellite from Siena College will be aboard
Part of the payload for the Air Force rocket: a "nanosatellite" called Firefly built in part by Siena students. From a press release:

The development of Firefly was a joint venture between Siena College, the National Science Foundation, which is the funding agency, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The small satellite, which is about the size of a football, was built in part by Siena College students, faculty and engineers. Firefly is designed to help solve the mysteries of lightning. It is the second in a series of National Science Foundation-funded nanosatellites. Small, inexpensive satellites show great promise for focused science as well as enabling new kinds of discovery. ...
Despite its small size, Firefly has big goals. It will study the most powerful natural particle accelerator on the Earth - lightning. In addition to the tremendous heat, light and noise generated near the Earth's surface, lightning can also generate powerful beams of electrons and gamma-rays, known as Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs), which were first discovered by NASA in the early 1990s.
"Bursts of gamma rays usually occur far out in space, near black holes. Firefly will provide new evidence on the relationship between lightning and TGFs," said [Siena College School of Science Dean Allan] Weatherwax. "Identifying the source of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes will be a huge step toward understanding the physics of lightning and its effect on Earth's upper atmosphere and space weather. It will also help us shed light on similar energetic processes that occur on the sun, other planets or in more exotic astrophysical environments such as black holes."

NASA says the Siena satellite -- a "Cubesat" -- is one of 13 tiny satellites will be riding the rocket into the space, along with a (presumably very large) Air Force satellite.

photo: NASA's Wallops Flight Facility FB

Comments

So, can you settle a dispute that my fiancee and I are having... I thought that I saw it traveling from right to left, per the post, but then it turned around and started going left to right. That's weird, and it makes her think that it wasn't really it. Thoughts?

Did anyone see it?

I saw it! Standing from Washington Park - right by the playhouse- it was visually going strait up and slightly to the left from our position.

Let me add that it wasn't the recommended 90 seconds later...This thing showed up like 4 seconds after blastoff - (Per NASA live feed running on LTE)

I tried and we didn't see it, but the spot where it should have been had significant patches of cloud. :( So thanks for sharing, Daniel!

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