Rocket launch might be visible in West Virginia Friday night

National

Black Brant XII
Credits: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

Wallops Island, Va. (WVNS) – NASA is planning to launch a rocket from its Wallops Island launch pad on May 7, 2021. The Black Brant XII rocket being launched is part of a research project studying how energy is transported in space. As part of the study, a cloud of vapor is set to be released during the flight that may be visible along the east coast. Additional launch windows are scheduled through May 16 in case this launch is canceled due to weather.

This map shows when the rocket may be visible after launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Two vapor clouds will form north of Bermuda about 9 minutes and 30 seconds after launch as part of the mission and may also be visible from eastern United States and Bermuda.
Credits: NASA/Christian Billie

The launch window for the May 7 flight opens at 7:58 pm EDT and closes at 8:38 pm EDT. Approximately nine and a half to 10 minutes into the flight, at an altitude of 200+ miles, the rocket will release a cloud of vapor that will be visible about 30 to 60 seconds after it is released in West Virginia. According to NASA, the clouds will become ionized after their release, which will result in them becoming visible.

Immediately after release of the vapor, the spherical clouds are a mixture of green and violet, but that phase only lasts about 30 seconds when the un-ionized component of the cloud has diffused away.

Kevin Koehler, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia

NASA does note in their release, that this will not be as vibrant as previous launches and will be more difficult to see. Partially due to the fact that this launch will be occurring near sunset, and the human eye struggles to perceive the color violet when there’s less light.

To read more about this NASA mission and what is being studied, you can read their full press release here.

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