By Mike DeNardo, Todd Quinones
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (CBS) — With clear skies in the forecast tonight, skywatchers along the East Coast should be able to see a moon probe being launched from Virginia’s eastern shore.
The LADEE, or Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, is scheduled to launch tonight from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 11:27 pm.
The Minotaur rocket should be visible from the Philadelphia area just above the horizon, says Villanova University astronomy professor Edward Guinan.
“It has to get high enough above our horizon,” Guinan explains. “But after about, say, 40 to 50 seconds, it will be ten degrees or so above the south-southeast horizon. And you should be able to see it.”
He says it will look like a bright star or a plane making a low arc, before it fades away after about a minute.
Greg Lee and other members of the Delaware Valley Astronomical Society spent Friday night looking through an observatory telescope at globular clusters some 24,000 light years away. For them, the launching of the NASA moon orbiting craft from Virginia, will be something to see.
“They’ve done other launches there, but they have always stayed in earth orbit, so this is a milestone. A few of our members have gone down there tonight just to watch that event,” he said.
If you watch, Guinan advises logging onto the NASA web site or downloading an app to be sure the launch time isn’t delayed.