Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NASA rocket launch should be visible from Philadelphia and N.J.

Story Highlights
  • A NASA rocket will launch late tonight off of Virginia's Eastern Shore.
  • It is slated to take off from Wallops Island, Va., at 11:27 p.m. tonight.
  • Their mission is to explore lunar dust and the moon's atmosphere.
Gallery: NASA rocket launch should be visible from Philadelphia and N.J.

If you've ever wanted to see a rocket launch, tonight is your chance.

A NASA rocket mission to explore lunar dust and the moon's atmosphere will launch late tonight off of Virginia's Eastern Shore. The launch should be visible for much of the East Coast, including the Philadelphia and South Jersey region, according to NASA.

NASA says the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, a robotic mission known as LADEE, is slated to take off from Wallops Island, Va., at 11:27 p.m. tonight.

A map from Orbital Sciences, which developed the rocket, shows that the southern-most parts of New Jersey should be able to first glimpse the rocket about 40 seconds after launch. Philadelphia, much of southeastern Pennsylvania and the rest of the New Jersey should start getting a view about 60 seconds after launch.

Orbital also produced renderings showing where to look to see the path of the rocket from various locations, including Atlantic City and Princeton University.

Mostly clear skies are expected in Philadelphia tonight, the National Weather Service says, which should aid rocket-viewers.

The unmanned Force Minotaur V rocket will orbit the moon to get more information about the lunar atmosphere's structure and composition, and determine whether dust is being lofted into the moon sky.

"The moon's tenuous atmosphere may be more common in the solar system than we thought," John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science, said in a statement. "Further understanding of the moon's atmosphere may also help us better understand our diverse solar system and its evolution."

The mission is expected to take about 160 days.

The launch -- the first moon mission from Virginia's coast -- will be live-streamed on NASA TV and the space agency says it will provide updates on Twitter at @NASA and @NASALADEE.

Backup launch dates are set for Saturday through Tuesday.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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