Rocket launch could be visible from Southern New England Sunday evening

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A Black Brant IX rocket leaves the launch pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Credits: NASA/Chris Perry

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A few times every year, we have the opportunity to witness a rocket launch from here in Southern New England.

After more than a week of launch postponements due to weather and rocket inspections, launch is set for Sunday evening at 8:04PM. Weather-permitting we’ll be able to see a NASA Black Brant XII sounding rocket in the sky after it blasts off from Wallops Island in Virginia. According to NASA, this will be the last chance for this experiment.

The mission is called the KiNETic-scale energy and momentum eXperiment — or KiNet-X. Scientists will be studying how different regions of space are magnetically connected.

Basically, the researchers will be looking at how auroras, or Northern Lights, form and move through the atmosphere.

Courtesy Deb Kestler: The Northern Lights over Middletown, RI on June 23, 2015.

To do this, a barium vapor will be released from the rocket 9-and-a-half to 10 minutes after launch at an altitude of 217-249 miles over the Atlantic Ocean.

The vapor is not harmful to people or the environment, and it is not expected to form a visible cloud.

Coverage of the rocket launch can be viewed through the Wallops Flight Facility’s web site.

To see the rocket ascend through the atmosphere, find a spot with a clear view of the southern sky. The south coast beaches might be the best spot, like Misquamicut, East Matunuck, Easton or Horseneck.

A pair of binoculars would be helpful once you see the rocket’s exhaust trail, but not necessary.

In Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, viewers can see the rocket (weather permitting) 30 to 60 seconds after launch, which would end up being between 8:04 p.m. and 8:06 p.m.

If our sky is overcast, we likely will not be able to see the launch. Be sure to check on the latest forecast from the Pinpoint Weather Team.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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