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 Post subject: Antares Launch
PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:49 pm 
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Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:53 pm
Posts: 268
Location: Maple Shade, NJ
I ended up at Borton Landing Rd in Moorestown, NJ (152 miles from Wallops Island), to watch the Antares rocket launch earlier this evening (October 17, 2016). My expectations for what I might see were not that high, based on the modest altitude predicted for our area, that fact that it was heading away from us (towards Africa), and on top of that, sky transparency didn't look that great.

I decided not to fool around with a camera and just used my 16x70 binoculars. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. I had NASA TV going on my smartphone and it was good to know that there was a 5-minute delay to 7:45 pm EDT (I'm not sure why, but they were using Central Time, 6:45 pm, on NASA TV). It was almost 7:46 pm by my watch (which I had checked against the NIST earlier) when the rocket took off on the video, and shortly after, I noticed it a few degrees above the southern horizon. I'm guessing that the video had a nominal 1-minute delay. If there was a real-time clock on the tiny screen, I couldn't find it.

Anyway, to the unaided eye, the rocket exhaust looked like a red dot, surprisingly similar to the red color of warning lights on the numerous antennae in the area, so it stood out by it's movement. It also looked red in the 16x70s, redder than any rocket exhaust I've seen before. As it rose, the exhaust turned into an elongated plume. Quite impressive, but then it disappeared into a cloud as it rose further while travelling from right to left. Then after a minute or so, a bright whitish dot appeared abruptly on the imaginary extension of the original path through the cloud. Looking back at the trajectory maps, it may not have disappeared entirely due to a cloud, it might have been the lull between the first stage cutoff and second stage ignition.

By then, it was no longer rising -- I guess it reached a peak close to 20° altitude. Regardless, the whitish second stage plume was really exquisite in the 16x70s with multiple, various intensity straight and curving streams trailing the vehicle (the vehicle itself was not visible). I continued to follow it's apparent motion to the left as it actually headed away to the southeast. Then a guy pulled up and started asking what everybody was looking at (there were probably eight or so cars pulled up along that stretch of Borton Landing Rd). While blabbing away with him, I lost track of the dimming dot in the southeast.


Joe Stieber

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