This NASA sounding rocket launch could be seen on the US east coast tonight


Update: NASA is now targeting a Saturday night launch from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia tonight, Jan. 8, 11:00 p.m. EST (04:00 GMT), weather permitting. A live webcast will begin at 10:40 PM EST (0340 GMT) and will appear here once live.

If the weather is clear on the US east coast in the mid-Atlantic, you might see a rocket launch start on the evening of Saturday (January 8).

A Black Brant IX sounding rocket is scheduled to be launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., Between 11 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday, January 9 (Eastern Time (0400-0700 GMT Friday January 7).

Those not in the area can tune in to a live broadcast that will be posted on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility website. Youtube channel about 20 minutes before the window opens, assuming the weather is right. (A nasty snowstorm in the northeastern region canceled a previous launch attempt on Tuesday, Jan.4 due to heavy snow, and weather also precluded an attempt on Jan.6.)

If you are lucky enough to be nearby, however, a NASA visualization map suggests that residents of at least part of the following states may attend the launch: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York State (including parts of New York City), Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Related: SpaceX to launch 49 Starlink satellites on Falcon 9 rocket today

The sounding rocket will be the fourth to fly on a larger set of missions known as the local galaxy diffuse x-ray (DXL). DXL studies “the sources of soft X-rays which rush towards the Earth from elsewhere in our galaxy”, according to a NASA press release. (Soft x-rays are radiation with a lower energy than the types of x-rays you encounter in a medical facility, which are known as hard x-rays.)

While soft X-rays are harmless to Earth people, their presence in the ionosphere – a region high up in the Earth’s atmosphere filled with charged particles – can disrupt radio communications or GPS navigation, NASA noted.

Investigators suspect the soft x-rays are coming from two sources.

“The first source is located outside our solar system and is generated by the remnants of multiple supernova explosions forming what is now called the local hot bubble region of our galaxy,” said Massimiliano Galeazzi, principal investigator of the University of Miami DXL mission said in the same statement.

“The second source is in the solar system and is generated by the charge exchange of the solar wind. DXL seeks to better understand the nature and characteristics of these sources.”

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