Full moon plus a rocket launch could produce a stellar show in the sky

A launch is scheduled for 8:31 p.m. at Wallops Flight Facility
A launch is scheduled for 8:31 p.m. at Wallops Flight Facility.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 9:54 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2023 at 11:10 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The NASA Wallops flight facility has a launch planned for just after sunset this evening.

And it’s not just any launch. This is an Antares rocket, bringing supplies to the International Space Station. That means it’s the biggest, and therefore most visible launch type for us in the Mid-Atlantic.

As of 8:20 a.m., the weather looks like it’ll cooperate.

From NASA:

The Wallops Range 24-hour forecast issued today for the Tuesday, Aug. 1, launch of Northrop Grumman’s 19th resupply mission to the International Space Station continues to keep weather at 80% favorable, with a slight chance of cumulus clouds being the main weather concern.

The upper-level trough will remain over the Wallops Region Tuesday with a chance of an afternoon pop-up shower or thunderstorms during the countdown. At this time, the primary concern for the launch window is a slight chance of cumulus clouds.

But the reason I’m excited is the time of day this launch will happen.

A 2020 launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
A 2020 launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.(Credits: NASA/Patrick Black)

An 8:31 p.m. launch (if it goes off on schedule) is just a few minutes after sunset. It will probably put on a show as the setting sun will still be shining directly on anything thousands of feet above the ground.

This is similar to when you see a jet contrail clearly in the sky after sunset, but in this case, it will be a much bigger vapor trail than a typical plane.

I’M NOT SAYING IT’S GOING TO BE THIS GOOD, but this is a Bill Draper photograph from November of last year, of a similar launch that was just BEFORE dawn.

My man Bill Draper coming through clutch. I'm getting TONS of questions about this gorgeous cloud formation that you...

Posted by Andrew Freiden NBC12 on Monday, November 7, 2022

I think we could get a great show this evening! Especially with the full moon rising at sunset also in the eastern sky.