Alabama could see NASA’s rocket launch Saturday evening

Published: May. 14, 2021 at 12:21 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Central Alabama could see some green to violet colors in the evening sky Saturday evening if NASA successfully launches a rocket from Wallop, Virginia.

The Suborbital Rocket Launch was originally set to happen last Friday on May 8th from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Combination of cloud cover and windy conditions postponed the launch. The launch can only happen if the sky is clear, and winds remain light between the Mid-Atlantic coast and Bermuda. If one of these conditions are not met, the launch will be postponed to another day. Normally they have a one hour window set for the launch. It’s possible that the launch could occur at any time between 7:10 PM and 8:10 PM CT.

NASA is looking to launch the Black Brant XII sounding rocket Saturday, May 15th no earlier than 7:10 PM CT. The launch is to explore energy transport in space. The mission is called the KiNETic-scale energy and momentum transport eXperiment, or KiNet-X.

The Black Brant XII rocket will release barium vapor that forms two green to violet clouds that could be visible in the sky for about 30 seconds. The vapors released from the rocket are not harmful to the environment or to public health.

NASA shuttle launch and 3 planets
NASA shuttle launch and 3 planets(WBRC)

If the rocket is successful, areas east of the Mississippi River could see these colors in the evening sky assuming they have partly cloudy to mostly clear conditions. It will likely take 60 to 90 seconds after the launch for people in Alabama to view these colors. Just look to the east. We are forecasting a mostly clear to partly cloudy sky Saturday evening with temperatures mostly in the 70s. Here’s hoping that it does not get postponed again!

NASA shuttle launch and 3 planets
NASA shuttle launch and 3 planets(WBRC)

If the mission is postponed, you can still look up to the night sky and find three planets. Look west after sunset Saturday evening and you’ll be able to view the planet Mars which will be just above the waxing crescent moon. As you look farther down the horizon, you will also be able to spot the planets Mercury and Venus.

If you capture any cool photos of the planets or the rocket launch (assuming we will see anything), make sure you share those pictures with us by downloading the WBRC First Alert Weather App.

WBRC First Alert Meteorologist Matt Daniel

Twitter: @mattdanielwx

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