Possible Vandenberg Sky Show U.S. Southwest, Thurs., 9/19

From: Jake Rees (jrburca@netzero.net)
Date: Wed Sep 18 2002 - 02:00:29 EDT

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    Vandenberg missile launch (local Thurs. evening):  A heads up alert to those
    in California and adjacent areas.
    In the past, these kind of launches have put on very interesting celestial
    displays for viewers in California and even adjacent states (esp. Arizona,
    Nevada).  If it goes after local sunset, then the backlighting of the just
    set sun is key to there being an especially good display.  If it launches
    too far into the evening (beyond maybe about 1.5 hrs after sunset), then the
    backlighting effect is gone due to the sun being too far below the horizon.
    The missile's fire-exhaust could still be seen of course, if you are close
    enough and barring clouds or with binoculars or a telescope from farther
    locations.  The other reason that this might be seen from such great
    distances is due to the very steep launch trajectory taking the missile very
    high into space (900 mi.?, I read once).  This also might be seen from
    northwest Mexico but I've never seen a report from there on these type
    launches.  I seem to remember a report in the past of one of these type
    launch displays being seen from aircraft high over New Mexico.
    I'm taking the liberty of quoting below from the e-mail alert by launch
    enthusiast Brian Webb:
    A Minuteman III ICBM is scheduled for launch this Thursday evening from
    Vandenberg AFB. The vehicle will probably leave its silo at 18:01 PDT, the
    start of a 6-hour launch window.
    Because Thursday's launch will occur before sunset, the event will probably
    not be visible beyond a 100 mile radius from the silo.
    <end of quote>
    Keep in mind that while the California coast is still in sunlight, Arizona
    will be in twilight or dark.   The March 15, 2002 launch of this type was
    delayed just enough that it did put on a great display for Los Angeles just
    after sunset and also for points east.  That evening I saw video of it from
    both LA and Arizona.  The 18:01 local time holds for California, Nevada, and
    Arizona since CA & NV are in the same Pacific time zone and both states
    observe daylight savings time.  Arizona is in the Mountain zone but since
    they don't observe daylight savings time, then 18:01 PDT equals 18:01 MST.
    -- Jake Rees
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