LADEE viewing map courtesy Orbtal.com
The LADEE probe (Lunar Atmospheric Dust and Environment Explorer) is about to leave Earth and head to the moon in a spectacular night launch. The launch will be the first for the new Minotaur V rocket as well, and as it will be launching from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, it is possible that 60% of the US population will be able to see the rocket as it rises up on its pillar of bright flame. Will you be able to see it? The folks at Orbital have set up a website filled with maps and diagrams that allow you to check to see if you will be able to view the launch. It is available here: http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/MissionUpdates/MinotaurV/index.shtml
NASA has set up a new website at http://moon.nasa.gov/ladeelaunch.cfm to help you find LADEE launch related events near you. You can also use the Night Sky Network's Events Calendar to find additional events.If you are unable to attend an event or cannot see the launch, you can still watch via the fine folks at NASA TV who will be broadcasting live.
Launch day (or night, rather) is scheduled for September 6th at 11:27 PM Eastern Time. There will be a small launch window of four minutes. IF, for whatever reason the launch must be scrubbed, the backup launch day is the next day: September 7th at 11:26 PM Eastern Time. The backup date has a more forgiving fifteen minute launch window as well.
Would you like to help out? After its spectacular launch, LADEE will be working on some interesting science as it probes the moon's very tenuous atmosphere of charged dust particles and traces of elements. You can help out the scientists by making your own observations from the ground! The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Observation Campaign allows folks to look for the flashes of meteoroid impacts on the surface of the moon and submit their information to NASA; with LADEE there it may even be able to follow up on your observations. Even if you don't have a telescope there are other ways to help support LADEE's mission as well; NASA has set up a page to help people get involved with LADEE here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LADEE/main/get-involved.html
LADEE promises to be an exciting and interesting mission from start to finish. With your help, it could be even more exciting. Have fun, and clear skies to you all.
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