Welcome to SkyTours with Derrick! If you've ever found yourself under the night sky wondering what that thing is, well, you've come to the right place to find out. I'll provide regular postings of just what's available for you to see at this time of this year, including planets, stars, constellations and my favorite - satellites! I'll also welcome your suggestions for what to add to the blog for your information and answer your questions.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Antares Re-Supply Rocket Chases ISS Tonight

ASTRO ALERT            ASTRO ALERT            ASTRO ALERT            ASTRO ALERT

MONDAY, OCT. 27th, 6:45 p.m.


The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at Wallops Island, VA is now launching rockets ferrying supplies up to International Space Station.  This evening, 41 minutes after sunset, an Antares rocket, built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, will transport 5000 pounds of science experiments and supplies to the astronauts aboard ISS.

Antares is due to lift off at 6:45 pm EDT weather permitting. Right now weather forecasts indicate nearly perfect conditions for the launch. Since the launch facility is relatively close by, the launch will be visible along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. From Philadelphia, look to the southeast about two minutes (6:47) after launch and you should see the flame of rocket exhaust, about 5 degrees above the southeast horizon. We should see it reach up to 20 degrees maximum height and binoculars are highly recommended to help you see it.

You’ll find more information about seeing the launch here.

Making the launch even more special, its destination, International Space Station, flies right over Philadelphia at almost exactly the same time as Antares is heading up to meet ISS! Here are the details of this excellent flyover:

ISS rises out of the WNW at 6:48p, crosses its highest elevation of 61 degrees at 6:52, then passes right in front of the bright star Altair in the constellation Aquila at 6:53. It sets in the SE at 6:57p. ISS looks like a bright star moving with a steady speed across the sky, no strobe flashes like a plane would have. Antares’ trajectory up to orbit puts it on the same orbital path as ISS and will catch up to it.Antares is chasing ISS!

You can find a map of the ISS flyover here.

Tonight’s weather will be excellent. Be sure to have a look at the waxing crescent moon as well. Mars is the pinkish, non-twinkling object a little to the left of the moon. Enjoy!

- Compiled by D.H. Pitts, Chief Astronomer, Franklin Institute Science Museum, dpitts@fi.edu, 215 448 1234, 10/31/14.