The Starry Night, 241

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A Twilight Launch, finally!

12/16/2022. The 200th time is the charm. The Falcon 9 launch of SES’s O3b mPOWER satellites went practically due east from Cape Kennedy and was SpaceX's 200th launch. It finally came at the right time of day under perfect weather for a photo of a rocket sailing over the downtown towers of distant Charlotte -- I've seen these compositions in my head and on my computer for years before the weather and launch parameters finally came together.

We drove for an hour to get to the Thunder Hill overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway about 5:00 expecting a launch at 5:21. The window ran until half an hour after sunset; the later the better for me. On my phone, I saw that SpaceX was still counting down but had delayed the launch until 5:49, the very end of the window. Perfect, if it launched at all. I made sure I knew where Charlotte was on the horizon, and then we waited. The temperature was just below freezing; there was a slight breeze, no crowd, and a clear, wide-open sky.

About two minutes and some odd seconds after SpaceX's video feed showed liftoff, a rocket appeared in the southern sky. Timestamps below are corrected EST, and the elapsed time is measured from 5:49:00. If that was not the exact time of launch, adjust accordingly. Techbits: 105mm Sigma F1.4 lens at F2.0 on a Canon R6 at ISO 800.


Click to make any of these big.

5:51:09, T+3:09

Two-frame panorama, Charlotte at left.
5:52:33 T+4:33

Rocket and Charlotte.
5:52:53, T+4:53

The towers of Charlotte are 77 miles from the Thunder Hill Overlook. The rocket is about 500 miles farther.


Sorry for the slightly obnoxious copyright assertions. I added them when I posted this link as an APOD submission -- it's been a while since I scored an APOD, and their standing advice is now to include such a thing; so I did.

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                   © 2022, David Cortner