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Stargazing Dragon + Falcon 9 visible from Western Europe Saturday

  1. May 31, 2017 #1

    mfb

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    A rare event. SpaceX launches a bit after the sun sets in Europe tomorrow, so the Dragon capsule and the upper stage of Falcon 9 will still have some sunlight while they fly over Europe.
    In the following days the Dragon will approach the ISS until it docks on Sunday, this might be visible as well but the orbit is not known yet .

    When and where: The planned launch time at Kennedy Space Center is June 1, 21:55 UTC, about 21 hours after my post here. Dragon will enter Earth's shadow approximately 22:16 over Sainte-Beuve-en-Rivière (120 km north-west of Paris), it is visible in the minutes before that if you are not too far away. The second stage flies a bit behind Dragon.

    Visible from: France, Ireland, most of UK, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, most of Germany

    Maybe visible from: the rest of UK and Germany, northern Spain and Italy, Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Slovenia, southern Sweden. In these countries it will be very close to the horizon, a good unobstructed view and low light pollution is important here.

    The Dragon should have about 0 to 2 magnitude, that is similar to the brightest stars, but it will move notably in the sky. The second rocket stage should be slighly dimmer, but still clearly visible.

    Someone estimated the orbital data and created visualizations how it will look like from different cities:
    Dublin (41° max)
    London
    Lincoln, UK, and Paris (34° max from Lincoln)
    Aachen, Germany (32° max)
    Copenhagen (9° max)
    Trelleborg, Sweden (9° max)

    A map indicating the ground path (black) and the highest point in the sky (red circles and lines). The ground path ends where Dragon enters the shadow. 33° makes it very easy to see, 15° needs some thought about the location, 10° needs good viewing conditions.

    dragonvisibility.png


    Edit: Roughly along the line Dublin - Amsterdam - Dresden, Dragon will transit the Moon. Here is a map

    Keep in mind that the the orbit is just a rough estimate - the capsule could arrive 1-2 minutes earlier or later and be a bit lower/higher in the sky than predicted.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2017 #2

    mfb

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    The launch was scrubbed, lightning close to the launch site made a launch today impossible.

    They will probably try to launch tomorrow on Saturday. The launch will probably be a bit earlier, but with a similar trajectory - it should give an even better visibility as it doesn't go into the shadow so early. For Ireland it could be a bit worse if it is too close to sunset.

    Edit: New launch time is Saturday 21:07 UTC, about 50 minutes earlier than before. Dragon should enter the shadow somewhere around Munich.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
  4. Jun 3, 2017 #3

    mfb

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    The weather in Florida looks promising - T-40 minutes, the rocket gets fueled. The weather in Europe, on the other hand...

    Edit: Dragon is on its way! But no way to see it if is so cloudy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  5. Jun 19, 2017 #4

    1oldman2

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  6. Jun 20, 2017 #5

    mfb

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    That's what you see with a good telescope, great tracking and good weather. Dragon in the center and the ends of the deployed solar panels at the sides.

    The August 1 launch has a good chance to have a similar launch time.
     
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