Local News

Tuesday, Aug 27 2013 05:29 PM

Can Kern residents spot the Vandenberg rocket launch?

By The Bakersfield Californian

Will the scheduled Wednesday morning rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base be visible from Kern County?

Maybe, said a spokeswoman at the base near Lompoc. And maybe not.

Visibility of rocket and missile launches depends on weather, lighting and other factors, said Staff Sgt. Erica Picariello, of Vandenberg's public affairs office.

"People have claimed to see (previous launches) from as far north as Fresno," Picariello said. But she said she can't say for sure that residents of the Central Valley will spot this particular launch.

Blast off of the 235-foot Delta IV Heavy rocket could come as early as 10:52 a.m. Vandenberg is 147 driving miles from Bakersfield, according to Google Maps, but significantly closer as the crow -- or rocket -- flies.

According to the website Space Archive, the visibility of rockets and missiles launched from Vandenberg varies greatly.

"Some launches are difficult to see from relatively short distances while others are visible for several hundred miles," the site claims.

The "visibility footprint" of launches -- or exhaust plumes caused by various stages of a launch -- can extend on occasion into Nevada and Arizona, according to Space Archive. Photographic evidence confirms that.

-- Californian staff writer Steven Mayer

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