Scope Diagram Astrocamera.Net - Astrophotography by Dave Kodama

Atlas V Launch

While out at my observatory on a moonless Saturday evening, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched a classified payload from Vandenberg air force base to the northwest of the Orange County Astronomers' observing site. This was originally scheduled to launch 2 days earlier, but the revised schedule worked out well for me.

The photo above is a composite of frames taken 5 seconds apart. The launch vehicle, an Atlas V with 4 strap-on solid fuel rocket boosters, is not visible, but the orange flame from the rocket is visible, though streaked because of the 2.5 second exposure used for each frame. The arrow head look is from the exhaust plume, which was apparently dissipating into invisibility after just a few seconds. Jean was able to see this even from in-city skies.

The shortest streaks are stars which are showing movement because of the Earth's rotation. Longer dashed lines are local aircraft, including the one that appears to parallel the rocket's path. Actually that aircraft was moving in the opposite apparent direction as can be seen in the timelapse sequence below. The glow on the horizon is from nearby Temecula and the more distant Los Angeles urban areas.

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