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How to see NASA’s Antares rocket launch from Philadelphia

The rocket will be visible for 2 to 3 minutes in the southern sky.

Circles indicate seconds after launch that rocket will be visible. Launch is scheduled for 9:59 a.m. Saturday.
Circles indicate seconds after launch that rocket will be visible. Launch is scheduled for 9:59 a.m. Saturday.Read moreNASA

On what is likely to be the coldest morning in more than six months in Philadelphia, you should be able to see the Antares rocket hurtling eastward after it is launched from NASA’s Virginia space center on Saturday.

The launch of the rocket bearing 8,200 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station, where it will be deployed to poke around for clues on how the universe was formed, is scheduled for 9:59 a.m.

To that end, the astronauts will be repairing an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, and “it will be the first time astronauts will use tools to cut and remove fluid lines in space,” NASA spokesperson Stephanie L. Schierholz said.

In addition, the crew will be experimenting with growing barley 250 miles from Earth, and with a new oven for baking cookies.

Weather permitting, the launched rocket will be visible for four to six minutes from the Carolinas to extreme southern New England.

And weather will be permitting around here.

The sky-cover forecast calls for less than 10% cloud intrusion, which qualifies as “clear” by government standards.

By then, the potent cold front forecast to sweep away the rains will have broomed the clouds from the skies. If anything, the only obstruction would be the mid-morning sun.

You don’t necessarily have to go outside, for that matter. A south-facing window would work, and NASA plans to stream the event live through NASA TV on its website. (Wednesday evening, the same site was airing a NASA-theme Halloween costume and cosplay contest.)

If you want a peak experience, you can head to the launch site, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, about a 3½-hour drive to the base of the Delmarva Peninsula.

The visitor center opens at 6 a.m. Sorry, no drinking while watching rocket launches: Alcohol, pets, and guns are prohibited.

If you want to get a celestial glimpse of the space station itself, you can see sunlight glinting off it every morning. That is, if you’re an early riser, an insomniac, or work the overnight shift.

On Thursday, it will be visible in the northern sky for two minutes starting at 6:13 a.m., but so will clouds. The next best shot at seeing it would be Saturday morning, when it would be visible for two minutes, starting at the same time.

Shuttle-related launches from Wallops Island occur twice a year. The last one was April 17; it was cloudy that day around here.