Launches: Kepler tonight, Shuttle March 11

By Phil Plait | March 6, 2009 12:33 pm

[UPDATE: The rocket is sitting on the pad, and things are looking good as I write this (19:50 Mountain time), with one hour left before launch. Follow my tweets, or Kepler’s!]

A reminder: Tonight at 10:48 p.m. Eastern (03:50 UT) is the scheduled launch time for NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. I’ll be live-tweeting it, and it will be televised on NASA TV. Kepler also has a twitter feed.

Also, the next Shuttle launch has been scheduled for March 11 at 21:20 Eastern time. If I can I’ll tweet that one too (covering those is fun).

So hang out tonight and let’s watch a very cool astronomy-based space shot!


Comments (51)

  1. Davidlpf

    I will at work so I won’t be able to see it.

    About 8 years ago a couple the was no such thing as the Kepler project and it would be something an amateur astromony would name a probe that.(The department I was in a few undergrads were a little stuck up against amateurs.)

  2. Jeff

    I don’t know what to do. Go to sleep now and wake up later or stay awake until the launch and then go to sleep. Also, I assume NASA will be streaming their launch on their website?

  3. Charles Boyer

    For those with satellite television, be sure to watch the STS launch on HDNet. Aside from too much talk talk talk, the coverage is spectacular.

    Me, I plan on being on the Causeway.

  4. Hopefully things will be better than the nonOrbiting Carbon Observatory…

  5. Annette

    I have been waiting so long for this… but why did they schedule it during Battlestar Galactica?

    NASA should take into account their fanbase during scheduling. :-B

  6. DrFlimmer

    @ Annette,

    what about the poor people on other continents? I face the same problem as Jeff. Go to sleep and wake up at 4:30 am (MET, Germany) or stay awake? A tough choice!

    Btw: GO KEPLER GO!

  7. «bønez_brigade»

    Kepler’s launch will be the spotlight event of the evening’s entertainment.
    Thank FSM for NASA TV.

  8. I told my wife that is this mission doesn’t go up as planned I’ll be more morose than when we lost Mars Polar Lander.

    I mean it, too.

  9. TS

    Hmmmm, watching one of humanity’s greatest achievements in action or sleep? Decision made, Bye bye rocket, hello pillow!

  10. Tonight at 10:48 p.m. Eastern (03:50 UT)

    Wow! I didn’t realize that EST was 5 hours 2 minutes off from UT.

  11. The Mutt

    If you are anywhere nearby, go and watch it!

    By chance, I saw was in Orlando for a night launch of a shuttle. Even that far away, it was mind-blowing. I made it a point to go to the cape for the next night launch I could.

    It’s one of those “I’m living in a Sci Fi movie” moments.

  12. Annette… the choice is clear… do what I do. BSG on the big screen TV, the Kepler Launch on the computer! Problem solved. Thank you. :)

  13. D. Daniel

    This is a little off topic, but,………I live in Live Oak, Florida (Middle of the Fl panhandle), there is a super bright star in the western sky, about 30 degrees elevation off the horizon. Anybody know what it is??? It’s probably just Sirus or another body that belongs there.(I HAVE VERY LITTLE KNOWLEDGE OF ASTRONOMY) Thanks for your time. I’m waiting for Kepler to launch.

  14. Chris A.


    It’s Venus (brightest planet, third brightest celestial object after the Sun and Moon, brighter than any star).

  15. Tyler Durden

    # Annette Says:
    March 6th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I have been waiting so long for this… but why did they schedule it during Battlestar Galactica?

    NASA should take into account their fanbase during scheduling. :-B


    That’s what Tivo & Bittorrent are for.

  16. Charles Boyer:
    I was on the causeway for the first shuttle launch back in the ’80s! You’re in for a treat if you can snag the pass you need to get there! Yowza!

    Does anybody out there know the ground path for this launch? If it goes up the East coast I can see it here in central Virginia. I saw a night launch of the shuttle from here in Charlottesville a few years ago. Way frakkin’ cool!

  17. @D. Daniel

    Chris A. speaks truth. Before radar and transponders were in such heavy use as they are today, Venus was often mistaken for an aircraft and given clearance to land at some airports.

  18. @Tyler:
    Yeah, but then we would not get to see BSG live as it happens!

  19. D. Daniel

    Thanks, Chris, Kevin, et al. I would like to know the ground path too if anyone knows. My granddaughter is excited about the launch. I have led her toward Astronomy, Astrophysics, Engineering, hoping she will get excited about one of them. If we can see it from Live Oak that would be great. We are about 84 miles west Jacksonville. Thanks again, guys.

  20. «bønez_brigade»
  21. «bønez_brigade»
  22. Hmmm…was anybody able to get anything other than a black screen in the NASA TV player window?

    Sad – we had to watch this launch live on The Waether Channel! CNN, Headline News, CNBC, Faux News – none of them thought this was worth showing live.

  23. Jack Mitcham

    I was hoping to find a live video feed, but no such luck.

  24. «bønez_brigade»

    I watched it live on a satellite feed of NASA TV. That’s great that TWC showed it. NASA’s Kepler page sure is bogging down.

    CNN’s website is the only one reporting the launch on the front page, FWIW.

    Anyone else notice all those old Optiplex boxes in the control center on TV?

  25. Larry

    NASA TV was coming in fine. I’m in Jupiter, Fl and ran outside just after launch. Even from 100 miles away it’s pretty cool to see it blaze across the sky!

  26. Naomi

    Aw, that was beautiful! (And mid-afternoon here in Australia!) Watching launches never fails to just… make me awed as to what humans can do. WE did this. Amazing!

    Heh, the NASA TV host just described Tennant Creek as ‘absolutely in the middle of nowhere’. Definitely, its only defining features are being the midway point between Alice Springs and Darwin, being nearish the Devil’s Marbles, and having a 5.4 earthquake twenty-one years ago.

    So yes. Fantastic launch!

  27. ChazInMT

    Just went into a cruise phase for 30 minutes or so at T+ 13 minutes and is looking good so far! No highlight reels of this one lighting up the Florida sky with a spectacular explosion…Thank God. This is such a cool mission!

  28. Crudely Wrott

    It’s up there!
    Cool. More eyes in the sky.
    Now we can watch and find out.

    Ain’t science wunnerful?

  29. Gordon

    That was Friggin AWESOME!!!

  30. Grand Lunar

    Too cloudy to see it in my skies of Ft. Lauderdale, but at least I had NASA TV to look at. Nice!

  31. MB

    I have some pictures of the launch posted if anyone is interested:

  32. IVAN3MAN

    Oh nuts, I dozed off! However, watching the replay on BBC News, I note that in the commentary on NASA TV there were references to pounds/second (solid propellant consumption), miles/hour (velocity), and nautical miles (altitude). When are you Americans gonna get your heads around the metric system?!

  33. MadScientist

    Yay, the bird is flying. Now for all the system tests … it will probably be another week or two before it’s all ready for science.

    @Ivan3man: Nautical miles are still widely used in navigation; it just seems to be a historical thing. When I talk to sailors I have to give them cruising speed in knots and wind speed in knots. Fortunately computers can do the translations in what seems to be an instantaneous calculation. It’s been so long since I’ve flown that I can’t even remember the conversion from nautical to statute miles. Hmmm … then again I never really had to remember that because I had my old Jeppensen CR-25 flight calculator (or at least I think it was a CR-25 – it’s been years since I’ve even seen it). Blah; the last time I flew there was this thing called the Omega Navigational System.

  34. StevoR

    Awesome! 8)

    Congtaulations to all those involved – superluminous news (ie beyond mere brilliance!) I can’t wait till Kepler starts getting some data back! I find the whole deal with us being able to detect any Exoplanets – let alone near-Earth-sized ones as just breath-takingly impressive.:-D

    I love to hear about this sort of stuff & I can’t understand why more people aren’t more impressed with it & why it doesn’t get more media coverage.

    Off topic but in other news that may or may not already have been mentioned :

    Hubble has a winner

    Out of a total of 139,944 votes cast online by the public since the “Hubble, You Decide” contest opened January 28, nearly 50 percent favored the interacting pair of spiral galaxies called Arp 274 (from the Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies) over five other celestial candidates.

    It was a tough choice for me but I eventually chose to vote for the edge on spiral there – on the basis that we don’t seem to observe too many of those & it was one where the HST’s power could perhaps have been especially handy. Oh well.

    I’m sure it’ll still be an amazing splendid image & hopefully they’ll get around to imaging all the objects on the nomination list in the end.

    Even with Kepler now up there, (& more power to Kepler) I bet the Hubble will remain a leading and favourite explorer. 😉

  35. StevoR-correcting

    Yaaarrrrgggghhh!!! Typos. & still noediting capabilityhere. :roll:

    Please BA, please give us an editing option. Itcan’t tbe thathardsurely? Pretty please with a comet whipping around a magnetar on top!?

    Anyway make that Congratulations to all the Kepler team!

  36. MadScientist

    I didn’t like the news bite that I heard – the clowns referred to Kepler as “NASA’s latest toy”. It’s hardly a toy, it’s a very sophisticated tool. Well, what can one expect from a news reader with an intelligence on par with Malibu Stacy.

  37. DrFlimmer

    @ Ivan3man

    Isn’t it true that even the Britains and the Canadians have taken over the metric system?


    Nice launch! Go Kepler!

  38. IVAN3MAN

    @ MadScientist,

    Yes, you’re right, the nautical mile has its basis in naval history. Also, according to Wikipedia (click on my name for direct link), other nations had their own definitions of what constituted the nautical mile, until an international agreement was reached in 1929, at the International Extraordinary Hydrographic Conference held in Monaco, which adopted a definition of one (1) international nautical mile as being equal to 1,852 metres exactly.

    Since the 1929 agreement, all nations have now adopted the international definition, with the United States doing so from July 1, 1954, and the United Kingdom in 1970.

    One nautical mile converts to:

    * 1,852 metres (exact)
    * 2,025.372 yards
    * 1.150779 mile (statute) (7 nautical miles ≈ 8 miles; 20 nautical miles ≈ 23 miles)

    @ StevoR:

    I love to hear about this sort of stuff & I can’t understand why more people aren’t more impressed with it & why it doesn’t get more media coverage.

    That’s because of commercial television — advertising rules, and you never go broke catering for the lowest common denominator!

  39. Sorry, I forgot to provide the link to the Wikipedia nautical mile article via my name — you can click on it now.

  40. @ DrFlimmer,

    Yes, according to the Wikipedia SI Metrication World Map (click on my name), Britain and Canada, and also Australia and New Zealand, officially adopted the metric system in the 1980s.

  41. Ivan3man, that SI Metrification World Map needs to be metrified. It is suffering from a rounding error. We in Oz went metric officially in the early 1970s. The process started in 1947….

  42. Ok, so that wiki I mentioned does say that the process was complete by 1988… officially. But for us mug consumers it was all over bar the shouting by the end of the 7os – essentially when all the road signs were changed in 1974. So in your face imperial/US measurererers.

  43. IVAN3MAN

    @ Shane,

    Yes, I should have stated that those countries completed the adoption of the metric system by the 1980s. Britain started the process after its accession into the then Common Market (now European Union) on January 1, 1973.

  44. @ Shane,

    Actually, according to the Wikipedia article on Metrication in the United Kingdom (click on my name for the link), the metrication process in the U.K. had already started in 1965, but it was officially obliged to adopt, amongst others, directive 71/354/EEC after joining the EEC.

    However, after much wrangling by “metric martyrs”, Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen announced, on 9th May 2007, that the European Commission had dropped its plans to enforce the abolition of Imperial measures from 2010. This means that ‘supplementary’ imperial indications will be able to continue indefinitely alongside, but not instead of metric units after that date. Furthermore, in a letter to the British MEP Ashley Mote dated 5th June 2007, Commissioner Verheugen announced that in relation to the mile and the pint, “the Commission has no intention to endanger the historical and cultural traditions of Member States.”

  45. Ivan3man, it’s pretty pathetic of the Euro/British legislators not to enforce the change over. It only causes confusion. In a pub though we can still buy pints, schooners, pots, middies, ponies, sevens et al. That is different. That is drinking. We never get confused when we’re on the slops.

    1988 in Oz was the “Withdrawal of remaining imperial units from general legal use”. I think that meant that it was was actually illegal to use the imperial units after that date for things like shops, government etc.
    Interestingly in the very first parliament after Federation in 1901 “It was moved that Australia consider the adoption of the metric units of weights and measures”.

    Above quotes from

  46. IVAN3MAN


    [I]t’s pretty pathetic of the Euro/British legislators not to enforce the change over.

    You’re telling me! Some of the most pathetic arguments against metrication come from old codgers, who can’t think of anything better to say than “I fought in The War…!” :roll:

    Since the 1980s, most things in Britain have been measured in metric: grocery items in kilograms/litres; timber, etc. at DIY stores in metres; temperatures in Celsius; diesel/petrol (gasoline) in litres, and so on. Yet still some stubborn individuals make a fuss, like nervous dogs who always bark at ringing telephones.

    I think that the EU legislators decided to adopt the “Prime Directive”, i.e., not to interfere in Britain’s internal affairs, and to let the British Parliament sort out the “Very British Mess” issue. That way, the “metric martyrs” will not be able to argue that Britain is governed not from Westminster, but from Brussels.

  47. IVAN3MAN

    Where is everybody?!

  48. EEJ

    Just saw an article online that states that once the solar arrays are attached to the ISS, it will become the 3rd brightest object in the sky (behind the sun and moon).

    As bright as Venus has been these past few weeks, it’s hard to believe the ISS will be even brighter. Anyone have any more information on this? Also, does anyone know how fast it will appear to move across the sky to the naked eye?


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