Colorful rocket launch scheduled for Wednesday on East Coast

Sounding rocket lights up the sky
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    Sounding rocket lights up the sky

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Sounding rocket lights up the sky 00:48

Story highlights

  • NASA is launching a sounding rocket Wednesday evening
  • The launch will produce blue, green and red vapor clouds

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(CNN)Keep your eyes peeled. A spectacular rocket launch is set to take place before your eyes.

Residents in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States may want to step outside Wednesday to see the launch.
The Black Brant IX suborbital rocket, also known as a sounding rocket, is scheduled to take off from the space agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Chincoteague, Virginia, between 7:07 p.m. ET and 7:12 p.m. ET Wednesday evening.
    The launch window runs until 9:00 p.m. ET just in case it needs to be delayed.
    People from Long Island, New York, down to Morehead City, North Carolina, should be able to see the launch Wednesday evening.
    The sounding rocket gets its name from the nautical term "to sound," which means to take measurements. It's an important tool for NASA. During the mission, NASA will test a modified Black Brant sounding rocket motor, launch vehicle and spacecraft systems and sub-payload ejection technologies.
    During the sub-payload ejection test, a mixture of the chemicals barium and strontium will release and create blue-green and red vapor clouds.
    The vapor clouds will be used as tracers during the mission. This will help scientists measure winds in the area between the Earth's atmosphere and space.
    Don't worry though. The barium-strontium mixture used in the mission is a smaller amount than what is seen during a fireworks display during the Fourth of July, according to NASA, and poses no threat to the public.
    Spectators won't be able to hear the launch, but they will be able to see it with the naked eye.
    Depending on clear skies, the launch should make for a colorful sight for skywatchers, said Wallops Flight Facility news chief Keith Koehler in an interview with CNN.
    The payload is expected to fall into the ocean after the mission is completed.
    Wallops Flight Facility launches about 10 sounding rockets annually from its Virginia-based site.
    Although skies are slightly cloudy, Koehler said weather forecasts predict clear skies for Wednesday evening.
    Those not in the Mid-Atlantic region can tune into NASA's live stream to see the whole event online.