When a Space X rocket was launched towards the ISS this year, the rocket could be seen in the night sky in Europe. The information as to where and when to look in the sky was even easily available online.

But the rocket that will be launching the Mars 2020 mission isn't going towards an Earth orbit, so it isn't so obvious to me that it might be visible in the night sky from all over the world.

Will the rocket be visible in the night sky following its launch? If so, how can I know where and when to look?


You are making a couple inaccurate assumptions.

First - if you are asking about the initial suborbital phases of a launch, that depends entirely on the launch time vs. day/night at your location.

Next, once the payload gets its final "main" boost, it will be ballistic for nearly the entire flight to Mars. As such, if you know where to look, it will be visible to within the capabilities of the telescope system you're using (aperture, magnification). You can be certain that ULA and NASA will provide such coordinate information. Keep in mind that the initial launch sequence, first-stage active, is the easiest to see due to the rocket engine plume. The second-stage plume is much dimmer; and after that you're dependent entirely on reflected sunlight for visibility.

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  • $\begingroup$ -1 Can you support any of these statements with facts or math or precedent? How can we "...be sure that SpaceX and NASA will provide..." such coordinates while it is still visible? How do you know it will be visible at these distances (and what distances do you envision?) How do you know what telescope (if any) the OP will use? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 1 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh that's why I wrote "to within the capabilities of the telescope.." And given the detailed tracking info supplied for the ISS, I would be quite surprised if a Mars mission got less publicity $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jul 1 at 19:24

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