At about 2:30 a.m., Waldron saw the spacecraft carrying the recently launched Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) streaking across the Australian sky, beginning its more than 8-month journey to the red planet.
I watched the launch live, but didn't expect to see anything of MSL as it passed over Australia. As it happened, I was testing a lens acquired today, to see how it performed for night sky shots, and had just shot a few frames when I looked behind me and saw a large fuzzy object. My first thought was "it's a comet," but then I realised that this could be MSL, and the rapid movement virtually confirmed it.
Waldron put together a time-lapse video of the images, each of which were taken ten seconds apart. The images span a time period of just over 25 minutes, from 16:39:03 to 17:05:39 Universal Time (UT).
Waldron also wrote on his website that when he first saw the spacecraft, a little more than an hour after it took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., it was visible with the naked eye. A half hour later, though, "it was barely visible in 9x63 binoculars."
How can we know for sure that it's the Mars rover? Caleb Scharf, the director of astrobiology at Columbia University, "guarante[es]" that it's Curiosity. In a blog post on Scientific American, he notes the plume from one of the rocket's stages as well as "the sunlit spacecraft itself, a tiny speck gliding across the star-fields of the Milky Way."
Click here for more on Curiosity and how it will get to Mars.
WATCH: Mars Science Laboratory On Its Way:
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