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Get a spot early
If you want to watch Sunday night's launch, try to be there early, preferably before 5 p.m., to get the best possible spots at viewing areas in Titusville, Cocoa and Cape Canaveral. The launch is scheduled for 7:43 p.m. The best viewing area, depending on available parking, is in Cocoa along the Indian River north of State Road 528, or in several parks along U.S. Highway 1 around Titusville. The Cocoa Beach Pier and some of the beachfront in Cape Canaveral are also good spots. Bring a radio, some food and a coat just in case. Binoculars are nice but not essential.
Want to take photos?
Sentinel photographer Red Huber has covered more than 100 shuttle launches and offered the following suggestions for shooting a night launch:
* Equipment: Camera, digital or film. Lens, telephoto or wide angle, depending on the type of picture you want to capture. Tripod. ISO 200 film.
* How to shoot: Use a telephoto lens -- from 200 mm to 500 mm. Set your shutter speed to 1/640 second and the lens to f/6.3. The exposure is only for a few seconds -- when the solid-rocket boosters are ignited to when the orbiter is a shuttle length above the launchpad. During that time, the light from rocket boosters bounces off the concrete launchpad, illuminating Discovery as it blasts off.
* How to shoot a time exposure: You'll need a cable release and a tripod. Set the shutter speed to bulb and the lens to f/22 or smallest aperture. Find an angle with something -- people, sailboats, etc. -- in the foreground. After you have composed your photo, find a cloud or star in the viewfinder to use as a reference point so you have the ending of the streak within your composed picture. Be ready to use your cable release to open the shutter as Discovery lifts off. Close the shutter after 1 minute, 30 seconds. The result: a trail of the shuttle's ascent in the night sky.