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No, you cannot hear a rocket launch in Jacksonville

A viewer said he heard the rocket launch from Cape Canaveral in Jacksonville. Let's verify.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Florida is home to the space coast and we are able to watch rockets launching into space almost weekly. One viewer claims he heard the launch all the way in Jacksonville! Let’s verify.

QUESTION: Can you hear the rocket launch from Cape Canaveral in Jacksonville?

ANSWER: No. You might have heard something else with the rocket launch, though.  

This is false.

Sources: My sources are First Coast News meteorologist Robert Speta and University of North Florida physics professor Dr. Jack Hewitt.

Imagine… 3 2 1 take off… wait another 10 minutes and then you hear it?

After a recent launch, viewer Jesse Miller said “Watched on Youtube then listened. Takes about 11 or 12 minutes for the sound to reach north Jax. Was a cool way to explain sound travel to kids.”

Speta explains why he didn't actually hear the launch.

“Sound dissipates over a distance. Sound waves they spread out and the vibrations become less frequent," Speta said. "Think of heat lightning. Basically that all simply is lightning that is very far away. You don’t hear the thunder anymore by the time it gets to that."

"Typically here in Jacksonville on the first coast, when a rocket goes up, that sound just dissipates by the time it gets all the way up to here," said Speta.

Dr. Hewitt also confirms that sound wouldn’t be able to travel that far.

“Canaveral is ~130 miles away and sound travels at ~700 mph, so I can see why they might think it was sound from the launch, but even very deep low-frequency sounds can't travel more than ~20 miles," said Dr. Hewitt.

As for the 10 minute delay, Hewitt believes this viewer could have heard a sonic boom of the “first-stage boosters that separate and re-enter the Earth's atmosphere ~10 minutes or so into launch.”

Speta agrees that is most likely the sound you may be hearing after a rocket launch, however he says there is a unique instance where you would’ve been able to hear a launch all the way to the first coast.

“In rare instances when the temperatures are cold and you get cold air down near the surface, sound gets trapped in cold layers and it’s basically called ducting," Speta said. "If the sound was loud enough right near the surface, it would’ve travelled up the coast. It just kind of gets trapped in the air and you can hear it over a long distance. But in that situation, once again, a lot of people would’ve heard it and it would’ve been a much bigger story.”

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