The last scheduled journey of the space shuttle Discovery is expected to launch today at 4:50 p.m., actually 4:50:27, said Terry Richardson, an astronomy professor at the College of Charleston.

Look due south within the first 30 seconds after launch and you should be able to see smoky trails from the solid rocket boosters, Richardson said.

He plans to be monitoring the countdown at www.spaceflightnow.com while his students are outside watching the southern sky. He said he will rush outside as soon as he's sure of liftoff.

Optimal places from which to view the shuttle include the beach, the Battery, Brittlebank Park and the tops of parking garages, Richardson said. "Any open space with a clear view of due south."

"It will be going from the south toward the northeast," he said. "It will be coming in our direction, but offshore, for obvious reasons."

The shuttle should go right past Charleston and if the weather is clear, local viewers should be able to see something, said Richardson, who went to Florida to watch the first shuttle launch in 1981.

Chances of seeing the shuttle would have been much better had the launch been set for sometime after sunset, he said.

If you have a good pair of binoculars and you get the shuttle in your sights within the first two minutes, you can follow it for some time, Richardson said.