August 3, 2001

Web review: Space cadets need current data, too

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Recently, I was lamenting my ignorance about most current events that occur outside of the sphere of the Internet and/or Open Source culture. For instance, I never listen to a weather report or watch the local news. I could visit the corresponding Web sites, but rarely do. I am, as my family likes to put it, in outer space quite frequently. My boss recommended that I check the Mars weather report, since I visit the planet often.Naturally, a daily Mars weather report sounded interesting, so I went looking. By way of meteorological insights for the Red Planet, you could go to the Mars Weather Report, or the Mars Pathfinder Historical Weather Data site, or Mars Weather, or even the Weather Report from Mars. But all these are old, and how am I supposed to know whether I'll need my umbrella or asbestos suit today? I want current Mars weather information.

I couldn't find any.

But I did find SpaceWeather, and a bold headline at the top that trumpeted "What's Up in Space -- 3 Aug 2001". While not Mars specific, a current space weather report is more useful by far than any years-old news from the Aries planet. At least I'll be aware of the solar wind velocity, which happens to be 431.6 km/s today, and sunspot activity, x-ray solar flares, and the radio meteor rate -- which I can also listen to via a live streaming audio feed at the site. According to the SpaceWater site, in the absence of a meteor shower, the radar will pick up a meteor "ping" about once per minute. If you have the Real Player plugin, you can listen to a sample of a meteor ping by clicking here.

Today's space weather report tells us that a 100-meter asteroid will be passing by Earth in the next 24 hours -- 14 lunar distances away. Don't get your telescope out though. Apparently, it is too dim and "not a promising target for amateur telescopes."

If you're a fan of the Northern Lights (or aurora borealis), and you missed the recent Pacific Northwest display, you'll be interested in the photos of last week's colorful sky. The lights happen when the planet enters a solar wind stream flowing from a coronal hole. Since there's a coronal hole pointed straight at Earth right now, the chances for more aurora borealis displays are good.

Check the archive of feature stories at SpaceWeather for curiosity-feeding items like "The Sun does a Flip," and "Brushfires in the Sky." If you're like me and you spend time with your head in the clouds, be sure to check SpaceWeather before you get dressed for the day, and at least you'll be prepared for the solar flares life throws your way.


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