Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I love the movies and some of my favorites involve the “what-if” scenarios of a catastrophic collision between the Earth and an impending asteroid. There’s “Armageddon” starring Bruce Willis, a great ensemble cast in “Deep Impact”. Also, there’s the 1950s B-movie classic “When Worlds Collide”. Well, guess WHAT?? An asteroid is rapidly approaching the Earth! Obviously, this is not a really big deal because we, in the media would be on the air 24/7 if it was. According to astronomers, there is no need for concern, but the space rock will make an exceptionally close approach to our planet early on Monday, July 3, passing just beyond the Moon’s average distance from Earth.
As it gets closer to us, these same star-gazers will use radar to figure out where it is. If you have a very good telescope, you can camp out in the back yard and spy it for yourself at around 12:25 am this coming Monday.
This chunk of space, designated 2004 XP14, was discovered on Dec. 10, 2004 by the Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR), a continuing camera survey designed to keep watch for asteroids that may pass uncomfortably close to our home. This asteroid is a member of a class of asteroids known as Apollo, so named because their orbit crosses the Earth. Scientists don’t exactly know how big it is, but preliminary estimates show it could be from a quarter mile to just over a half-mile wide.
To get a better handle on XP14, astronomers plan to utilize NASA's 230-foot diameter Goldstone radar, the largest and most sensitive antenna in its Deep Space Network. Located in California’s Mojave Desert, the Goldstone antenna has been used to bounce radio signals off other Near-Earth asteroids many times before, and it is now being readied to “ping” 2004 XP14 on July 3, 4 and 5.
So, there’s no need to panic, right? Did I mention that astronomers don’t know how big it is? These are the same geniuses who sometime forget to carry the one! Oh well, let’s hope they are right. For more information on where to look early Monday, check out this web site: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~rhill/alpo/minplan/flyby.html
Monday, June 26, 2006
I'm sure you've been right on the edge of your seat wondering about the results of my MidNight Sun Run Marathon. Let me put your mind at ease - best race yet. I ran the 26.2 miles in 4:00:52 (althought the official time says 4:00:53 - I'm going by my watch). This was the first marathon that I didn't spend at least a little time walking. This time I ran it straight. No major aches or pains and I was back to pounding the pavement three days after the run.
The best part of the marathon was the people. Before any running race there are always a lively group of characteres that gather around the starting line. And this race was no exception. I met several brits ( three I beat... two that smoked me!). I also met a wonderful mother of four from Scotland. Her name was Ester and she did pretty well. I'm sure we'll become pen pals --- she doesn't do internet. I also met two Americans that were in the service. They were stationed and Germany and had been there for a long time.
The lady's name was Michelle and the guy's name was Chris. I ended up running with them for about 15 miles because our paces were so close. Laughing with someone certainly makes the miles pass more quickly and Michelle and Chris were great.
With about six miles left in the race I decided go a little faster to finish with a better time - so when I left them, Chris told me to be sure to wait for them at the finish line. Sadly, I didn't see them at the end of the race - however, I didn't miss anything. Chris asked Michelle to marry him at the finish line and it made the front page of the TROMSO paper the next morning!!!! There was also a HUGE feature article about them in the race - along with several little snap shots of them running together along the way. Oddly, I was in one of their pictures because we ran so much of the race together. So, I guess you could say I made the paper while on my Arctic Adventure. Funny, huh?
I spent my last day there touring parts of the small city with my new friends Michelle and Chris. We took great pictures and had a wonderful time - what great people! I'm sure they will be very happy. And I know we will keep in touch!
My last night in Norway was actually spent trying to sleep on a bench in the Oslo Airport due to a little flight mix-up (not recommended). Frankfurt to Atlanta was the last leg of my journey before being slapped right back into reality with a Code Orange Smog Alert in Atlanta and afternoon highs in the 90s. Wearing thick sweaters and gloves during my MidNight Sun Run seemed like only a dream at that point.
Norway is a beautiful country. I hope you get the opportunity to visit - running or not.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
So, a buddy of mine calls me today to remind me that he was in the grocery store yesterday and noticed that the expiration date on all the milk is AFTER my wedding this coming weekend.
Yeah, leave it to your friends to point out stuff like that and ask questions like... are you nervous? are you sure? are you ready? before your impending nuptials.
I had not thought about it to be honest, but I have not been to the grocery store in quite some time. My friend mentioned that when his buddy got married it did not sink in until he went to the grocery and realized all the milk expired after his wedding.
So, I look in the fridge at my place and realize the expiration date on my milk is June 6th! Yikes!!! What does this mean? Am I not ready for marriage? Is this a subliminal message or something?
I am a bit superstitious. I mean, when I watch FSU football I am very careful about what I am doing or what I change during the course of the game. If things go bad I make the necessary changes to ensure everything is exactly as it was when things were going good.
So, as I stare at my June 6th milk in the fridge I am thinking not about the fact that in another week I will have cottage cheese, but in another week I will be married.
Sure the unknown is always a bit scary. We are creatures of habit. I guess that is why I stayed at my last apartment for 7 years, or dated my fiance for more than 5 years. I was a bit scared to leave my old job to take this job no matter how obvious it was that I was meant to be here.
But the fact of the matter is... I am not scared of this Saturday at 7:00pm, 7:29pm, or next Sunday morning.
So, the first thing I am doing tonight when I go home for dinner is to stop by the grocery and buy a gallon of milk. For the milk may expire on June 28th, but the love I have for my fiance will never expire. (earning brownie points already!)
By the way, Happy Father's Day to all the dads reading this. For me, first step marriage... next step fatherho.... Well, how about I take this one step at a time! :-)
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Although I probably couldn't tell you the correct time to save my life (I've been off the bodyclock since I left Hartsfield) I am having a wonderful time.
To catch you up, about a year ago I heard about this amazing marathon held in Tromsø, Norway. Since I had always wanted to visit Norway, I figured that was as good of an excuse as any to visit the foreign country and I started making plans.
I don't know anyone (or now I guess I should say, I didn't know anyone in the country) and I knew my 11th grade study of French wasn't going to get me very far once I got there -- but for the past eleven months I've been planning my little Norwegian adventure....and now I'm here!!!
I have much to tell you but I'll make this one short because my marathon (my initial reason for coming) is going to start in a couple of hours and I have to get ready. Briefly, since Tromsø is located 70 degrees North latitude and we are approaching the summer solstice, this area has 24 hours of sunlight a day (it never gets dark or looks like nighttime). I think this would have been a little more exciting in my 20s - when I could easily pull an all-nighter.... but I'm thrilled about all of this none the less.
The marathon starts at 8:30pm Norway time (about 2:30 pm Atlanta time) and since the sun never really sets... technically when we are still running (around midnight) the sun will still be shining....Hence the name The Midnight Sun Run. Pretty cool, huh?
My only real concern is simply finishing the (26.2 mile) race and not having to stop and ask directions. Although many people here speak English, the directional signs for the race are all in Norwegian.
Seriously, I'm sure I will be fine. By the way, I met to Americans at the race Expo today. There are only 19 Americans running in the marathon. One guy I met is from Chicago and the other from Montana --- they live in Germany now and fortunately are here to run the marathon. Little do they know they have just met their new best friend and running companion ---- a little blonde meteorologist from Atlanta.
Tromsø weather is partly cloudy now and 46 degrees F.
Have a great day!
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I was working weekends in Houston then and after the Sunday morning news, my boss called to tell me that I was heading to Pensacola. The photographer and I landed that evening, rented that last mini-van at the airport and began driving toward Panama City. All I had was my little portable weather radio to guide me and a little luck. All night and into the next morning, we captured images of Floridians huddled in school gymnasiums, boardwalks boarded up and ignorant surfers trying to catch large swells at 3 am. Ironically, the sun broke through the clouds just as I was live on the Monday morning news. We spent the rest of the day scouring the landfall point of Apalachicola to try to find anything more than a few downed street lights and one or two impassable side streets. We slept in the car and caught the first flight out of Pensacola Tuesday morning. It was quite a thrill, even if the storm wasn't too terrifying.
An early storm in a Hurricane Season doesn't mean the rest of the year will be strong, but it certainly can't be a good sign.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Murphy's Law states that if anything could go wrong at the most inopportune time, it probably will.
Well, that is exactly what happened at my place today. My phone rang this morning and awoke me from my slumber. I of course did not make it to the phone, but the ringing was enough to make me open my eyes. As my eyes opened and tried to focus the first thing I saw was not a good thing at all. Actually, it was terrible... just about the worst sight someone can see on what was going to be the hottest day of the year so far. Yep, you guessed it... the thermometer I have near my bed read 82 degrees.... inside! Arrrgghhhh! How could it be? I swear I had it set on 78. I rushed downstairs like a kid on Christmas morning to the A/C control and pressed the buttons hoping that somehow the control had gotten off and I just need to press the cooler button a few times. But no, the control was not broken and the unit was set at 78.
What is one to do on a Sunday when the A/C is broken? It's not like you can call the repair guy and not pay a fortune. So, I must wait... until Monday to find out what is wrong and find out how long and how much money it will take to fix it.
At first I thought... how bad can it be? I spent my first 12 years in a house that did not have A/C. Generations grew up without A/C. Sure I can make it a day or two!
O.K., I am a wimp. I am not sure why, but I did not last long. I sat on the sofa for another half hour waking up (no coffee this morning) and watched the thermometer climb to 85. My poor cats were about ready to start shaving one another to stay cool! I decided to plug in a fan for the cats and head out for a nice long brunch.
I tried to drag the brunch out as long as possible, but wouldn't you know it... time flew by. Murphy's Law.
Back at home I decided that today I would be an extra good employee and go in early! That's it, get credit for being early. They won't know my A/C is out.
After a nice cold shower I quickly shaved and headed out the door. So I sit here this evening dreading tonight, not wanting to leave work, and counting down the minutes to my shift here tomorrow.
Somehow I bet the night will go by slowly. Murphy's Law.
Hope your A/C is working and you never take it for granted!
Hope your week goes well.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
This is one of the planes, a NOAA P-3 nicknamed Kermit. They actually got the Henson studios to do the artwork. There's also one for Ms. Piggy. But its not just an ordinary turbo-prop; its souped-up with tons of extra instruments inside and outside to probe the inner workings of storms. In many ways, its like a flying laboratory, gathering information. Some is used immediately and some is saved on computers and then analyzed for research. It may take months for the massive amounts of information collected from a storm to be fully analyzed to develop theories. Those theories then make their way into computer models which could be used years from now.
Of course thanks to satellites, we can't miss these monsters as they churn in the ocean. But that's only half the story. We're still trying to learn what makes them tick and to better understand what makes some strengthen and others weaken. The only way to really find out is to fly inside and take countless measurements.
The P-3 has three radars. One in the nose, which primarily helps the pilots the way a radar would assist a typical passenger jet. But two others are critical to the mission once the plane enters a hurricane. There's one under the plane that looks like a black bladder and the other one in the tail:
The one under the plane will do something this summer that's never been done before. It will send back radar images of the storm in real-time back to the hurricane center in Miami. That's critical because that real-time data can be added into computer models to help analyze the storm and look for tell-tale signs of strengthening and weakening. The radar in the tail is a Doppler radar, similar to the one that First Track 3-D uses on CBS 46.
Along with the radar, the P-3 has several probes that it uses to analyze the cloud drops in the thunderstorms that fuel hurricanes. These too are analyzed to detect signs of strengthening.
One of the most critical jobs of the crew on the plane is to get a correct fix on the center of the storm and the location of the strongest winds. To figure that out, they shoot instrument tubes called dropsondes into the storms. Flight director and meteorologist Paul Flaherty demonstrates one of the tubes:
There's even a bed on board and the crew tells me that yes, they do catch sleep aboard the plane, even when they're flying into a storm with winds over 100 mph! A typical flight can last about 10 hours and the plane will fly into the eyewall, where the strongest winds are several times during the mission. Each storm is different, each one poses unique challenges, but thanks to the people who do this job, our job of warning the public becomes more accurate.