Archive for the ‘colorado’ Tag

It’s time to track Santa!

It’s Christmas Eve and in some parts of the world it’s already Christmas Day! For young children that means that it’s time to start tracking Santa! Today you can follow Santa as he delivers presents to the children of the world and also play some fun games when you visit http://www.noradsanta.org/.

 

Read on to learn how a simple wrong number turned into an annual tradition for many starting almost 60 years ago…

 

NORAD Tracks Santa is an annual Christmas-themed entertainment program, which has existed since 1955, produced under the auspices of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Every year on Christmas Eve, “NORAD Tracks Santa” purports to track Santa Claus as he leaves the North Pole and delivers presents to children around the world.

The program is in the tradition of the September 1897 editorial “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” in the New York Sun.

History and Overview
The program began on December 24, 1955, when a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper which told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children who called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.

Today, NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25. Google Analytics has been in use since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. As a result of this analysis information, the program can project and scale volunteer staffing, telephone equipment, and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve. Volunteers include NORAD military and civilian personnel.

As of 30 December 2011, the NORAD Tracks Santa program had 101,000 Twitter followers and the Facebook page had nearly one million fans.

Website and Other Media
The NORAD Tracks Santa program has always made use of a variety of media. From the 1950s to 1996, these were the telephone hotline, newspapers, radio, phonograph records and television. Many television newscasts in North America feature NORAD Tracks Santa as part of their weather updates on Christmas Eve.

From 1997 to the present, the program has had a highly publicized internet presence. As mobile media and social media have become popular and widespread as methods of direct communication, these newer media have also been embraced by the program. The layout of the NORAD Tracks Santa website and its webpages have changed from 1997 to the present due to changes in internet technologies, and changes in partners and sponsors for a particular year.

Between 2004 and 2009, people who visited the NORAD Tracks Santa site were told they could “track” Santa in Google Earth. They were given a link to download Google Earth, and then a KMZ file to download. From 2009-2011, the tracking in Google Earth has been done from the NORAD Santa site, and there is no KMZ file for Google Earth anymore. In 2011, an iOS and Android application was introduced, which features updates and an interactive game similar to Angry Birds.

From mid-January until November 30, when one arrives at the NORAD Tracks Santa website, one is greeted with a message to come back on 1 December to “track Santa with NORAD”. During December, one finds a NORAD Tracks Santa website with all the features available. On Christmas Eve, the NORAD Tracks Santa website videos page is generally updated each hour, when it is midnight in a different time zone. The “Santa Cam” videos show CGI images of Santa Claus flying over famous landmarks. Each video was accompanied by a voice-over until the end of the 2011 season, typically done by NORAD personnel, giving a few facts about the city or country depicted. Celebrity voice-overs have also been used over the years. For the London “Santa Cam” video, English television personality and celebrity Jonathan Ross did the voice-over for 2005 to 2007 and the former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated the same video in 2003 and 2004. In 2002, Aaron Carter provided the voice-over for three videos.

The locations and landmarks depicted in some of the “Santa Cam” videos have changed over the years. In 2009, twenty-nine “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the website. In previous years, twenty-four to twenty-six videos had been posted.

Sponsorship and Publicity
NORAD Tracks Santa relies on corporate sponsorship, and is financed by neither American nor Canadian taxpayers.

U.S. military units that have provided publicity for the program include the Northeast Air Defense Sector of the New York Air National Guard and the U.S. Naval Reserve Navy Information Bureau (NIB) 1118 at Fort Carson, Colorado. Other U.S. federal agencies, such as NASA and NOAA, have helped publicize the service, as have the Canadian Forces. First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama participated in the 2011 and 2012 trackings, answering phone calls.

According to Gerry Bowler, a history professor at the University of Manitoba, the NORAD Tracks Santa program is “one of the few modern additions to the centuries-old Santa Claus story that have stuck.” Bowler stated that the program “takes an essential element of the Santa Claus story — his travels on Christmas Eve — and looks at it through a technological lens,” therefore bringing the Santa Claus mythology into the modern era.

Visit: http://www.noradsanta.org/ to Track Santa this year!!

As read on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NORAD_Tracks_Santa

Biggest Solar Storm in Years Races Toward Earth

WASHINGTON – The largest solar storm in five years was due to arrive on Earth early Thursday, promising to shake the globe’s magnetic field while expanding the Northern Lights.

The storm started with a massive solar flare earlier in the week and grew as it raced outward from the sun, expanding like a giant soap bubble, scientists said. When it strikes, the particles will be moving at 4 million mph.

“It’s hitting us right in the nose,” said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colo.

The massive cloud of charged particles could disrupt utility grids, airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services, especially in northern areas. But the same blast could also paint colorful auroras farther from the poles than normal.

Astronomers say the sun has been relatively quiet for some time. And this storm, while strong, may seem fiercer because Earth has been lulled by several years of weak solar activity.

The storm is part of the sun’s normal 11-year cycle, which is supposed to reach peak storminess next year. Solar storms don’t harm people, but they do disrupt technology. And during the last peak around 2002, experts learned that GPS was vulnerable to solar outbursts.

Because new technology has flourished since then, scientists could discover that some new systems are also at risk, said Jeffrey Hughes, director of the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling at Boston University.

A decade ago, this type of solar storm happened a couple of times a year, Hughes said.

“This is a good-size event, but not the extreme type,” said Bill Murtagh, program coordinator for the federal government’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

The sun erupted Tuesday evening, and the most noticeable effects should arrive here between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. EST Thursday, according to forecasters at the space weather center. The effects could linger through Friday morning.

Center forecaster Rob Steenburgh said shortly before 5 a.m. EST Thursday that there still had been no noticeable effects on Earth or on a satellite geared to monitor the storm’s impact.

“We haven’t seen the shock arrive at the satellite yet,” Steenburgh said. “We’re keeping an eye on it.”

The region of the sun that erupted can still send more blasts our way, Kunches said. He said another set of active sunspots is ready to aim at Earth right after this.

“This is a big sun spot group, particularly nasty,” NASA solar physicist David Hathaway said. “Things are really twisted up and mixed up. It keeps flaring.”

Storms like this start with sun spots, Hathaway said.

Then comes an initial solar flare of subatomic particles that resemble a filament coming out of the sun. That part already hit Earth only minutes after the initial burst, bringing radio and radiation disturbances.

After that comes the coronal mass ejection, which looks like a growing bubble and takes a couple days to reach Earth. It’s that ejection that could cause magnetic disruptions Thursday.

“It could give us a bit of a jolt,” NASA solar physicist Alex Young said.

The storm follows an earlier, weaker solar eruption that happened Sunday, Kunches said.

For North America, the good part of a solar storm — the one that creates more noticeable auroras or Northern Lights — will peak Thursday evening. Auroras could dip as far south as the Great Lakes states or lower, Kunches said, but a full moon will make them harder to see.

Auroras are “probably the treat we get when the sun erupts,” Kunches said.

Still, the potential for problems is widespread. Solar storms have three ways they can disrupt technology on Earth: with magnetic, radio and radiation emissions. This is an unusual situation, when all three types of solar storm disruptions are likely to be strong, Kunches said. That makes it the strongest overall since December 2006.

That means “a whole host of things” could follow, he said.

North American utilities are monitoring for abnormalities on their grids and have contingency plans, said Kimberly Mielcarek, spokeswoman for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a consortium of electricity grid operators.

In 1989, a strong solar storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec, causing 6 million people to lose power.

Solar storms can also make global positioning systems less accurate and cause GPS outages.

The storm could trigger communication problems and additional radiation around the north and south poles — a risk that will probably force airlines to reroute flights. Some already have done so, Kunches said.

Satellites could be affected, too. NASA spokesman Rob Navias said the space agency isn’t taking any extra precautions to protect astronauts on the International Space Station from added radiation.

As read on: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/national/biggest-solar-storm-in-years-races-toward-earth-20120308