Is It Safe to Play Outside During Harsh Weather?

When spring showers and summer storms hit, sometimes not even the threat of thunder can chase children inside. Some even enjoy playing in the wild weather, while for schools it can be tempting to continue sports events during rough weather conditions rather than calling the game. But mother nature can be unpredictable – and storms can often mean unsafe conditions.

Interesting Facts About Lightning Strikes

The biggest risk for outdoor play during storms and inclement weather is a lightning strike. Lightning data gathered over decades from multiple sources indicates that:

  • 17 percent of lightning deaths each year happen during outdoor recreational and sporting activities
  • Over 400 people in the United States alone are struck by lightning annually
  • On average, 49 people per year die during lightning strikes
  • Even non-fatal lightning strikes can lead to brain damage or other disabilities

The majority of those affected by lightning strikes during outdoor play range from late teens to early adults. Many strikes take place at school events and other organized sports outings. For responsible risk prevention, it’s important to have a plan in place for early prediction and rapid mobilization on the occasion of a weather event.

Listen for the Thunder

Your first warning that something may be amiss is thunder. Thunder is actually the sound lightning makes as it moves across the sky. If you hear thunder, you’re potentially in danger. Even dry skies can create the risk for a lightning strike. Don’t wait for the first sign of rain. The moment thunderclouds begin to loom, recognize the risk and head inside.

Forewarned Is Forearmed

Mother nature can be unpredictable, but you can take some of the uncertainty out of weather forecasting and preparation by relying on Earth networks. With one of the best weather stations in the country and state-of-the-art data analytics, Earth Networks provides the technology and information needed for weather safety and effective response planning. Find out more about real-time weather tracking, automated decision tools, and 24/7 meteorological support.

Lightning by Plasma
Lightning is light in the form of blackbody radiation coming from the very hot plasma created by the electron flow. The difference between a lightning flash and a lightning strike is that a strike hits the ground or another object while a flash stays in the air.

The 72 Second Mysterious Radio Signal from Space

Back in 1977, Ohio State University was using their Big Ear radio telescope for the search for intelligent life out in the universe. Now, you have to know that this was all the rage at the time, and every magazine rack in the country had at least one or two issues of something regarding UFOs, crop circles, and the Bermuda Triangle. So it is easy to understand that the search for E.T was on. But the effort had proved to be fruitless. That is, until one day on August 15, 1977, when a 72-second mysterious radio signal was received.

The Mysterious Radio Signal Is Discovered

The mysterious radio signal as it was discovered on the printout by Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman.

On that day, Big Ear picked up a signal that defied explanation. Now, this wasn’t even known at the time it was recorded, and it wasn’t until two days later that the anomaly was even discovered.  At that time, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman was going over the recorded data, looking for anything that didn’t belong in the noise.

Wow! Signal profile (Diagram CC BY-SA 3.0 Maxrossomachin )

When Jerry found the signal, he got excited. So excited, in fact, that he wrote the word “WOW” on the side of a printout for the signal. And from that quick scribble by a dedicated astronomer, we now have the name by which everyone refers to this amazing mystery – the Wow! signal.

The Wow! Signal

Approximate origin of the Wow! signal in the Sagittarius constellation. (Diagram: CC BY-SA 3.0 Benjamin Crowell)

The mysterious radio signal appeared to have originated from the Sagittarius constellation, and it bore the signs that were expected for intelligent life. That is, the radio signal was received in the frequency range of 1420 MHz, which is the frequency naturally transmitted by hydrogen. Since this is the most common element in the universe, it is theorized that intelligent life would know this and use this frequency in any attempt to contact other species.

Never Repeated

Although there were many other attempts by Ehman to capture more of the signal in the months to follow, the signal never reappeared. Years later in 1987, attempts the META array at Oak Ridge Observatory failed to detect a signal.  And in July 1995 scans of the Sagittarius constellation made by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory failed to find any new signals.

There have been other later attempts, using such sensitive equipment as the Very Large Array, a system many times more sensitive that Big Ears.  Unfortunately,  all have failed. Even as we send spacecraft out to search the universe, there has been no followup signal received. The signal simply never repeated.

Defies Explanation

There have been attempts to explain the signal, but nothing has been accepted as concrete. There appears to be no natural or man-made source for it. A terrestrial source has been all but completely ruled out. The spectrum around the signal was not in use by earthbound radio equipment, with the frequency range naturally reserved for astronomical studies.

If it did have an explanation, chances are that it would have re-occurred by now. This is especially true if it originated on Earth. But for over forty years there has not been any trace of a signal.

But you have to consider that we are talking about astronomical time references here. Light itself taking eons to travel to the earth. The time span from 1977 to today is but a brief moment in comparison. With that said, I am not convinced that there isn’t more to find from that area of space. You could even say that we went out looking for some proof of extraterrestrial intelligent life in the universe and found it. Now we just need to repeat it for validation.

Big Ear and SETI
The Big Ear radio telescope was used to search for extraterrestrial radio signals from 1973 to 1995, making it the longest running SETI project in history.

Time Is Running Out for the Kepler Spacecraft

Whatever you say about the Kepler Spacecraft, it has definitely been a hardy space vehicle that has returned a lot of interesting data. Bouncing back after several hard hits in its 9-year span, the spacecraft has already outlived earlier estimates about its fuel reserve. But this may be the end for the pioneering vehicle.

Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle

Kepler Spacecraft Trails Earth in Orbit

The Kepler Spacecraft roughly trails earth at a distance of 94 million miles. Its primary mission was almost ended earlier in 2013 when a broken reaction wheel rendered it incapable of holding a steady gaze at a target. But quick thinking scientists were able to compensate by using the pressure of sunlight.

Discovering Planets
Since 1988, there are 3,743 confirmed planets in 2,796 systems. Over 625 of these systems have more than one planet.

The end result is that the vehicle steers almost like kayak does into the current. While this works okay, the campaigns require repositioning every three months or so. This requires the spacecraft to burn fuel, which limits its useful lifetime since there aren’t exactly any refueling depots along the way.

In 2013 the mission was officially changed from the Kepler Spacecraft to K2, which it remains today.

Still Going Strong

Original estimates in 2013 put the total remaining project missions, called campaigns, at 10. As it turned out, Kepler was as scrappy as ever and managed to enter its 17th campaign earlier this month. The current estimate has the fuel ending in a few months.

Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

But the Kepler team plan on keeping things going for as long as it can. They hope to use the last bit of fuel for a final positioning. This will allow the team to collect all possible data in the craft’s trajectory.

If the past is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised to find the Kepler Spacecraft still going strong into next year. But even if it doesn’t, it is still the little spacecraft that could.


Kepler Spacecraft
The Kepler spacecraft was launched on March 7, 2009 by NASA. The space observatory, named after Johannes Kepler, was designed to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. Kepler’s path in the solar system trails the Earth in an heliocentric orbit.

The Halloween Asteroid Is Coming Back

Do you remember or know about the freakish Halloween Asteroid that did an Earth flyby on Halloween three years ago? Well, we’ve got some good news, if you like that kind of thing – it’s coming back. And it’s going to be just as ugly this time around.

Halloween Asteroid
Artist’s illustration. Credit: J. A. Peñas/SINC

Asteroid 2015 TB145, otherwise known as the Halloween Asteroid both for its first appearance and creepy visuals, streaked by the Earth on Halloween 2015, coming only 300,000 miles of our planet. This put it almost as close as our own moon, which in astronomical terms is a close shave (okay, that’s not really an astronomical term, but it was close).

Extinct Comet

Researchers now believe that the Halloween Asteroid is really an extinct comet that has lost its fiery interactions and now is mostly a black mass (which does nothing to make it seem any friendlier). The asteroid laps around our Sun once every 3.04 Earth years, making mid-November 2018 its next appearance date. This probably means that it will miss the Halloween celebrations this time around, but its ghoulish visage (all 2,100 feet of it) will be showing in the sky for everyone to enjoy.

Halloween Asteroid
Credit: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF

The skull face may have to be timed since the asteroid rotates once every 2.94 hours, and its black surface only reflects roughly 5 percent of the light that hits it.  The Halloween Asteroid won’t be as neighborly this time either since it is expected to be at a greater distance from the Earth. Researchers are still looking forward to its approach since it will be a good chance to obtain new data. This data could help improve our knowledge of not only this spooky asteroid but also other masses that come close to our planet.

Yes, this time around there won’t be a close shave from a large asteroid that looks like a skull face. I’m okay with that.