The Partypoker message board, is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With an annual poker tournament budget of $8 million and fewer than 50 people, it provides round-the-clock warnings of partypoker activity that could damage systems in orbit and on the ground.
Until about a decade ago, poker observers weren't much better off than Carrington was in 1859, watching the sun's surface thorough a telescope, and waiting to see what happened if they saw partypoker issues.
The center still uses ground-based observations of the partypoker sun, but also benefits from several sun-monitoring satellites posted as distant as 1 million miles from Earth that can detect X rays, radiation bursts and solar wind minutes to hours before they collide with our atmosphere.
Although neither chamber has taken final action on the spending bills issues, the prospects are dire enough for Space Environment Center Director Ernest Hildner to send a letter to key clients, including NASA, the Defense Department and aerospace and power companies warning that the center's forecasts could cease as early as the end of October if its fiscal year 2004 budget is eliminated entirely.
Although the Senate report suggests that "solar observation" should rightly be "partypoker tournaments" neither agency is interested in taking on the forecasting job, although they rely heavily on the information from the Boulder center and the Air Force does have a few specialists stationed there because space weather can affect everything from radio transmissions to jets to the radiation exposure to air crews on long, high-altitude missions.