AP answers your questions on the news, from TV ratings to seeing the space station

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ask AP: TV ratings and seeing the space station

Curiosity about whether the space station is visible with the naked eye inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

You can also find Ask AP on AP Mobile, a multimedia news service available on smart phones. Go to www.apnews.com/ to learn more.

Can you see the space station or the shuttle with the naked eye during the day? On Feb. 13 at around noon I was walking west and looked up in the sky and saw a white blunt craft very high in the sky heading west. It did not have a contrail. I could see a commercial plane going north (with a contrail). Do I need to get new glasses?

Les Carlson

Springfield, Ill.

Sorry to disappoint you, but that white blunt craft you saw was not orbiting Earth.

It’s pretty much impossible to see the space shuttle, space station or any satellite in broad daylight. They’re visible only in dark skies near dawn or dusk.

NASA has a Web page devoted to sighting opportunities from anywhere in the world. Here’s the link: spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/ You’ll see that Springfield has lots of shuttle and station sightings coming up.

If the sky is clear and you know where to look, you’ll be able to spot the orbiting pair with the naked eye. They will resemble bright, fast-moving stars. It’s an amazing sight that I’ve enjoyed many times. It’s especially cool right after the shuttle undocks from the station; then you can see one trailing the other. Good luck!

Marcia Dunn

AP Aerospace Writer

Cape Canaveral, Fla.

If I have my TiVo recording a program, does that count as a viewer towards the show’s viewer ratings?

Eitan Itzkowitz

Teaneck, N.J.

It depends on when, or if, you watch the program that you’ve recorded (and if you’re one of the families in the Nielsen Co.’s sample, of course).

The rating that networks watch most closely is the “live plus same day” figure — meaning a measurement of people who watched a program live or on their digital video recorder by 3 a.m. the next day.

Nielsen also compiles an estimate of how many people watch a show live and on DVR within a week. This measurement has helped programs — NBC’s “The Office” is an example — that might otherwise be in trouble based only on the overnight ratings.

From Nielsen’s standpoint, if you don’t watch a show within seven days, it’s as if you didn’t watch it at all.

David Bauder

AP Television Writer

New York

Having read the AP story on the coal mine fire in Centralia and the statement that it may burn for centuries, I wondered if any calculation has been made of the greenhouse gases that have been emitted by the fire, and that will be emitted if the fire is allowed to continue to burn?

Greg Trapp

Albuquerque, N.M.

There is no reliable estimate of total greenhouse gas emissions from the underground mine fire in Centralia, Pa. But a 2006-2007 state study on the health effects of the Centralia fire found that it is not sending large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, said Tom Rathbun, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The study found measurable but insignificant gas levels downwind of the fire — in fact, the levels did not exceed ambient air quality standards, he said.

The Centralia fire, one of 112 active mine fires in the United States, began in 1962 and forced the relocation of more than 1,000 residents in the 1980s as it spread beneath homes and businesses. About 10 people still live in Centralia, resisting the state’s attempts to get them to leave.

Michael Rubinkam

Associated Press Writer

Allentown, Pa.

Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

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