Night Sky Alerts

Questions about the service?

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Frequently Asked Questions

How are these alerts different from similar offerings?

Part of the motivation for creating this alert service came from our frustration with other offerings.  Those alerts would come way to early, with a delivery method that was easy to miss or ignore, or too late to be useful.  For instance, an ISS flyover alert delivered by email or text at 9:00AM just isn't as useful as a text that comes 20 minutes before the space station goes over.  Our goal with Night Sky Alerts is to deliver alerts to our subscribers that will be noticed and deliver them in a timely way.

How are these alerts delivered?

You have the option of getting these alert via text message or voice phone call.  The voice calls are followed up by an emailed transcript of the alert.

How often will I get alerts?

That depends on several things - which alerts you sign up for, how active the sun is, what's happening in the night sky, if the ISS is making visible fly overs, etc.  If you sign up for all the alerts and set your solar activity thresholds low, you could get from a couple a month to several per week.  If you only sign up for geomagnetic activity alerts and set your thresholds high, you could go months without getting any alerts.  It's up to you.

I leave my phone on at night.  Will these alerts come at all hours?

The alerts can go out at any time.  But, on our alert control dashboard there is a time filter that lets you specify what hours of the day you want to receive alerts.

How much lead time will I get for alerts?

For spontaneous events like solar flares, CME's, and radiation storms you don't get any.  We send the alerts out as soon as we detect alert conditions.  For other alerts you get a 20 minute to half hour lead time.  The voice alerts for ISS fly overs get a two hour lead time because the fly over details are delivered by email and some folks may need to get a computer for that.  It's on our to-do list to make alert lead times user-adjustable.

Do you really need all the personal information you collect just to deliver alerts?

We need phone numbers to deliver the alerts, we need email addresses to deliver system status and update information and we need your location and timezone so we can deliver location specific alerts at appropriate times.

What if I change my mind?

It's easy to cancel the alerts.  There is a quick link on our main page, or you can cancel from our dashboard and an email address and phone number are provided when you sign up.

How long have you guys been providing this service?

For about 15 years.  It used to be called Space Weather Phone but we've recently improved and expanded the service and decided that Night Sky Alerts is a more appropriate name now.

I've been getting voice alerts and enjoy the service.  Why are some alerts a person's voice and others sound like a robot?

For alerts that are the same all the time we use a prerecorded voice message.  Alerts that are for special events like planetary alignments and meteor showers are entered by us as text and delivered through a text-to-speech processor.  We call her robo-girl.