Explore: June 2012

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7 posts from June 2012


Observing Highlights for July: Milky Way Nights

July 2012 Cygnus portion of Milky Way Chumack

As Earth orbits around the sun, new constellations and stars rise and become dominant during different seasons. In the summer, constellations from Sagittarius and Scorpius to Cygnus and Lyra are prominent due to their positioning in the sky. These constellations, extending from the southern horizon and tracing a trail overhead, also trace the path of the Milky Way.

From a suburban or rural location, wait until the sky gets dark on summer evenings and your eyes have adjusted, then seek out the cloudy-looking swath that begins in the south and arches overhead to the north. The Milky Way flows through the Summer Triangle (marked by the stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair) and thickens in the south near the Teapot asterism in Sagittarius, which is also the direction of the center of our galaxy.

The Milky Way Galaxy and our solar system are not aligned in parallel planes but intersect each other at an angle. Therefore, planets and the moon occasionally cross through the Milky Way as seen from our position. On July 29, the moon will appear to pass in front of the Milky Way, in the direction of the galaxy’s center.

With a pair of binoculars or a telescope, you can slowly sweep the environs of the Milky Way and stumble upon nebulae, star clusters, and globular clusters. The area just above the Teapot is an especially rich field for deep-sky objects.

Continue reading "Observing Highlights for July: Milky Way Nights" »


Speed Record Broken on El Cap's Nose

Sierra Explore El Cap Nose YosemiteA year ago, our magazine gave you a nifty infographic history of the Nose, the 2,900-foot climbing route on Yosemite's famed El Capitan, and we left you with a cliffhanger: that 2008-record holder Hans Florine had vowed to break Dean Potter and Sean Leary's last speed record of 2:36:45.

Well, two days ago, the 48-year-old and big wall soloer Alex Honnold made good on that promise by shaving 13 minutes off that time, which is about 286 hours less than the Nose's first ascent in 1958. 

The above video shows him being greeted by family and fans following his record-breaking Father's Day ascent.

SIERRA Benita Hussain Benita Hussain is a freelance writer and editorial intern at SIERRA. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, GOOD and Women's Adventure, among others. She's also a part-time lawyer and yoga teacher who surfs and climbs and travels to do both. Twitter: @hussainity.

--Image by iStock / Martin Isaac


5 Real-Life Deep-Sea Monsters

Creatures of the deepForget being afraid of the dark — there aren't any monsters under the bed. They're all lurking under the sea, miles below the surface, waiting for whatever unfortunate food falls victim to their razor teeth and sticky tentacles. These rarely-seen, prehistoric looking creatures are both terrifying and fascinating, and little is known about their alien ways. 

Meet five deep-sea species that make spooky nighttime ghouls and zombies look as scary as Sesame Street's Cookie Monster. 



1. Deepstaria Jellyfish

In May, this video (below) of a mysterious deep sea creature circulated the internet. As the billowy being drifts across the underwater camera at a startling depth of 5,044 feet, we catch a glimpse of the unknown. Is it an alien? A jellyfish? A trash bag? Scientists later confirmed that this ghost-like creature is, in fact, a rarely seen jellyfish called deepstaria enigmatica, first discovered in 1967. 


2. Pelican Eel


Continue reading "5 Real-Life Deep-Sea Monsters " »


Do Dogs React to Tears?

Your pooch isn't psychic, but he'll come running if you cry.

The jury's out on whether your dog can understand your rants and confessions, but researchers at the University of London Department of Psychology have found that dogs do react to tears according to a LiveScience report

In the experiment published in Animal Journal, researcher Jennifer Mayer visited the subjects in their homes. She and each dog owner took turns talking, pretending to cry, and humming. She and her colleague, Deborah Custance, repeated this method with 18 owners. They found that dogs were much more likely to approach the person crying, whether it was Mayer or the owner.

The study certainly complicates our understanding of human-animal relationships. We have to wonder what other domestic animals and even wildlife can connect on some level to human emotions. While the researchers hesitate to conclude that dogs feel empathy or understand emotions, anyone whose spent a significant amount of time with a dog (or on YouTube) probably has something else to say. Wait to form your opinion until after watching this video (below) of a hilarious hound comforting a crying baby.  

Continue reading "Do Dogs React to Tears?" »


Follow that Turtle: 3 Tools to Track Marine Life

Protected oceans

There is no longer a need to sit in a crowded whale-watching boat for hours on end wondering where all the ocean's giants are — the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) website's near real-time animal tracker lets you follow tagged salmon sharks, elephant seals, blue sharks, sea turtles, and great whites as they travel the Pacific Ocean. 

The tracker also shows how fast the animal is moving and where the animal has been in the past. 

MPAtlas, an online interactive map that highlights the world's protected marine areas, takes the online animal watch a step further. While animals swim the seas on TOPP, consult MPAtlas to see if they are staying within the confines of protected ocean space or traveling into unexpected waters. Watch out, it's a nail-biting experience (not really). 

The map is a joint project of the Marine Conservation Institute and the Waitt Foundation and shows the different types and levels of protection around the world. It also marks candidate areas for future protection. What is baffling, though, is that only small portions of the interactive map are highlighted as "designated marine protection areas." MPAtlas statistics show that only 1.2 percent of the Earth's oceans are actually protected. As for the other 98.8 percent? Not so lucky — for now. 

Continue reading "Follow that Turtle: 3 Tools to Track Marine Life" »


Josh Dueck, Freedom Skier

Sit-skier Josh Dueck has “FREEDOM” tattooed across his abdomen in big black letters. He says the word signifies his ability to express himself through movement, to weave through trees in deep powder or between gates on a slalom course. Most recently, it means hucking backflips.

On February 3, in the backcountry of southeast British Columbia, Dueck became the first sit-skier to perform the trick. It launched him fameward, generating a barrage of media attention from the likes of CBS and Ellen Degeneres, (the latter gave him a parka with her name on it).

Josh Dueck hucks at Chatter CreekDueck was once an able-bodied aspiring freestyle skier. He began sit-skiing (also called mono-skiing) after a 2004 injury left him without the use of his legs. He overshot a jump, overrotated a flip, and crashed on his stomach from 100 feet up. The blow dislocated his spine and severed his spinal cord. He started coping immediately. “In the ambulance I was repeating to myself that everything happens for a reason, that everything in my life had prepared me for this moment,” he told Explore. “I knew I’d be ok. I was worried about my parents.” But after the doctors rebuilt his back with pieces of metal, the shock goggles dissolved away, and he had trouble fending off reality. The pain was so bad he couldn’t talk. Horse tranquilizers were barely any use. The only thing he could muster was asking his dad to pull the plug.

Continue reading "Josh Dueck, Freedom Skier" »


A Creepy Scottish Cycling Trip with Rapha

"Eimhir, the daughter of the MacLeod clan, who was betrothed to the devil but, preferring death, jumped into the loch and was transformed into a mermaid," UK outfitter Rapha's blog tells us.  "Auld Clootie, enraged, struck the earth and created the blasted landscape, it is said."

Rapha Continental Assynt

This "blasted landscape" belongs to Assynt, a seriously out-of-the way corner of northeast Scotland, which makes it ripe for cycling, as the Rapha Continental team does, through gale winds and herds of wild deer.

Their short film is one to watch.  It can be described as beautiful, and, like the legend, haunting and kind of creepy, particularly with the Beowulfian narration of their experience. 

Not bad for advertising either.

SIERRA HEADSHOTBenita Hussain is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, GOOD and Women's Adventure Magazine, among others. With degrees from Cornell University and Fordham Law School, she's also a part-time lawyer and yoga teacher that surfs, climbs and travels to do both.  Twitter: @hussainity.

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