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Explore: September 2012


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4 posts from September 2012

09/29/2012

Rising and Setting Planets and Comet News

October 2012 CometThe planets are sticking close to the horizon during prime viewing hours for most of October, making them more of a challenge to see. After sunset on October evenings, look to the left of where the sun was to catch Mars (and maybe even Saturn) low on the horizon. Saturn is sinking and joining the sun, where it reaches conjunction toward the end of the month, but the Red Planet will stay just above the horizon for the rest of the year. On October 1, Mars will be in Libra, heading toward the claws of Scorpius.

The moon can guide you to some of the planets in mid-October. Try spotting Mercury on October 16 and 17. Mercury shines at magnitude -0.1, making it brighter than Mars, but its location closer to the sun leaves it in the sunset’s bright glow as the evening begins. On October 16, Mercury is just to the upper left of the slender crescent moon. On October 17, the moon is between Mercury (to the moon's lower right) and Mars (to the moon's upper left). On October 18, the crescent moon will lie to the upper left of magnitude 1.2 Mars, with the Red Planet’s reddish rival Antares (the Anti-Ares) shining a bit brighter at magnitude 1.0 just below Mars.

Continue reading "Rising and Setting Planets and Comet News" »

09/28/2012

9 Must-See Natural Rock Formations

The Wave A large percentage of our planet is made out of rocks. While some rock formations have changed little over the years due to their geography and amount of exposure to various elements, others have been drastically altered to reveal a timeline of earth's physical history. We encourage you to take a cross-country trip through the United States to hike, climb, or photograph these amazing natural rock formations. Publicly accessible, they will remind you of just how small you are, and just how astonishingly large the world really is. We've included some all-time favorites and a few unique destinations, which you might not have heard of before. They're not listed in any particular order — each formation should inspire you to head outdoors and get stuck between a rock and a hard place. But not in the 127 Hours way, of course.

1. Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

Continue reading "9 Must-See Natural Rock Formations" »

09/27/2012

Sea Otter Awareness Week

Sea OtterWhatever your busy schedule may look like, we suspect that after taking one look at this adorable photo, you'll want to squeeze in time to participate in the awesomeness that is Sea Otter Awareness Week.

Held during the last week of September, this worldwide annual tradition is celebrating its 10th year of acknowledging the essential role that sea otters play in the nearshore ecosystem. Take a moment to brush up on your sea-otter facts.

Why are sea otters important?

Sea otters are a keystone species — that is, they play a major role in the maintenance of the marine ecosystem in which other species are dependent upon for survival. Because they do not have any insulating body fat, they must eat massive amounts to stay warm, making them the top predator in their ecosystem. This, in turn, regulates other species from thinning kelp forests, which thousands of organisms rely on for support. As for us humans, we not only enjoy watching them frolic playfully in the water, but they also serve as an indicator species for biologists: their health reflects the conditions of their environment as a whole.

What issues are sea otters facing?

Continue reading "Sea Otter Awareness Week" »

09/11/2012

Tough Griz Caption Contest

GrizHere's a photo begging for a caption contest: A big grizzly in Yellowstone National Park standing guard over a dead bison, mean-mugging National Park Service biologist Doug Smith--who's flying overhead in an airplane. Smith took the picture while studying a wolfpack in Hayden Valley--more of his amazing work here. Just outside of camera range in this photo, Smith says, is the wolf pack, waiting for its turn at the carcass.

Coincidentally, San Francisco public radio station KQED's "Perspective" series this morning featured a commentary by office worker Fred Etheridge who describes the same wild, challenging stare as is given by this grizzly--only by a Cooper's hawk that had caught a pigeon right outside his window. You can listen here, and leave your captions for the grizzly photo in the comments.

Photo by Doug Smith/NPS

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.


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