Explore: October 2012

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5 posts from October 2012


Astronomy: Observing Highlights for November

November 2012 Southern Hemisphere panorama ESO HH HeyerNovember has a little something for everyone, including a different array of planets for night owls versus for early birds and a total solar eclipse for Australia to the South Pacific to South America.

Jupiter and Mars are the planets to watch in the evening. On November 1, the moon will rise just below Jupiter in Taurus. Jupiter is arriving earlier in the evening now and that will be sped up by one hour after Daylight Saving Time ends on November 4. Rising in the east-northeast, Jupiter's four largest moons and the Great Red Spot can be spotted through even small telescopes.

The moon pairs up with Jupiter for a second time at the end of the month, on November 28, the night of the full moon. The moon will be at apogee on this date, its farthest point in its orbit around Earth, making it the most distant and smallest full moon of the year.

Mars stays low to the horizon after sunset. The Red Planet crosses in front of the Milky Way during November, passing deep-sky objects that make great telescopic targets. On November 23, find the Red Planet next to M28, a magnitude-6.9 globular cluster. On November 27 and 28, Mars is near the magnitude-5.2 globular cluster M22. Mars also pairs with a much more visible target, the moon, on November 15 and 16.

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Kayaking a Trail in the Everglades

Kayaks in a mangrove"That's a kayak?"

It certainly didn't look like one. The kayaks I was used to were self-enclosed, with a spray skirt to hook you directly to the boat. This one was open-topped like a canoe, and seeing it threw me for a loop. Granted, I'd only ever been sea kayaking before, and though this water was brackish, it wasn't exactly in the ocean.

Our guide patiently explained that yes, that was a kayak, and he gave us our paddles. A few minutes later, we were pushing off down a "kayak trail," a path carved through interlocking mangrove branches in the Everglades.

A mangrove swamp is perhaps one of the least-accommodating habitats for a human being to move through: all stinking, sinking mud and dirty water and mosquitoes, impeded by a jungle gym of branches. But I hoped that to go through it on kayak, to maneuver through the shallows and twist through the trees, would be to see it in a different light.

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A Misty Hike Up Ireland's Mount Brandon

Sour sheep on the Dingle PeninsulaIn the summer of 2010 my family and I traveled to Ireland to spend some quality time together away from our hectic lives. On a meandering tour of the western coast I insisted on one departure from our strict itinerary. My sister and I were in a pub just outside Ireland’s westernmost point, the storm-swept Dingle Peninsula, working through thick pints of Guinness when we learned that we were walking distance from Ireland’s westernmost peak (the tallest outside of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, a range way to the north). Mount Brandon, named for Saint Brendan (Bréanainn) the Navigator, is a local treasure few tourists might know to visit. 

So after buying wool hats and scarves, my sister and I set out across a farmer’s pasture on the one path that led up the mountain. It was worn deep into the earth by centuries of foot traffic. Sour sheep eyed us from the hills above and below.

As we climbed on, the air thinned and the wind stiffened. Rocks turned into boulders and boulders into cliffs.  Around a bend we plunged into an icy mist.  Here was the Ireland of legends! Fierce greens met deep blacks as mountain grass ran into high altitude lakes. I could hear mournful pipes in my head.  Still a few inimical sheep clung to the slopes. 

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Expedition Denali Inspires Outdoor Diversity

Team Denali
When it comes to wilderness, we won't protect what we don't know or care about. And one great way to learn about the outdoors is to experience it. But with very few outdoor role models, African Americans visit national parks at a lower rate than any other ethnicity, at a cost to both their health and to the public's appreciation of nature.

Expedition Denali could change that. African American climbers hailing from Seattle to New York have come together to summit Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley, next June on the 100th anniversary of its first successful ascent. Denali is tallest mountain in North America at 20,230 feet tall, and the tallest in the world measured from its base to its peak (Everest gets a boost up from the Himalayan Plateau). By tackling this immense peak, the Expedition Denali participants hope to inspire people of color across the nation to explore and enjoy the outdoors.

Check out the video below of the team's training expedition and get to know these trailblazers.

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7 Animals in the Waiting Room

Waiting RoomDon't you just hate waiting for paperwork to be processed? Well, believe it or not, some endangered species might know how you feel.

The Endangered Species Act only gives protections to species that are officially listed as "endangered." But when the Marine Fisheries Service or the Fish and Wildlife Service have other priorities, not all species that need protection make it on the list. These species are put on what is called the "candidate list," a list of species that are recognized by everyone to desperately need help, but which have no legal protections. Species that are declining can wait for years on the candidate list before becoming official. Over forty species have even gone extinct while waiting around.

Man, and you thought that waiting at the doctor's office was bad!

Here is a sample of just some of the 320 species of wildlife that are stuck in a bureaucratic mire:

Continue reading "7 Animals in the Waiting Room" »

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