Explore: November 2012

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6 posts from November 2012


The Best Meteor Shower of the Year

December 2012 Geminid and Clouds John ChumackJupiter has been drawing the eye to the east for those outside in the evenings. The giant planet is shining brightly as it rises in the constellation Taurus with the compact Pleiades cluster to its upper right.

Jupiter reaches opposition in December, which is the best time for observing a planet because it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise, staying visible all night. Binoculars will show the planet’s four largest moons as they change positions each night, and a telescope will reveal the stripes on Jupiter's cloud tops and perhaps the Great Red Spot. Jupiter gives us a little gift on Christmas when it has its closest approach with the moon for the month, lying one full-moon-width away from a 95%-lit gibbous moon. The full moon occurs a couple days later, at 2:21 a.m. PST on December 28.

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10 Must-See Pedestrian Bridges

Malaysia Sky BridgeThe old adage goes that you shouldn't burn bridges. And we here at Sierra agree. Instead, you should visit them.

Bridges symbolize connection -- they directly join people, places, and things that would otherwise remain isolated. So in in this post, we're honoring 10 pedestrian bridges from around the globe that are either known for their majestically outrageous architecture or historical significance. We included  famous bridges as well as relatively unknown pathways.

We encourage you to visit the bridges in your region and not only cross over into new territory, but also build bridges toward new cultures, sights, sounds, and adventures. 

Henderson Waves, Singapore 

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Called by the Spirit Bear

Spirit Bear in riverI wasn’t thinking about changing anything major in my life on the night in August 2011 when a spirit bear grabbed me and started leading me on a journey from the least wild place in North America to the wildest. I wasn’t looking for a vision quest, I was looking for a burger. Navigating the chaos of New York’s JFK Airport, in a mad dash to get onto a six-hour flight back to Seattle, the heat and humidity, the screaming cabs at the curb, the body scans, liquids police, laptop X-ray all behind me, it was time to debate whether I had time for a meal. And if so where?

I’d just wrapped up a weeklong visit with my family in Connecticut that reminded me anew how disconnected I felt from my past. I was going back to the life I had created in Seattle that didn’t seem altogether real to me anymore either. I love my city, but I don’t love my life, was the uncomfortable thought I kept suppressing. Once I’m back home, I’ll have some time to think, I breathed to myself. Meantime, did I have time for a meal before the flight?

Instead of a restaurant, my eyes fell upon a Hudson News stand. Well, perhaps a magazine? I picked my way through the hordes on the same “flight reading” mission, scanning the magazine rows for something. . . .

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Q&A: Wildlife Photographer Suzi Eszterhas

Suzi EszterhasWildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas spends months in far-flung locations, documenting the family life of endangered animals. Her children’s book series, Eye on the Wild (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) inspired a Sierra magazine slideshow. Sierra recently chatted with the California-based photographer about how long it takes to get a great photograph of a cheetah hunt, the mountain gorilla’s chances of survival, and how it feels to be slapped by a chimp.  

Do you ever get tired of looking at adorable baby animals?

I don’t. I get tired of some of the travel and some of the physical strain, depending on where I’m working, or the mental [strain]. But I don’t get tired or bored of the wildlife itself. For example, I spent five and a half months at a jackal den. Every day, all day, I sat there in front of the den, from sunrise to sunset. And for most people, five and a half months of that seems quite boring, but for me—of course there’s down time and there’s slow times—but I never felt unhappy or miserably bored. Sure, there were times when it was like, “OK guys, wake up,” but I never felt like, “Oh my god, I need to end this project because I’m bored.”

What’s the most difficult animal to photograph?

I think chimpanzees, by far, have been my most difficult, but they’re not in this series [Eye on the Wild]. So out of this series, I would say probably cheetahs, because the behavior that I captured is not easy to get. For instance, the hunting shot of the mom—the sprint after the gazelle—it took 17 days to get that photo, and it was like 17 days of nothing. There are a lot of failed hunts. And then sometimes they run the gazelle in an area where you can’t follow: a rocky area or a super-bushy area. Other times they run them in a different direction than you think they’re going to run them. For me, gorillas are the easiest by far, because they’re such incredible photo subjects. And we have an amazing opportunity to sit with these animals because of what researchers have done in habituating them.

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5 Endangered Species You Could Hold in Your Hand

Sea turtle in handsPicture an endangered species in your head. Is it a tiger? Panda? Wolf? Regardless of what it is, it's probably bigger than a breadbox. Large, majestic animals catch the headlines, and are certainly worthy of attention, but the vast majority of species on Earth are itty-bitty. And while they may be small in stature, little animals have a big impact, forming the base of the food chain that supports all other life. Many of these palm-size-or-smaller beasties are just as endangered as tigers and pandas, and are much more likely to be hanging on in small parcels of protected land.

So let's have a round of applause for the little guys, and enjoy this sampler of endangered species you could hold in your hand.

Note: Please do not actually pick up endangered species, or any wild animal, for their safety and yours. The hands in these pictures are those of trained scientists and field researchers.

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From Whitney to Yosemite: Hiking the JMT

Suzanne RobertsSuzanne Roberts, avid hiker and author of Almost Somewhere: 28-Days on the John Muir Trail (University of Nebraska Press, September 2012), takes a moment to dish on terrible trail meals, ghosts, and a woman’s perspective on hiking.

Looking back, if you could add any one creature comfort to “Big Heiny” (Suzanne’s backpack) for that hike on the JMT what would it be and why?

Nothing. I would have taken things out of Big Heiny—she was way too heavy as it was.

Out of all the people you met along the trail, who sticks out in your mind the most to this day?

The woman I called “the ghost of Muir Pass” in the book. Even if she didn’t seemingly disappear into nowhere overland, which she did, I would have still been inspired by her. She was a woman in her 70s, hiking alone, overland with a map and compass.


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