Explore: July 2013

« June 2013 | Main | August 2013 »

6 posts from July 2013


Astronomy: The Perseid Meteors Rain Down

August 2013 BOBJANDipperChumackHRweb Lyrid

One of the best meteor showers of the year is the Perseids, which peaks over the weekend of August 10/11 and into the 12th. From 50 to 100 meteors an hour is possible. Like most meteor showers, the Perseids produce their best show before dawn, but the constellation Perseus rises after the sun sets in the north-northeast, therefore any time of evening will still give you decent odds of catching some meteors. This shower often produces fireballs and swift-moving meteors and is courtesy of debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle.

For planet watchers, Venus is still eye-catching in the west at sunset. It glides under the feet of Leo the Lion, heading toward Virgo. On August 9, find the crescent moon is to the lower left of Venus after sunset. On August 11, Venus crosses the border into Virgo, heading toward the constellation’s brightest star, Spica, but the two won't meet until September. The moon, however, visits Saturn and Spica on August 12, lying between them as it shines at 35-percent lit.

Continue reading "Astronomy: The Perseid Meteors Rain Down" »


Playing With Fire

Since the dawn of time, humans have known the warm glow of a campfire. Sitting around it telling tales, playing music, or just staring into dancing flames are perhaps our oldest forms of entertainment. What's changed in recent times is the stuff we use to augment that primal experience. Here are a few standouts for maximizing fireside bliss.


ENVIRO-LOGS are great for when dry wood is scarce. Made from 100% recycled waxed-cardboard produce crates, these logs burn for about two hours, putting out a decent amount of heat while emitting 80% less carbon dioxide than wood does. For a fast-starting, even-burning fire, try two Enviro-Logs at a time, using their wrappers as kindling. $21 for a case of 6


S'mores have been a campfire tradition since the 1920s, and now you can create an earth-friendly version of these smoky little slices of sugar-filled decadence using EREWHON Organic Honey Grahams, SWEET & SARA Vanilla Marshmallows, which are vegan, and an ENDANGERED SPECIES chocolate bar or two. Graham crackers: $5 for 14.4 oz.; marshmallows: $5 for 16 pieces; chocolate bar: $2

Camp Axe

GERBER’s Camp Axe II is compact enough to stow in your pack but tough enough to blast through a weekend of chopping logs. Its ultra-tough handle, made of glass-filled nylon, is topped with a forged stainless-steel head, which comes with a plastic snap-on sheath. Light, well-balanced, and fun to swing, this is the campfire ax you'll want for the zombie apocalypse. $52

Pit Poppe

GREAT NORTHERN POPCORN COMPANY's Pit Popper has a telescoping handle that stays mostly cool. And the four-quart pot means that, within about five minutes, you can pop enough corn to share with the whole crew. $30

Trekker Stormproof Lighter

The Trekker Stormproof Lighter by ULTIMATE SURVIVAL TECHNOLOGIES is a refillable, water-resistant butane lighter that can generate a steady flame in winds of up to 80 miles per hour. Once you get the fuel flow set for your altitude and temperature, the electric ignition and coil provide a consistent strike, even in nasty weather. The Trekker comes in a rubberized case and features a fuel window so you can see when you're running low. $60

—Johnathon Allen


The 5 Clearest Blue Skies in the U.S.

American flagTo celebrate 4th of July, we've traveled from red rock formations to white-sand beaches. But to find the final patriotic hue, all we had to do was look up.

From epic sunsets to shimmering stars, the sky's natural displays of beauty can rival any fireworks show. Where's the best place to find an unpolluted blue view? We've compiled a list of the top five cleanest skies in America based on the American Lung Association's State of the Air Campaign (the findings are based on measurements of short-term particle pollution).


Asheville skyline1. Asheville-Brevard, North Carolina

Take a bow, Tarheels — Asheville and Brevard take first place for the cleanest metropolitan area in the country for 24-hour particle pollution. The list of opportunities for breathing in all that clean air is deep and wide. Literally. Western North Carolina is home to nearly 50 named peaks above 6,000 feet. The Great Smoky Mountains are two hours away from Asheville and serve as a habitat for more than 60 species of mammals alone.


Continue reading "The 5 Clearest Blue Skies in the U.S." »


5 Dazzling White-Sand Beaches in the U.S.

Lifeguard house in miami beach-floridaThis week, we're celebrating 4th of July by sharing some of our favorite red, white, and blue places. Yesterday, we listed natural red rock formations. Today, it's time to head to the beach.

The Founding Fathers collaborated long and hard to give us that Declaration, and all that independence-building must've worked up quite a patriotic sweat. We think they had the right to "declare" some R&R afterward. Of course, we're not sure how they actually recuperated after the hard work was done, but whenever we need an escape, we head to one of these gorgeous beaches.

How many of these white-sand beaches have you visited?


Saint george island state park1. St. George Island State Park, Florida

July is a great month to visit this 28-mile-long island; a low of 72 degrees perfectly complements a swim in the clear gulf waters. The park offers nine miles of award-winning beaches, with four miles accessible only by foot or by permitted vehicles. Can't make it this month? The park holds its annual coastal clean-up in September. After all, the only thing better than enjoying this beach is doing your part to make sure that others can, too.


Continue reading "5 Dazzling White-Sand Beaches in the U.S." »


5 Spectacular Red Rock Formations in the U.S.

Red rock state park Arizona

There are many great things about the United States, but we're pretty partial to the country's natural wonders. The peaks, valleys, rivers, shores, forests, swamps, deserts, and plains are worth enjoying, exploring, and protecting

Last week, we learned that some of the planet's light displays can be better than fireworks.

Our 4th of July celebration continues this week with highlights from our favorite red, white, and blue outdoor sights. 

How many of these red rock formations have you seen?


Arches national park-delicate arch1. Arches National Park, Utah

Peer through one of the 2,000 natural stone arches at this park, and you'll see traces of the same desert snapshots as those seen by hunter/gatherers who migrated to the area nearly 10,000 years ago. The park's most well-known formation, the Delicate Arch, is the same one featured on Utah state license plates. Located five miles north of Moab, the park covers over 75,000 acres in a "high desert" environment. Bring your water, but also bring an extra jacket; the temperatures here can swing nearly 50 degrees in a single day.

Continue reading "5 Spectacular Red Rock Formations in the U.S." »

July's Observing Highlights: Jupiter in the Morning, Venus at Night

July 2013 MoonVenusM44Beehive091212_ChumackHRweb

That bright light skimming the western horizon in July is Venus, a planetary floodlight shining at magnitude -3.9. The closest planet to Earth is a fat gibbous seen through binoculars but will brighten over the coming months even as its phase shrinks because it draws nearer to us in its orbit. It won't reach its peak brightness of -4.9 until December, however.

Two observing challenges in early July include Venus in the Beehive Cluster on July 3 and the moon below Venus on July 9. Both events occur so close after sunset that the remnant light will wash out most of the cluster's stars and the moon’s thin crescent.

By July 10, the slightly larger crescent moon will be easier to spy and Venus will be to the upper right, with the star Regulus to the upper left. At magnitude 1.3, Regulus is the brightest star in Leo the Lion and is found at the bottom of the constellation’s backward question mark shape. On July 11, Regulus is to the upper right of the moon.

Continue reading "July's Observing Highlights: Jupiter in the Morning, Venus at Night" »

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2009 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.