Explore: August 2013

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3 posts from August 2013


September's Observing Highlights: Elusive Mercury and the Harvest Moon

September 2013 MIMIBarbSuperMoonChumack

Fall's cooler evenings arrive with a cluster of planets in the west at twilight. Venus, Mercury, and Saturn are joined by the moon early in the month. Mercury was a morning object in August but has edged into the evening sky for September.

Venus is a brilliant magnitude -4.0 and looks like a plane with its landing lights on except that it doesn’t move. By September 5, Venus is a degree and a half above the star Spica. To Venus's upper left is the Ringed Planet Saturn, and to Venus's lower right lies Mercury. Because Mercury is so low and in the fading light of sunset, it may take a while before you can spot it. On September 7, a line consisting of Saturn, Venus, Spica, and Mercury spans 40 degrees from the southwest to the west. In addition, a thin crescent moon can be found below this line. The recently set sun will make it difficult to catch all the objects, however.

On September 8, catch a pretty photo-op when the crescent moon lies two degrees to the left of Venus, with Spica almost four degrees to Venus’s lower right. The next night the moon is wide left of Saturn. Saturn and Venus have been closing in on each other and will get to within three and a half degrees on September 17. Saturn is in the constellation Libra above Venus, while Venus lies in the constellation Virgo. On the next night, September 18, the planets keep their distance but Venus crosses the border to join Saturn in Libra. Following this date the planets start to drift apart.

Continue reading "September's Observing Highlights: Elusive Mercury and the Harvest Moon" »

Vegan Hiker Breaks Pacific Crest Trail Record

Hiker Josh Garrett Breaks PCT Record

At 2,654 miles long, the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the gems of American nature and hiking. The trail runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian one, and is part of the Triple Crown of Hiking — which also includes the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails. Josh Garrett, a 30-year-old southern California native who teaches exercise physiology and coaches cross country at Santa Monica College, knows the PCT well. Earlier this month, Garrett completed his second hike of the trail, in the process shattering the world record by more than five days with a time of 59 days, 8 hours, and 14 minutes. We caught up with Garrett to discuss his newfound love of Band-Aids, how he ended up in the fetal position on the third day of his hike, and why breaking the record wasn't important to him.

How did you decide to embark on the record-breaking hike?

I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2009 and it was a great experience. Last year I had the opportunity to meet John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, and we hiked together. He was impressed by my endurance and he challenged me to go after the PCT record. He said he would personally sponsor me.

I wanted to raise money for an organization called Mercy for Animals. They send undercover workers into slaughterhouses and onto factory farms to videotape the abuse and the suffering that occurs. They are in part to thank for my turning vegan. 

Continue reading "Vegan Hiker Breaks Pacific Crest Trail Record" »


10 Unique Hummingbird Havens

green violetear feedingWith their tiny size, astounding speed, and attraction to colorful flowers, hummingbirds have always been a fascinating group of avions for the humans lucky enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of them in backyards or wild places. There are over 300 species of trochilidae, or hummingbird, many of which are endangered or endemic to small areas. While the highest population and species diversity of hummingbirds is found in the equatorial nations of South America — hummers are only native to the Americas — they can be encountered as far north as Alaska and as far south as the tip of Chile.

But where are the best places to spot these charismatic birds? We've listen ten unique locations to see hummingbirds in North and South America, including places known for their hummingbird diversity and the presence of rare or endangered species.

Continue reading "10 Unique Hummingbird Havens" »

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