August 22, 2014

Week 13: Crossing the Continental Divide

The Wyoming Infrared Observatory atop Mt. Jelm.

All photos by the author.

Ever wonder where east meets west, geographically speaking?

This past week saw us hitting the road once again and crossing the great state of Wyoming, nicking Montana for a couple nights, and then entering the state of Idaho for the first time.

An old model-T car at the Carbon County Museum.

But first, we spent a night in Rawlins, Wyomingin pursuit of a little historical eclipse research. Edison made his way to the dusty frontier town in 1878 to test his new fangled tasimeter on the corona of the Sun, and the eclipse was also famously known as the planet Vulcan’s Last Stand. The Carbon County Museum has an exhibit dedicated to Edison, and a curious mural remains on the side of the Keg Saloon on main street that commemorates America’s most famous inventor as well.

Edison’s mural in downtown Rawlins, Wyoming.

We also had a chance to visit the Wyoming Infrared Observatory on Mount Jelm outside of Laramie. One of the first large telescopes dedicated to infrared astronomy built in the late 1970’s, WIFO’s 2.3 metre classical Cassegrain telescope is now mostly devoted to visual observations. Research is still being carried out from the observatory, and the University of Wyoming welcomes daytime visitors by appointment. And they very occasionally hook up an eyepiece to the ‘scope for general night time viewing sessions!

Reaching the new highs along the path of Interstate route 80.

Next, our adventures saw us cross the Continental Divide Basin and the heart of Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park. Hey, we had to cross off an eruption of Old Faithful from our life list, and it was worth the one and a half hour wait. (That “it erupts exactly every hour, on the hour,” thing they told you in elementary school is a myth).

Entrance to the park was spectacular as the colorful semi-desert terrain of central Wyoming gave way to the Grand Tetons. Our America the Beautiful annual pass has already paid for itself many times over, and we found that the Park Gate Lodges Explorer cabins in West Yellowstone Montana just outside the west entrance of the park were a great spot to relax and explore from.

Ziplining with helmet cam.

We made a day of checking out the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and running the ropes at Yellowstone Aerial Adventures:

And be sure to check out the menu at the Branch Restaurant and Bar. Located on the site of the old train station, their cauliflower steak and beet salad make for a total veggie-fest!

Headed into Idaho, we were able to get another stunning view of the Grand Tetons from the other side. We were pleasantly surprised by the small town of Driggs, Idaho, complete with its new Geotourism Center, Thai (and Korean!) restaurants, and free downtown wifi. And hey, Driggs is also right along the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse

The grandeur of the Grand Tetons!

Our current base of operations is the Sleep Inn in Idaho Falls. We always thought that the name “Sleep Inn” was a curious double entendre, but hey, we’re swiftly becoming a fan of the chain, as they offer uber-fast wifi and a splendid soup and salad supper…

What’s not to love?

Week 12: A Cheyenne Respite

Buffalo roam(ing)… All photos by the author.

Not all days on the road are created the same. We discussed this phenomena early on in our current sabbatical, of how movement days versus exploration days versus maintenance days stack up. [Read more...]

Week 11: High Plains Drifting in Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Yellowstone Supercomputer…

All photos by the author.

Quick, what’s the highest U.S. state capital? We’re talking, of course, in terms of altitude that is… If you’re like me, you would’ve answered “Denver” (there’s that double entendre again) at least until about a week ago. [Read more...]

Week 10: Into the Badlands

Searching for alien vistas…

(all photos by the author).

There’s a strange sort of routine that one settles into once you near the three month mark in your travels. Unlike a short trip taken over a long weekend, long term travel demands that order emerges from the chaos, if sanity is to prevail. [Read more...]

Review: The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder

A sci-fi classic!

Alt-history Steampunk has never been hotter. We recently finished up the fifth book in a brilliant science fiction series courtesy of Pyr Books.  We’re talking about The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder, out earlier this month. This is the fifth and (final?) book in the outstanding Burton and Swinburne series. We’ve chronicled our addiction to this series in the past, starting with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack up through The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon and The Secret of El Yezdi[Read more...]

Week 9: Of Nukes and Travel Nuances

Cue spaceship… it’s Devil’s Tower!

Terror is laying awake in a tent the middle of the night in a South Dakota summer thunderstorm, listening to the tree limbs crack in the distance and waiting for the “half-dollar – do they still make half dollars? – sized hail” that the weather radio promises to arrive. [Read more...]

Week 8: Of Angles and Astrophysics

The CHIPS neutrino detector in the lab.

All photos by author.

Us men are forever looking for a clandestine domain to call our own. Batman has the Batcave, Superman has his Arctic Fortress of Solitude, and supervillians seem to be forever finding secluded islands on which to build their secret lairs. And while one could argue about the psychology that underpins the drive to head to such a remote locale, said heroes and villains would have plenty of islands to choose from in our present base of operations at Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. [Read more...]

Week 7: Parks, Planetariums and More

Looking out over Lake Superior.

(All photos by author).

Well, it’s great to be up north in the summertime once again. Summer season, whether it’s in Wisconsin or our home of Northern Maine, is so drop-dead gorgeous that it can convince you to endure the depth of a long winter, one more time. Of course, it’s not that winter doesn’t have its own charms… and while the past week has seen us slow down our pace for the long Fourth of July weekend a bit, we did manage to take in some unique sites, along with a very distinctive planetarium. [Read more...]

Review: The Cosmic Cocktail by Katherine Freese

A stellar recipe!

It’s the hottest topic in modern astrophysics. What exactly is dark matter and dark energy? It is kind of amazing to think that astrophysicists do not yet completely understand just what most of the universe is made of. [Read more...]

Week 6: Into the Wilds of Wisconsin

Grand Yerkes!

Ahhh, cooler weather at last… and while the sixth week of our North American adventure has yet to see us encounter a run on clear skies, we have gotten  back out camping once again for the first time in six years. This week has seen us explore the great state of Wisconsin, from its southern Illinois hinterland across to its farmland heart. [Read more...]

Week 5: Amish, Aliens and Astronomy

Observatories, old and new at Yerkes…

All photos by author.

This past week, we ventured into the crossroads of two future eclipses.

Where will you be in 2017? Last week, we crossed paths with the upcoming total solar eclipse that will span the United States, now just over three years away. It’s not too early to start planning on where you’ll greet the Moon’s umbra now, as the residents of Hopkinsville Kentucky already know. [Read more...]

Week 4: Panning for Travel Gems

The Knoxville Sunsphere. All photos by the author.

Well, week three on the road is now in progress, and the past week has seen us span from northern Georgia to eastern Tennessee. Unfortunately, weather hasn’t been our friend thus far during the trip, and while it is indeed cooler here in the Appalachian Mountains, it hasn’t been clear much either. [Read more...]

Week 3: Going Wireless in the Woods

A properly ring’d Jupiter at the Wetherbee Planetarium in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Author.

Summer’s here and our thoughts have turned northward. Our first full week of Dark Skies 2014 has seen us traverse the great state of Florida into the wilds of western Georgia. And never fear… we’re just entering dark sky territory now.

First up was the Wyndham Orlando Resort on International Drive. Newly refurbished, the Wyndham is favorably located a short shuttle ride from Universal Studios. [Read more...]

Week 1: Riding and Writing (from the) Road

The Hubble at the new Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center.

(Photo by author).

It has begun.

Last week, we issued the preamble to all that is Dark Skies 2014. This week sees wheels a rollin’ with a quick stop over on the Florida Space Coast. A small step (for a) man, sure, and not the darkest skies, but a stop over at the Kennedy Space Center is a must for any space fan. We’ve been by the KSC both as press and as a tourist about a dozen times over the past six years, and there’s always something new to be seen. Atlantis is now up for exhibit, and we always find that the Holiday Inn in Titusville is a great jump off point for hitting the Space Center. [Read more...]

Dark Skies 2014: The Journey Begins

Astro-Lab, ready for departure…

The first single step is almost upon us…

Welcome to the brave new world of Astroguyz. Ever since we decided to “check out that blogging thing” seven years ago in May 2007, we’ve been about change.  Sure, the web has changed and we’ve evolved along with it.

This week, we’re taking that evolution a step further as we prepare to embark on an extended sabbatical across the United States, and perhaps, beyond. Starting in Florida next week on June 1st, we’ll be meandering northward in search of that most elusive and mythical beastie of all: truly dark skies. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Exotic SETI

Cepheid variable star RS Puppis. Credit: NASA/HST.

It’s arguably one of the greatest questions in modern science. Where are they? Are we truly rare as an intelligent species, or does our brand of curiosity permeate the cosmos?  We recently watched a fascinating presentation in the SETI Talks series by Tony Zee that brought up one interesting possibility, a mode of communication that might be staring us in the face right now. [Read more...]

Review: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2014

Out May 20th!

It’s out! One of the most prestigious awards in all of science fiction-dom is the annual Nebula Awards. Hey, Hollywood has the Oscars and the Grammys, and sci-fi has the Hugos and the Nebulas, as well as a scattering of other secondary awards. And every year around springtime, Pyr Books puts together an outstanding compilation of the “best of the best” as selected by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. [Read more...]

May 2014: This Month in Science Fiction

Ah, tis the month of May.

Perhaps April showers may bring May flowers, but here at Astroguyz HQ, it also marks the very precipice of science fiction movie blockbuster season. The X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man 2 are all on our must see list. Is Marvel about to rule the world? And keep an eye out for those dark horse unknowns that often jump the gate just ahead of those sure-fire bets just prior to Memorial Day weekend. And hey, next year we’ll get a third Hunger Games, an Avengers sequel and a reboot of the Star Wars franchise… can the internet survive? Will fans take a shine to a galaxy far, far away according to Abrams? In the meantime, here’s some science fiction and more hot off of the press to keep you satiated: [Read more...]