September 21, 2014

Week 17: Crossing the Cascades

Trotting across Long Beach…

(All photos by author).

Coming to the U.S. Northwest was strangely like coming home.

The past week of our travels saw us slow down a bit, as we crossed from the central part of Washington to its Pacific coast. You could almost smell the flannel in the air as we journeyed to the Mecca that is all things Grunge. [Read more...]

Week 16: Into Washington State

A waxing gibbous moon rises over the fields at Cherrywood Vineyards.

Think Washington is exclusively rainy skies, overpriced coffee and grunge rock? Think again…

Well, this past week we’ve wrapped up our Idaho adventures after a brief journey eastward to Wallace and the Center of the Universe and crossed the Evergreen State.  And while Seattle gets all of the press, we can vouch for the fact that approaching the state from the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains can give you a whole new perspective. [Read more...]

Week 15: Shooting the Rapids and More in Northern Idaho

Running the Payette River…

(all photos by author).

“Get set to get wet” should’ve been our mantra over the past week, as we journeyed north of Boise into the Idaho panhandle. Of course, we always thought of the northern stem of the state as more of a chimney, but hey, if you think of a pot hanging from a rack on its side… [Read more...]

Week 14: Dunes, Craters and Dark Skies

A ‘heiligenschein selfie’ at craters of the Moon, Idaho.

(All photos by author)

Think you know Idaho? If you’re like us, up until about a week ago, you had visions of Idaho as the “other” potato growing state. But this past week has taught us otherwise, as the state hosts mountains, deserts, lava fields, and almost every other conceivable type of terrain… OK, we haven’t found the ‘jungles of Idaho’ yet! [Read more...]

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 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 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...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Eclipse-Rise over KSC

Eclipse-Rise+VAB. (Photo by author).

Yesterday, we told the tale of our adventures in eclipse-chasing along the Florida Space Coast. The morning of Sunday, November 3rd 2013 found us on the Parrish Park causeway outside of Titusville, Florida shooting a frame of the eclipse every few seconds. We were fortunate that we had only a low cloud deck from the front that had passed through the day before, which provided us with just enough lingering clouds to be photogenic.   [Read more...]

November 2013-Life in the Astroblogosphere: Chasing the Saros

Eclipse-Sign! (Photos by Author).

It started with a tweet.

Towards the end of 2012, our thoughts turned, as they always do in the month of December, toward the top 100 astronomical events of the coming year. Eclipses always make this compilation, and we duly noted that totality for 2013 would only occur during the brief hybrid eclipse of Sunday, November 3rd. [Read more...]

March 2013 Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Living the NASASocial Experience.

Smartphones in Action!

(All photos by author.)

Ah, the romantic life of a free-lance science writer. Writing offers you the freedom to set your own hours and wake up slowly when you feel like it; it also earns one the right to “sing for their supper” and starve feral and in the wild, often on their very own time table. But along with the triumphs and tragedies that go with modern day writing online, you also tend to miss human interaction and that convergence of like-minded souls. [Read more...]

Life in the Astro-BlogoSphere; Slight Return.

Have scope, will observe! (Photo by Author).

Nothing in this universe is permanent. Stars are born, happily fusing hydrogen for the majority of their Main Sequence lives, only to swell into bloated Red Giants and perhaps engulfing the occasional civilization orbiting them. It’s sobering to think that billions of years from now, the only evidence to say “Humanity too was Here” might be a few derelict spacecraft orbiting the Milky Way galaxy and broadcasts of Love Boat & Joanie Loves Chachi stretched to absurdly long wavelengths… [Read more...]

Addendum: Further Asteroid Occultation Highlights for 2013.

The January 26th path of the 106 Dione

occultation over the US SE.

(Created by the author using Google Earth).

You asked, and we answered. No sooner than our “Astronomy Top 100” hit the cyber-doorstep than we received “what about event X?” from several astute readers and lovers of the cosmos.  We love the feedback. That what makes this site tick and makes every year’s list of must-see events ever more weird and wonderful, just like the cosmos itself. [Read more...]

Week 6: Homeward Bound.

Sights near & far!

(All photos by Author).

Home. As Mad Max might say, “wherever you go, well, there you are,” but in the end, it’s great to come back into your own domain. Well, at least until you look at the pile of mail and backed up writing projects (such as finishing this six week article) that lies ahead. But just as Batman has his Batcave and Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, we too have Astroguyz HQ, wherever on this Big Blue Marble it might currently be located. The last week of 2012 saw us make the pilgrimage from South Carolina across Georgia and back into the great state of Florida. [Read more...]

Week 5: Down the (Future) Path of Totality.

The author & friends at the DoubleTree Hotel in

downtown Charleston, South Carolina!

(All pics by author).

It’s never too early to start planning, especially when it comes to solar eclipses. Week five of our southeastern sojourn saw us travel down the same path that the 2017 total solar eclipse will take over the Carolinas. We left the solitude and dark skies of the Appalachians as chronicled in Week 4 of the great American Road trip and headed back into civilization… and what a welcome it was!

[Read more...]

Review: The Princeton Tec Red-Light.

An indispensable piece of astronomical gear!

We always find astronomy in unexpected places. Recently, a new review product came to our attention while reading No Easy Day, an account of the Navy SEAL/DEVGRU raid that took out Osama bin Laden. The May 2nd, 2011 raid was timed to coincide with the darkness afforded by a New Moon (another astronomical tie-in), but it was a piece of SEAL gear and its cross-over potential for astronomy that caught our attention.

[Read more...]

Week 4-The Quest for Dark Skies: Into the Appalachians.

A very slender Moon…

(All photos by Author).

The mountains always beckon. In the end, all astronomers must heed the call of dark, pristine skies and head into the foothills beyond the suburban lowlands in search of the universe only hinted at from our backyards. This past week we did just that in our week four installment of the great American Road Trip as we explored the U.S. Southeast and beyond. And, hey, we arrived under pristine skies just in time for this year’s Geminid meteor shower!

One Geminid of MANY seen!

Sunday saw a breakfast that couldn’t be beat at the Nosedive Bar and our departure from Greenville, South Carolina. As reported in week three of our 4-state spanning sojourn, we thoroughly enjoyed this town, a hip Portlandia-esque oasis in the South.

An armillary sphere-spotting at the Red Horse Inn!

A short drive saw us posed to hop across the North Carolina border in Landrum, South Carolina. Actually, we crisscrossed the border twice into “The North,” hitting the two outstanding wineries of Green Creek & the remarkable Overmountain Vineyards. We stayed at the charming Red Horse Inn in Landrum, where we consumed our days’ booty (a bottle of wine) under the stars in the hot tub adjoining our cabin. The Red Horse Inn would make an excellent star-gazing destination, as a short trip down the road finds you in total darkness away from the cottage lights… this would also make a fine group astronomy expedition area, especially as a good jumping off point for the graze line of the August 2017 total solar eclipse passing over the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area just to the west.

Mmmm… beer… line ‘em up!

For our next adventure we headed northward into Asheville, North Carolina. If Greenville is the Portland (Oregon) of the South, Asheville is its Seattle, set long before Grunge became a name brand. We stayed at the enormous Grove Park Inn, a massive hotel complex perched just outside the city. Asheville itself is a wonderful, rambling city sprawling over dozens of foothills that put us in mind of Amman, Jordan, repleate with art spaces and breweries instead of mosques and sheesha bars. The Arts District alone was fascinating, as was the encaustic work of Constance Williams. Hey, we’d never even heard of encaustic in our High School Art I & II days! The Moog factory was also a fascinating stop. Based in Asheville, Moog has been the proud manufacturer of keyboards and synthesizers since 1978. And hey, who knew that they still make the theremin? Sheldon would be glad know… check out the action on Moog’s YouTube and Twitter feeds!

At Moog, where the theremin still reigns!

After hitting the local Asheville  Brewing Company and a fine Tapas meal at Cúrate, it was off to Mars Hill, North Carolina and the Scenic Wolf Resort for a night of dark sky observing. Located at about 4,000 feet elevation in the shadow of Mount Mitchell (the highest peak in the Appalachians) our cabin afforded a fine view of the 2012 Geminid meteors. And this was none too soon, as BBC 5 Live called us up that very night for a Skype interview! With a limiting magnitude of +5.5, I’d say that the Geminids put on one of the best displays in recent memory, with dozen several meteors seen gracing the sky before midnite!

The skies over Mars Hill, North Carolina.

But alas, we had to depart the beloved darkness for light-polluted climes all too soon. Having reached the northernmost apex of our journey, our ingress into society saw a brief stop in exotic Lincolnton, North Carolina… more to come next week!