November 27, 2014

Week 26: Of Peppers, Parks and Plutonium in Santa Fe

A first: A snow-frosted Astroguyz mobile.

(all photos by the author).

Well, we headed northward in our trek across New Mexico this week, and winter weather was there to meet us.  We knew it would happen sometime, and the gloves, hats and jackets are now out in full force.

Luckily, the town of Santa Fe, New Mexico was a friendly one and easy to get around. We based our operations out of the Courtyard Marriot, a dog-friendly establishment with apartment style accommodations. And we were happy to have decent workout accommodations, as temperatures and the wind chill for running outside approached our cutoff of 0 degrees Fahrenheit! Yes, our old cutoff was -20 deg F, but we’re hardly carrying the gear to run in that now. And it’s also worth noting that our vehicle isn’t winterized for below zero operations.

The historic downtown train depot.

Our first mission of exploration was the train park in downtown Santa Fe. A dog-friendly romp, the park features filled-in tracks laid in parallel to make an interesting set of paths through the center of town.

Santa Fe also has a rockin’ restaurant scene as well, from the outstanding Thai Vegan, to the Caffe Greco and Café Fina located in the northern foothills of town… and don’t miss the alien burger at Second Street Brewery: it’s a green pepper, bacon avocado burger that’s out of this world!

Mmmmm… alien burger…

We also made a brief afternoon journey to nearby Los Alamos and the Bradbury Science Museum. IQ averages and PhDs per capita rise sharply in these parts, and my vision of Los Alamos has always been something akin to the SyFy series Eureka, and town of the same name. The Bradbury is great place to trace the history of the Manhattan Project and the birth of the Nuclear Age. And, curiously enough, we seem to be on what we would term the “Tourist Nuke Trail” of the southern U.S., as historical sites and fascinating museums from the Atomic Era abound.

A antique “U-glass” artifact seen at the Bradbury Museum.

Back in town, don’t forget to check out Georgia O’Keeffe museum for an incredible look at the Salvador Dali of our generation.

We also had a great visit with our friend Michael Zeiler of Eclipse-maps fame. We plotted world domination as we approach the T-minus one thousand day mark from the 2017 total solar eclipse this month. Check out his gear, swag and all things eclipse-related over at the GreatAmericanEclipse.com.

The lunch counter at Cafe Fino.

From Santa Fe, it was an icy crossing to Amarillo, Texas as an early snow storm blanketed the region. I know that folks up north often wonder how a few inches of the white stuff can paralyze a city down south, and here’s how: most places fail to prep for major storms down south, as they’re fairly rare. This means less sanding of roads and snowplowing. Couple all that with drivers who have never crossed icy roads, and it’s literally a perfect storm. Still, old up north driving reflexes prevailed, and we arrived (or slid) in Amarillo safe and sound and ready for adventure as we now strike out eastward.

The cathedral in downtown Santa Fe.

More to come!

 

 

Week 25: Seeking Secrets in New Mexico

Climbing the dunes at White Sands National Monument.

(All photos by the author).

New Mexico is one of the most clandestine states in America. The first atomic bomb was detonated here at Trinity Site in 1945, and most of the drama of the Manhattan Project at the end of World War II played out here. More recently, the F-117 Stealth Fighter called Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New Mexico home before its retirement in 2008. [Read more...]

Week 18: Spanning Oregon

Taking flight at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum.

All photos by the author.

Have you been to all 50?

We checked off another U.S. state on our “life list” this past week, as we traversed the state of Oregon from north to south. It was a whirlwind trip that was perhaps one of our fastest tours of any state thus far this summer… [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...]

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...]

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...]

May 2014: Life in the Astroblogosphere: Two Ways to Observe the Universe

Astro-gear, old and new.

It was one of the biggest blessings and curses as a teenager and astronomy enthusiast growing up in Northern Maine back in the pre-internet days of the 1980’s.

An interest in astronomy – or any academic pursuit, for that matter – was largely a solitary affair, conducted mainly in a vacuum. Once I had devoured the two outdated books on astronomy or any topic of interest at the local public library, it was up to me to simply approach and learn the night sky. The Bangor Daily News ran one monthly column on astronomy by science writer Clair Wood, and the Farmer’s Almanac gave local rising and setting times for my location. [Read more...]

Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: On Vigilance and the One That Got Away

Look! There it is!

Credit-The Virtual Star Party.

Now the story can be told.

You just never know when the universe is going to dangle a discovery right in front of your eyes. We amateur astronomers often pride ourselves on being “visual athletes,” patient steely-eyed observers who let little slip by us.

But we too can fall into the trap of routine. Just such a discovery was ours to lose a few weeks ago during the weekly Virtual Star Party held every Sunday night hosted by CosmoQuest and Universe Today on Google+. [Read more...]

January 2014-Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Bizarro Astronomy

Our (Familiar?) Moon…

Photo by author

Weirdness is where you look for it. This was drove home to me while observing the Transit of Venus back in June 2012. While we strugged to grab a few brief views of the event through the pervasive cloud cover, we noted that life around us was going on pretty much as usual.

What else would we expect? Cars honked, dogs barked, kids played, all while a dim celestial event transpired just overhead, if you only knew where to look for it. [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...]

July 2013-Life in the AstroBlogosphere: Who’s Who in the AstroTwitterverse

Astrophoto-shoot take 2;

note inclusion of AstroLab!

Recently, we wrote up an article on The New Social Face of Astronomy for the August 2013 issue of Sky &Telescope. Among the many cyber-corners and crannies of ye ole Internet that we explored was the world of Twitter. Twitter is a great source of fast breaking information, tailor made for certain aspects of astronomy such as meteorite falls, satellite reentries, new comet discoveries and nova flare-ups. [Read more...]

Life in the Astro-Blogosphere May 2013: They’re Out There, Man…

Why yes, we HAVE seen the ISS!

You just never know when you’ll come face-to-face with Woo.

We recently wrote about Comet ISON on Universe Today and how conspiracy crackpots are already lining up to capitalize on the projected “Comet of the Century.” It’s really win-win for them; if the comet lives up to expectations, there’ll be lots to hype, and if it’s a fizzle, hey, NASA’s “secret mission” must’ve taken it out…

[Read more...]

April 2013: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Astronaut or Rockstar?

1st band in space? (Credit: NASA/STS-110).

What did you want to be when you grew up? Of course, this tired old saw of a question assumes that you’re already a mortgage-paying, car-pooling adult who has had those childhood dreams tempered by reality. Hey, we all know that one guy or gal in our home town that got exactly what they wished for. For example, I knew a friend in high school that spent every waking hour drawing, designing and talking about car stereo boxes… and guess what? That’s what he does to this day. (Hopefully, the whole Ipod thing didn’t ruin his grandiose business schemes). [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...]

Exploring the Roper Mountain Science Center & the Charles E. Daniel Observatory.

The Daniel Observatory open & ready for

action!

(All photos by Author except as noted).

We love telescopes, old and new. Recently, we had a chance to explore a gem of an observatory nestled in the foothills just outside of Greenville, South Carolina. As we reported in Week 3 of our journey throughout the U.S. southeast, Greenville is the heart of all that is hip in western South Carolina. Located on the outskirts of the city, the Roper Mountain Science Center and the Charles E. Daniel Observatory houses a fine piece of astronomical history. [Read more...]