Dark Sky Week, Lyrid meteor shower – get outside!

April 23, 2014

From the Arches National Park Facebook page:  photo of Pine Tree Arch by Andy Porter)

From the Arches National Park Facebook page: photo of Pine Tree Arch and meteoroid by Andy Porter)

A few minutes before 9:00 p.m. Central on Tuesday, I saw a sizable fireball falling north to south, appearing from my vantage on the top of Cedar Hill to be over south Grand Prairie, Texas.  Best meteoroid I’ve seen for a while.

Part of the Lyrid Meteor Shower, perhaps?  The Lyrids coincide with Dark Sky Week this year.  Dark Sky Week’s egalitarian origins should inspire all of us to go outside and look up, no?  The celebration was invented by a high school student, Jennifer Barlow, in 2003.

I want people to be able to see the wonder of the night sky without the effects of light pollution. The universe is our view into our past and our vision into the future . . . I want to help preserve its wonder.” – Jennifer Barlow

The International Dark Sky Association promotes activities worldwide to encourage star-gazing and sky-watching.

Go out tonight, and look up!

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Delicate sunset in Utah

March 21, 2014

From the U.S. Department of Interior:  This stunning photo of dusk @ArchesNPS by Jonathan Backin is the perfect way to end the week. #utah #nature pic.twitter.com/5bIanEG8sZ

From the U.S. Department of Interior: This stunning photo of dusk @ArchesNPS by Jonathan Backin is the perfect way to end the week. #utah #nature pic.twitter.com/5bIanEG8sZ

Delicate Arch, with a dusting of snow, as the sun sets.

A great reason to live in Moab, Utah, or visit there.


Snow falling on yucca on White Sands

March 18, 2014

Another great shot from America’s public lands:

One of the world'a great natural wonders - the glistening white sands @WhiteSands_NPS. #NewMexico pic.twitter.com/dbzPpIfSRW

Department of Interior Great American Outdoors Tumblr caption: One of the world’a great natural wonders – the glistening white sands @WhiteSands_NPS. #NewMexico pic.twitter.com/dbzPpIfSRW

One of the problems of touring places like White Sands National Monument is that most tourists arrive mid-day; most spectacular views are probably close to sunrise or sunset, when the sky adds colors other than “bright” to the scene.

Like No Place Else on Earth

Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here.

Yes, the same White Sands where the Trinity Project first triggered an atomic weapon, in 1945 — but the blast site is actually about 100 miles north of the National Monument on the military’s White Sands Missile Range. Historical reasons to visit, as well as nature and beauty reasons.

I assume that’s some sort of yucca in the photo; can you tell more specifically?

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π Day tribute from Arches National Park

March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

Arches National Park Happy Pi Day! “PsyPhi” by Pete Apicella, 2010 Community Artist in the Parks (kh)

Hey, I wonder when Fibonacci’s birthday falls. π


Sunrise on the Shenandoah Mountains

March 11, 2014

This is a hopeful picture.

US Dept of Interior Tweet:  Beautiful #sunrise over @ShenandoahNPS last weekend. #Virginia #travel #nature pic.twitter.com/T2sEgczGsz

US Dept of Interior Tweet: Beautiful #sunrise over @ShenandoahNPS last weekend. #Virginia #travel #nature pic.twitter.com/T2sEgczGsz

Probably taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  At the bottom of the photo, note the stone wall, probably built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Franklin Roosevelt administration, and still contributing to America’s beauty and economy 80 years later.

I can imagine driving along, catching a beautiful sunrise, but not being at a point to stop to photograph it.  Driving farther along, the photographer found a safe place to stop, but the sunrise itself was gone by 15 minutes.  With the aid of a young tree, however, the photographer can recapture that moment of the Sun’s peeking over the horizon, without special effects.  Nice thought for the shot.


Sunset over Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (more ways than one?)

March 4, 2014

Nice photo from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Sunset over Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.  Photo: Austin Leih (www.sharetheexperience.org)

Caption from the Tumblr of the Department of Interior: Sunset over Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Photo: Austin Leih (www.sharetheexperience.org)

Beautiful place, nice photographic capture.

Then I look, and I see a lot of necrotic tree tops.  Acid Rain?  Warming?  Pine borers or some other insect?

Sometimes, Mark Twain’s lament is right.  Sometimes you know too much to just sit back in awe.  Feynman was right, too.

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Happy 142nd birthday, Yellowstone National Park!

March 1, 2014

142 years ago today, @YellowstoneNPS became America's first national park. RT to wish them a very happy birthday! pic.twitter.com/drka6iq0Tc

Tweet from the Department of Interior: 142 years ago today, @YellowstoneNPS became America’s first national park. RT to wish them a very happy birthday! pic.twitter.com/drka6iq0Tc

Ken Burns called the National Parks probably the best idea America has had.

Certainly a great idea — really born on this day, 142 years ago, with the designation of Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone NP contains the world’s largest collection of geysers. It is the heart of the largest, nearly-intact temperate zone ecosystem on Earth as well, contained in 3,468 square miles (8,983 km²), a laboratory and playground for geologists, geographers, botanists, zoologists, and almost anyone else who loves the nature and the wild.

Only 142 years old?  In the U.S., we have more than 300 units in the National Park System, now, including National Historic Places as well as the best of the wild.  Around the world, how much land has been saved, for the benefit of humanity, by this idea?  Not enough.

What’s your favorite memory of Yellowstone? What’s your favorite feature?

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Great Fountain Geyser in Yellowstone, the first U.S. national park, erupts every 9 to 15 hours, shooting water up to 220 feet high.  Photograph by Michael Melford

From National Geographic: Great Fountain Geyser in Yellowstone, the first U.S. national park, erupts every 9 to 15 hours, shooting water up to 220 feet high. Photograph by Michael Melford


Ready for his close-up, on the Anhinga Trail

February 27, 2014

Department of Interior caption:  Everglades National Park --   This Alligator decided he wanted to stand out from all the others along the Anhinga Trail! (SD)

Department of Interior caption: Everglades National Park — This Alligator decided he wanted to stand out from all the others along the Anhinga Trail! (SD)


When the Moon hits your eye, in Arches NP

February 12, 2014

Photo by Lynn Sessions;

Photo by Lynn Sessions; “THE EYE OF THE #MOON: North Window arch at Arches National Park in #Utah. #NatGeo pic.twitter.com/XwHfdWK5Ft

It’s just a click of the shutter?  Ha!

I’m assuming not a lot of post-photo processing on this. Lynn Sessions had to figure out when the Moon would be in the North Window Arch, calculate exposure, and shoot off enough of them to get a decent shot before the Moon moved.  I suspect the rocks were “painted” with a flashlight during the exposure.

(Haven’t yet found the technical details of the shot. But I did find this about the photographer:
I’m a frustrated amateur photographer who is trying to visit every corner in Utah as well as hike/photograph every canyon in southern Utah. More at http://www.DreamBreeze.com )

Patience, planning, creativity — then just push the button.

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Sundown on the trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, #2

February 6, 2014

Hiking Bryce Canyon at sundown, one may see rocks in a new way, spotlighted from 93 million miles away.  Photo from 2008, by Ed Darrell

Hiking Bryce Canyon at sundown, one may see rocks in a new way, spotlighted from 93 million miles away. Photo from 2008, by Ed Darrell


Sundown on a trail in Bryce Canyon

February 5, 2014

Sundown shadows of hoodoos on pinnacles, Bryce Canyon National Park, 2008. Photo by Ed Darrell

Sundown shadows of hoodoos on pinnacles, Bryce Canyon National Park, 2008. Photo by Ed Darrell


Reflections in a window on the wild

January 29, 2014

From the U.S. Department of Interior: Really cool reflection photo from America's largest national park: @WrangellStENPS in #Alaska. pic.twitter.com/WHUYkgJNTH

From the U.S. Department of Interior: Really cool reflection photo from America’s largest national park: @WrangellStENPS in #Alaska. pic.twitter.com/WHUYkgJNTH

Wrangell-St. Elias is our largest National Park? At 20,587 square miles, it’s about 80% as large as West Virginia, and larger than nine other states.

Just the facts:

Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a United States national park and national preserve managed by the National Park Service in south central Alaska. The park and preserve was established in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.[3] This protected area is included in an International Biosphere Reserve and is part of the Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park and preserve form the largest area managed by the National Park Service in the United States by area with a total of 13,175,799 acres (20,587.19 sq mi; 53,320.57 km2). The park includes a large portion of the Saint Elias Mountains, which include most of the highest peaks in the United States and Canada, yet are within 10 miles (16 km) of tidewater, one of the highest reliefs in the world. Wrangell-St. Elias borders on Canada’s Kluane National Park and Reserve to the east and approaches the U.S. Glacier Bay National Park to the south. The chief distinction between park and preserve lands is that sport hunting is prohibited in the park and permitted in the preserve. In addition, 9,078,675 acres (3,674,009 ha) of the park are designated as the largest single wilderness in the United States.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument was initially designated on December 1, 1978 by President Jimmy Carter using the Antiquities Act, pending final legislation to resolve the allotment of public lands in Alaska. Establishment as a national park and preserve followed the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980. The park, which is bigger than the nation of Switzerland, has long, extremely cold winters and a short summer season. It supports a variety of large mammals in an environment defined by relative land elevation. Plate tectonics are responsible for the uplift of the mountain ranges that cross the park. The park’s extreme high point is Mount St. Elias at 18,008 feet (5,489 m), the second tallest mountain in both the United States and Canada. The park has been shaped by the competing forces of volcanism and glaciation. Mount Wrangell is an active volcano, one of several volcanoes in the western Wrangell Mountains. In the St. Elias Range Mount Churchill has erupted explosively within the past 2000 years. The park’s glacial features include Malaspina Glacier, the largest piedmont glacier in North America, Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska, and Nabesna Glacier, the world’s longest valley glacier. The Bagley Icefield covers much of the park’s interior, which includes 60% of the permanently ice-covered terrain in Alaska. At the center of the park, the boomtown of Kennecott exploited one of the world’s richest deposits of copper from 1903 to 1938, exposed by and in part incorporated into Kennicott Glacier. The mine buildings and mills, now abandoned, compose a National Historic Landmark district.

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NASA photo of the Moon, and Lincoln Memorial

January 21, 2014

This one NOT taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, though I suspect a telephoto lens was involved.

“An amazing photo of a full moon over the Lincoln Memorial.” Photo: NASA

Another photo from the Department of Interior’s Great American Outdoors Tumblr site.

It’s a rising Moon, with the photo taken from the west side of the Lincoln Memorial, perhaps from the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  The Lincoln Memorial is now part of the National Park Service’s portfolio of properties around our national capital.

Update: Jude Crook points out in comments (below) that this was a NASA Photo of the Day, originally; two federal agencies cooperating in the interest of photographic excellence . . .

Super Perigee Moon

The full moon is seen as it rises near the Lincoln Memorial, Saturday, March 19, 2011, in Washington. The full moon tonight is called a super perigee moon since it is at its closest to Earth in 2011. The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March 1993.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


Joshua Tree National Park at night

January 19, 2014

A long exposure, you can tell by the airplane streaks near the horizon.  Walking that fine photography edge of long enough to get the exposure, but short enough not to distort the stars too much.

Long exposure of a Joshua tree, in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo: Sarah Chah (www.sharetheexperience.org)

Long exposure of a Joshua tree, in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo: Sarah Chah (www.sharetheexperience.org)

Captioned at America’s Great Outdoors Tumblr, by the U.S. Department of Interior:

Viewed from the road, this desert park only hints at its vitality. Closer examination reveals a fascinating variety of plants and animals that make their home in this land shaped by strong winds, unpredictable torrents of rain, and climatic extremes. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the attraction of this place. Come see Joshua Tree National Park for yourself!

Photo: Sarah Chah (www.sharetheexperience.org)


Grizzly on the Snake, in the Tetons

January 15, 2014

A Grizzly Bear crossing the Snake River at sunrise in the Grand Teton National Park.   Photo: Donald Higgs (www.sharetheexperience.org)

A Grizzly Bear crossing the Snake River at sunrise in the Grand Teton National Park. Photo: Donald Higgs (www.sharetheexperience.org)

From the U.S. Department of Interior’s Great American Outdoors Tumblr:

A Grizzly Bear crossing the Snake River at sunrise in the Grand Teton National Park.
Photo: Donald Higgs (www.sharetheexperience.org)

I was born on the Snake River, farther south and west, in Burley, Idaho.  It’s a grand river, not so much in the water it moves as the way it moves through the landscape and becomes a part of grander parts of the American west.  Kathryn and I honeymooned in Yellowstone, and stayed in Grand Teton on the way out.

There is nothing grander on Earth than a sunrise in the Tetons.  Do you think a grizzly appreciates that?

Yeah, gotta get back there.


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