The red rock country of Utah has been on my list for a long time now, since my visit to Sedona, AZ, a couple of years ago. We visited it over the Thanksgiving weekend (November end) and the weather was a bit chilly at night but we had perfect 40’s during the day; had we timed our trip a little earlier, it might have been too hot for outdoor activities. Utah’s sister state, Colorado, has icy roads by this time of year. Utah encourages RV vacations; just rent out a motor home, and live and cook in the National parks for a real ‘nomad’ experience. But for us poor graduate students, we had to be content with coming back to boring hotel rooms every night.
We wanted to explore a couple of National parks in Utah – Capitol Reef and Arches. Both of them have many scenic vistas to splurge your retinas with. The sun-drenched red rocks made for some spectacular photos, here, during sunrise and sunset. In Capitol Reef, we aimed to hike the cottonwood wash; we started on foot only to realize that we were not on the correct one. In retrospect, the starting points of the various trails were not too clear driving from highway 24. Many of the hiking trails here are along the slot canyons – narrow paths with towering red cliffs on either side – and you are “thermostated” naturally, just walking through them.
Mountain biking in Arches National Park is fun for everyone on downhill runs; the rest of the trail was a lot of puffing and panting for a few of us. Certainly not a sport for the faint-hearted! Nevertheless, the trails take you to the heart of the canyon backcountry where it could easily qualify for Martian terrain. The easy loop (Lazy – EZ) has some dirt allowing for grip but once on the rock (Bar-B) learn to trust your bike. We were out of the park at sundown and biked our way on paved roads back to the city. Shuttle services are available for transporting men and bikes but we opted to take it only to enter the park in the morning. It was a good decision, on hindsight, because the way back was simply cruising downhill on the old 191 highway back to Moab. Though refreshing, the sight of Poison Spider (our bike rental shop) was a huge relief at the end of strenuous day. And I love their free water bottles! Pile up on sunscreen and plenty of fluids and invest in a pair of padded shorts (Ouch!) before entering the park.
Apart from adventure activities, spending half a day along the park road can be worthwhile too. Many viewpoints including and of the windows section, turret arch and balanced rock are a short stretch away from the main road.
Torrey is a nice small town to stay in, if you want to explore Capitol Reef National Park. We landed on Thanksgiving Day and everything was closed except for one Rim Rock Restaurant run by a solitary guy who was scrambling between waiting the tables and cooking. Pizzas were a safe bet on the menu and they turned out well. Moab, close to Arches and Canyon Lands, is an awesome city to hang out and stay in. If I had had more time in Moab, I would have loved to rent a Hummer and drive inside the park.
In my opinion, the four landlocked states – Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico – offer more genuine American experiences than the coastal cities of New York and Los Angeles. Long stretches of verdant countryside, crumpled snow-clad rocky mountains, boiling sulphur springs, a rich variety of wildlife, grand canyons and gorges, the snaky swift Colorado river… the list is long. Yet, rarely have I seen them on the itinerary of a standard tourist. Truly sad!
Swetha Sivaswamy is pursuing her doctoral degree in Atlanta, GA. When she is not in the lab, she likes to cook and travel. She has traveled extensively within the United States and India, although she finds that her list of places to go to never seems to shorten.
Leonids Meteor Shower: Astronomy’s Spectacular Display or Disappointment?
Leonids: a renowned meteor shower in astronomy, but this year’s display may disappoint.
The Leonid meteor shower has long been renowned for its spectacular displays, etching its name in the annals of astronomy. While the shower is set to reach its peak on Saturday morning, expectations for this year’s event should be tempered. The Leonids have a rich history of meteor storms, with unforgettable shows observed in 1799, 1833, and 1966 when tens of thousands of meteors streaked across the sky every hour. More recent displays in 1999, 2001, and 2002 still impressed, though with fewer meteors per hour.
However, it is essential to dispel any notion that this year’s Leonids will rival the legendary shows of the past. Regrettably, many were led to believe that the same level of celestial fireworks could be expected annually. The truth is that the 2023 Leonids are likely to be underwhelming, with weak activity and prolonged periods without visible meteors.
So, while hopes may be high for a memorable meteor shower this weekend, it’s important to manage expectations and appreciate the natural fluctuations that make each celestial event unique. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonids
The Northern Taurids Meteor Shower: A Celestial Spectacle Amidst Light Pollution
Experience the mesmerizing Northern Taurids meteor shower at its peak, braving light pollution by venturing to a remote location for optimal stargazing.
On the night of November 12-13, 2023, skygazers and astronomy enthusiasts will be treated to the peak activity of the Northern Taurids meteor shower. While this shower typically produces around 5 meteors per hour, its splendor can be hindered by the ubiquitous issue of light pollution. Nevertheless, this year’s shower brings a glimmer of hope as it coincides with a new moon, ensuring a dark sky free from lunar interference. For those residing in areas plagued by artificial light pollution, venturing to a remote location will offer the best chance to fully experience the beauty of this cosmic display.
Meteors: Fleeting Slivers of Cosmic Wonder
Meteors, often referred to as “shooting stars,” are mesmerizing phenomena that captivate our imagination. These celestial wonders are nothing more than minuscule fragments of cosmic debris, typically smaller than a grain of sand, hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere at astonishing speeds. Upon entry, they undergo a fiery demise, creating a momentary burst of light that illuminates the night sky.
The Origins of Meteor Showers
Contrary to popular belief, meteors are not random occurrences but rather part of a larger celestial dance. Most meteoroids, the term for meteors before they enter Earth’s atmosphere, originate from comets. When our planet crosses the path of a comet’s former trajectory, it encounters a cloud of residual debris. These encounters give rise to what we know as meteor showers. The name of a meteor shower is often derived from the direction in which the stream of debris appears to radiate, such as the Perseids originating from the constellation Perseus.
The Northern Taurids Meteor Shower: A Stellar Showcase
The Northern Taurids meteor shower takes its name from the constellation Taurus, as it appears to emanate from that region of the night sky. While this shower is not as famous as its counterparts like the Perseids or Geminids, it possesses its own allure. Known for producing fireballs—bright meteors that leave a long-lasting trail—the Northern Taurids offer a breathtaking spectacle for those fortunate enough to witness them.
Challenges of Light Pollution
Unfortunately, the prevalence of light pollution poses a significant obstacle to fully enjoying meteor showers. Artificial lights from urban areas can wash out the natural darkness of the night sky, obscuring the fainter meteors and diminishing the overall experience. This issue is further compounded by the Moon’s luminosity during its various phases. However, with the arrival of a new moon coinciding with the peak of the Northern Taurids, the absence of moonlight provides a unique opportunity for an unobstructed view of the meteor shower.
Escaping to Remote Darkness
If you find yourself residing in an area plagued by high levels of light pollution, the Northern Taurids meteor shower presents an ideal occasion to escape to a more remote location. By traveling away from urban centers and seeking out areas with minimal light pollution, you can immerse yourself in the true majesty of the night sky. Remote locations offer the chance to witness the full brilliance of the meteor shower, with its radiant fireballs streaking across the heavens.
The Northern Taurids meteor shower offers us a chance to witness the celestial symphony of cosmic debris colliding with our atmosphere. While light pollution threatens to dampen this celestial show, the absence of moonlight during this year’s event provides a glimmer of hope. By venturing to remote areas, we can escape the clutches of artificial illumination and embrace the awe-inspiring wonder of meteors igniting the night sky. So mark your calendars, prepare your stargazing gear, and let the Northern Taurids meteor shower take you on a journey through the wonders of our universe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurids
Spot the Station: NASA’s App Makes Stargazing the International Space Station a Breeze!
“Discover the wonders of space with NASA’s Spot the Station app, making stargazing and spotting the International Space Station easier than ever!”
Attention, stargazers, and space enthusiasts! Get ready to embark on an out-of-this-world adventure with NASA’s brand-new mobile app, Spot the Station. This app is your ticket to spotting the International Space Station as it gracefully glides across the night sky, bringing the marvels of space closer to home.
With Spot the Station, available for download on iOS and Android, NASA is taking space exploration to a whole new level. This app goes beyond the agency’s website, offering an augmented reality interface that guides you to the exact location of the space station. Whether you’re on the other side of the globe or just around the corner, the app’s built-in compass ensures that you won’t miss a single sighting opportunity.
But wait, there’s more! Spot the Station lets you capture and share real-time pictures and videos of your space station encounters, making it a truly unforgettable experience. Plus, you can receive mobile notifications about upcoming viewing opportunities based on your precise location. It’s like having your very own personal space guide in your pocket!
Developed by NASA’s International Space Station Program and the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation, this app is a testament to the agency’s commitment to public engagement. Best of all, the app’s code is open source, allowing you to explore and modify it for your own space-related projects.
As we approach the 25th anniversary of International Space Station operations, let’s celebrate the scientific achievements and technological advancements that this incredible orbital complex has brought us. Discover more about the space station, its research, and the extraordinary crew behind it by visiting NASA’s official website.
So, grab your smartphones and prepare to be mesmerized by the wonders of the cosmos. With Spot the Station, NASA has made stargazing an awe-inspiring adventure for everyone. Happy space spotting!
Learn more about the space station, its research, and crew, at:
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