One of my big goals for being an “Astro VIP” for the Park Service this summer was to do as much public outreach as I could. Well, I can safely stand in front of that “Mission Accomplished” banner without fear of later historical revisionism. Astronomy outreach is a mixed skill set that involves simultaneously talking (which for me, with Italian genes, implies considerable flapping of the extremities) and manipulating a sensitive optical instrument so that an entire heterogenous group of 10-50, pint size to double-wide, has a chance to view whatever it is I’m talking about. It’s a bit of a trick. The upshot of this particular kind of teaching, and this should make most professional teachers jealous, is that my students for the most part (more…)
All posts tagged astronomy in parks
Posted by DougReilly on July 9, 2011
So I have arrived in Utah. Capitol Reef National Park is in south-central Utah. Though a sprawling park, it’s mostly overlooked by travelers rushing from the big letter parks of Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches. I like places that are mostly overlooked by others…it always suggests to me that there’s really something of value there.
As I took my first trip down the scenic drive, my first hike to see a natural bridge tucked onto the top of a (more…)
Posted by DougReilly on June 26, 2011
Posted by DougReilly on August 14, 2009
Page, Arizona: It’s strange to see a town planned and built in the 1950s. There’s a turn in the road where every church is lined up in a row.The next turn, motels. I saw my friend Cristina’s band “Native Country” there. They’re a Navajo country and western band. That’s right, Indians have become cowboys, buried the hatchet and wallow together in the twangy blues. It was really wild, but I don’t have the time to write about it at length. In the meanwhile, here’s a story about Rez bands in general.
Lake Powell: (1957-2019) Failed attempt at hydroelectric and tourist development by damning (sic) the Colorado River at the south end of Glen Canyon. In spite of monumental efforts to redress the damage, the canyon ecosystem is not expected to reach its pre-dam state until early in the next century.
Valley of the Gods, Utah: Valley of the Gods is BLM land, which means you can pretty much camp anywhere, although there are customary sites where people usually camp. It’s free. There’s usually nobody around. For miles. And miles. I looked out over the horizon and could see neither the glow of any nearby community’s light pollution, nor the tell-tale lights of isolated houses. I saw one campfire, far far in the distance. Much of the earth probably looked like this to people. It’s beautiful, but for an Easterner who’s never more than a stone’s throw from someone else, it’s disconcerting.
The No-Shoulder Phenomenon: Quasi-Hallucinatory State. Here’re the symptoms: An Easterner spends his life driving through forests. The horizon is always shaped like the tops of deciduous and coniferous trees, and it’s always close at hand. If there are open spaces, there are inevitably the lights of houses to circumscribe the space. In the Southwest, more often than not, the horizon is flat, jagged or mesa-shaped, and usually far away. There’re no streetlights and there are large areas where nobody lives. When one drives at night on many roads, one only sees the short bit of road ahead; the rest is the encroaching Nothing. My brain adjusts to this by manufacturing the feeling that, just outside of the cone of the headlights, there’s a forest on either side of me. I swear I can see wisps of forest shapes in the dark void. It’s very disconcerting.
Posted by DougReilly on July 28, 2009