Thursday, March 1, 2012

Astronomy: The March Adirondack Night Sky

Here are some objects for the unaided eye for the month of March. All of these objects, although small, should be visible without the help of binoculars or a telescope, so long as you have clear dark skies.

Light pollution is a killer for seeing these objects with your unaided eye. To find out how dark your location is, use the Google Map Overlay of light pollution. If you are in a blue, gray or black area then you should have dark enough skies. You may still be able to see some of these objects in a green location. If you aren’t in a dark sky location you may still be able to see these objects with a pair of binoculars or telescope. Snow will add more light pollution due to light reflecting off of it.

You can find help locating the night sky objects listed below by using one of the free sky charts at Skymaps.com (scroll down to Northern Hemisphere Edition and click on the PDF for March 2012). The map shows what is in the sky in March at 8 pm for early March; 7 pm for late March.

If you are not familiar with what you see in the night sky, this is a great opportunity to step outside, look up, and begin learning the constellations. The sky is beautiful and filled with many treasures just waiting for you to discover them. Once you have looked for these objects go through the list again if you have a pair of binoculars handy, the views get better!

New note: Measuring Degrees with your hands, proportionally works for people of all ages. With your arm fully extended out:
Width of your pinky finger is 1°
Width of your ring, middle, and index finger equals 5°
Width of your fist equals 10°
Width from tip to tip of index finger and pinky finger stretched out equals 15°
Width from tip to tip of your thumb and pinky finger stretched out equals 25°

Highlight for viewing with the unaided eye

March 11 – 15 – Jupiter and Venus conjunction where they will lie 3° from each other.

March 25 – Jupiter and the Moon 3° apart.

March 26 – Venus and the Moon 1.8° apart.

The Moon
March 1 – The Moon will be at first quarter.

March 8 – Full Moon. The Full Moon will pass 10° south of Mars in the constellation Leo.

March 11 – The Moon will pass 6° south of Saturn

March 14 – Last quarter Moon

March 22 – New moon, best night to get out and enjoy the darkest skies possible.

March 25 – The thin crescent Moon will pass within 3° north of Jupiter to the west after sunset.

March 26 – The thin crescent Moon will pass within 1.8° south of Venus to the west after sunset.

March 30 – The second occurrence of a first quarter Moon in the month of March.

Mercury
For the first week of March, Mercury will be at it’s prime location for viewing. Mercury will reach it’s greatest eastern elongation on March 5. For viewers in the Adirondacks Mercury will reach a height of 11° above the horizon just after sunset in the west, and will set after 30 minutes. Although low on the horizon and in the glow of sunset, at a magnitude of -0.4 it should easily be visible. After March 5, Mercury will slowly start to lower, and will pass between Earth and the Sun on March 21.


Venus
By March 4 Venus and Jupiter will be 9° apart, and by March 11 and 15 they will lie 3° from each other. During this conjunction the two planets will be 30° above the horizon to the west, and don’t set until close to 11pm. Venus will reach it’s greatest elongation on March 27. By the 31st Venus will be 3° below the star cluster Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus, which can be seen with the unaided eye.

Mars
As the sun sets take a look to the East and you will find the red planet shining as it rises above the horizon. On March 3 Mars reaches peak visibility and will lie opposite the Sun in our sky. This will be as close as Mars gets for another two years.

Jupiter
Jupiter and Venus get together by mid March for a spectacular conjunction which can be enjoyed with the unaided eye or even through a pair of 10×50 binoculars.

Saturn
Saturn rises shortly before 10pm by mid-March in the constellation Virgo. Saturn will be 6° northeast of the brightest star in Virgo, Spica. Spica will be quite dim in comparison to Saturn’s bright yellow glow.

Orion
In the south after sunset you can find the constellation of Orion. The red supergiant star Betelgeuse in the upper left of the constellation making Orion’s shoulder. Below it you will see 3 stars going from left to right creating Orion’s Belt. Below Orion’s belt you will find 3 dimmer stars perpendicular to the belt. If you look at the middle star of those 3 you may notice a slight haziness surrounding it. That haziness is referred to as a stellar nursery and is the Orion Nebula. This nebula contains a group of new stars within a dust cloud. This is where and how solar systems are born.

Taurus
Up and to the right of Orion is the constellation Taurus. A bright orange star, Aldebaran is the eye of Taurus the bull. Also within this constellation near Aldebaran is a grouping of stars that you can see with your naked eye, even in moderately light polluted areas; this cluster of stars is known as the Hyades.

Pleiades
Within the constellation of Taurus you can also find a closer grouping of stars known as the Pleiades (also known as the 7 Sisters or Subaru – Look at the logo for the Subaru vehicle, it is very similar to this cluster). Looking at it has always reminded me of a smaller version of the little dipper. In dark locations you can see anywhere from 5-7 and possibly a few more stars in this grouping. It has also been called the seven sisters and is actually a Messier object, number 45. These are very hot blue and extremely luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. This grouping of stars has quite a bit of history in mythology. It rises about 45 minutes earlier than Orion in the East.

Gemini
Up and to the left of Orion you can find the Gemini twins. The two brightest stars within this constellation are Pollux and Castor, forming the heads of the brothers.

Canis Major
Below and to the left of Orion is the constellation Canis Major – The Dog. One of the most defining features of Canis Major is the brightest star in our sky, Sirius. Sirius can be seen twinkling in the southern skies, and may even appear different colors as you look at it; from blue, to green, to white. This flickering is due to the earths atmosphere. Sirius is roughly 8.5 light-years away making it one of the closest stars to us.

Perseus
The Double Cluster, cataloged as NGC 869 and NGC 884 is a beautiful cluster that shows quite a group of stars with the unaided eye which appear faint and fuzzy.
Look for a grouping of stars around the brightest star in Perseus, Mirphak.

Ursa Major
Rising earlier and getting higher in the sky by sunset. Mizar and Alcor is a double star in the handle of the Big Dipper. Was once used as a test of good eyesight before glasses. Mizar resolves into a beautiful blue-white and greenish white binary (double star system). They are labeled on the map I linked to above.

A couple notes
I invite anyone with a camera to share their pictures of the night sky with me if you’d like them to appear on my blog, email address can also be found on my blog. Please include a location, date and time that the images were taken. Any other information is also welcome.

With the warmer weather getting near I am scouting out a location that I can set up my telescopes and share the night views with anyone that may want to join. Public property with no closing hours, and a good view of the sky in all directions in a low to moderate light polluted area is preferred. If anyone knows of a place that is welcome to this idea please either email me with information, or comment in the comments section below with information. Looking for an area preferably in Clinton County. Again my email can be found via my blog, link below.

Photos: Above, Jupiter, Venus, and thin Waxing Gibbous Moon lineup of February 23 over Plattsburgh, by Michael Rector; Below, showing the conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon on March 25, and the conjunction of Venus and the Moon on March 25 via the astronomy freeware Stellarium.

Photo Below: Venus and Jupiter conjunction via the astronomy freeware Stellarium.

Michael Rector is an amateur astronomer with his own blog, Adirondack Astronomy.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (Dec – Feb)

What follows is the late-December through February Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. Although not a comprehensive detailing of all backcountry incidents, these reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.

These incident reports are a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry and always carry a flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

The Adirondack Almanack reports current outdoor recreation and trail conditions each Thursday evening. Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1), WSLP (93.3) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

10th Adirondack Back Country Ski Fest This Weekend

Glen Plake is skiing into Keene Valley from Chamonix, France to join The Mountaineer’s 10th annual Adirondack Back Country Ski Festival on March 3rd and 4th.

The annual charity event supports the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the New York Ski Educational Foundation and allows back country ski enthusiasts a chance to demo equipment take clinics and enjoy an evening with Glen Plake on Saturday night at the Keene Central School’s “Beaver Dome” in Keene Valley at 7:30 pm.

Plake will be here compliments of Julbo, the glacier and fashion sun glass company. Other sponsors who are supporting the event and providing raffle items for Saturday night include Back Country Ski magazine, Dynafit, Primaloft, Voile-USA, Marmot, Madshus, Garmont, Scarpa, Mammut, G3, and adkbcski.com. A ski tour and Intermediate and Advanced back country ski clinics are guided by Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides of Keene Valley.

The event’s sponsors will also be providing demos for on snow testing from 10 to 2:30 on Saturday. Plake will be on hand and there will be free telemark, skinning and avalanche beacon clinics. The demo event location will be announced on the 27th.

Call The Mountaineer at 518 576 2281 or visit www.mountaineer.com for details.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Phil Brown: Don’t Bill Hikers For Rescues

Last week I interviewed Steve Mastaitis at the Adirondack Medical Center, where he was recovering from frostbite and hypothermia after spending a night curled up in a snow hole near the summit of Mount Marcy.

The story, posted on the Adirondack Explorer website, generated a lot of discussion on my blog and in hikers’ forums. A number of people criticized Mastaitis, saying he was unprepared to hike Marcy in winter, and some suggested that he and others like him should be forced to pay for their rescues. Click here to read my original post. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: East Cove, Lake George

Either this is just getting too easy, or the East Cove in Lake George is a great place to go on a Tuesday afternoon in February. You know what? The East Cove is a great place to go on a Tuesday afternoon in February! Pam had been away for two consecutive weekends, creating absences in our tavern attendance. Our Adirondack Almanack deadline looming, Pam skipped out of work ten minutes early so that we could meet at East Cove, review the bar, and still have time to write our review for the Almanack by Wednesday afternoon.

Driving along Beach Road, Kim noted the setting late afternoon sun as it cast its golden glow on distant mountain peaks surrounding Lake George. Low shadows crept across the water’s edge, rendering the choppy waves a deep Prussian blue. Pam was waiting in the East Cove parking lot, observing the signs related to Early Bird specials and Happy Hour. Happy Hour offers 1/2 priced drinks from 4:30 until 6:00 p.m. Dinner isn’t served until 5:00 p.m., but you can get into the bar at 4:30. Something not found in too many other establishments, the East Cove offers a late-night Happy Hour Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. Open every day during the summer season, the East Cove is closed on Mondays during the off-season.

Only moments after we arrived, Pam was already getting reacquainted with old friends, formerly of her Garrison days. We chatted easily with the handful of affable patrons as owner Pete Smith organized menus on the bar, occasionally peering over his glasses to answer questions and offer comments. Kim ventured to the end of the bar where she could examine the half-dozen taps, finding three local brews from the Adirondack Pub and Brewery, Blue Moon, Yuengling and Sam Adams seasonal. A very well-stocked bar offers a liquor selection which includes numerous flavored rums and vodkas. The wine list is extensive as well. Pam, not sure what she wanted, asked bartender Shannon if the East Cove features any unique drinks. Though the white chocolate espresso martini is the signature drink at East Cove, Shannon suggested a tangerine cosmo and Pam quickly acquiesced: Finlandia tangerine vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice, served in a martini glass and garnished with an orange slice.

Shannon led Kim on the grand tour, the two pausing for reference photos in the adjacent sitting room and private upper dining room. The East Cove’s rustic interior of log cabin walls, with its fishing and nautical theme, is alluring and cozy. Scenic and historic postcards, lithographs and watercolor prints by Loren Blackburn showcase a pictorial history of Lake George Village. Framed photographs offer a glimpse into more than a century of Lake George’s past, including a photo of the Colonel’s Table, the East Cove’s former identity, the facade little changed since it was built in 1947. A shelf in the corner of the dining room holds a display of local pottery. Overhead, a ship’s wheel chandelier hangs suspended from richly-stained log beams, casting soft light on the dining tables below. Sunlight pours in through the large window in the bar area. The L-shaped bar is punctuated with ten aged and unusual barstools, their wooden backs shaped like curly brackets. An adjoining room houses soft brown stuffed sofa and chairs facing a TV for the East Cove’s Sunday football and NASCAR fans, and another dining room is located upstairs.

Next thing we knew, George suggested a shot, and Pam launched into inventing the “drink of the day”. They settled on Stoli apple, Cointreau and cranberry juice, and dubbed it the East Cove Slammer. Invigorated with nostalgia, Pam suggested a game of Liar’s Poker and lined Kim up with a “coach” to help her in understanding the nuances of lying. Poker-face Pam ended up winning, but Kim is better educated now. And poorer.

Owned for the past 43 years by Pete and Debbie Smith, the East Cove has changed very little since the late ’70s, when we would stop in for breakfast at 4 a.m., but has obviously been very well maintained. Dinner is the main attraction here, luring local and seasonal residents and visitors. Early eaters can enjoy special pricing ($11.99 to $14.99 including soup and salad) from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. The East Cove also caters and hosts banquets with a number of menu plans. The dinner menu, moderately-priced for the area, is most noted for its seafood and includes steaks, chicken and pasta dishes, a vast selection of desserts, and a kids’ menu.

The East Cove is another of the pleasant surprises we’ve discovered nearly in our own back yard. Patrons are welcoming and sociable, and Shannon’s easy-going, warm personality and sense of humor undoubtedly contribute to the comfortable atmosphere. When she asked if we were looking for help, as people often do, we were tempted to take her aboard. The pay is lousy, but the benefits are well worth the effort. And places like the East Cove really do make work easy for us.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Philosophy: A New Vision for Old Woods

Something has had men heading for the interior, long before Henry David Thoreau publicly declared “I am leaving the city more and more, and withdrawing into the wilderness.” And as men of a certain tradition in 19th century America began to make their private pilgrimages public through written and artistic records, their excursions and revelations became canonized.

These meditations contributed to a change in national ideas about the value and fragility of nature and “man’s” place within it.

I understand the importance of reaching back into our histories to understand the cultural touchstones like these that have come to signify certain ideas and ideals, certain styles of thought and ideologies. After all, our histories are our foreground and they mark the path that we took to get here. Yet, from time to time in the midst of what can seem like a tireless reminiscence on the trope of the vigorous and steadfast wayfaring male archetype depicted through art and literature in the wilderness; I can hear a sucking sound like my boot makes when I’ve gone walking in mud season.

Since its creation, advocacy for and against conservation and preservation within the Park boundary has called on these and other similar images to underscore qualities like individuality, independence and virility in the midst of a seemingly untamed and unspoiled country. Guided by certain American philosophers and artists we enter into a stylized landscape, one that was politically manufactured through legislation and philosophically manufactured through the proliferation of 19th century ideals.

When popular literature and art combine to illuminate different parts of the same story, the impact often resonates outside the original medium of paint or narrative and into the larger cultural landscape. In the case of 19th century landscape art and literature, the story that fine art and prose conspire to tell transcends the cultural period and becomes part of one collective identity. Artists and writers who have become signs themselves of this aesthetic, and of a singular set of values, labored under a shared vision of wild America. These artists and scholars illustrated an ideal landscape beyond increasingly industrialized cities, and the legacy of this movement is largely responsible for our 21st century conception of the natural ideal.

Yet, this ideal only represents those who are drawn into its frame. But ours are stories (plural) and histories (as in many) so what would it take to shift the emphasis from one tone of voice to another? When old signifiers dominate a changed contemporary scene, we risk losing our way by walking backwards into the present.

Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Museum

Marianne Patinelli-Dubay is a philosopher, writing and teaching in the Adirondack Park


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Forests: The Blight of Beech Bark Disease

For more than fifty years, woods walkers in the Adirondacks and elsewhere have learned not to take the beautifully smooth, “thin-skinned” bark of the American beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) for granted. Our grandparents grew up suddenly missing the American chestnut as the blight of 1900 quickly decimated that species as a dominant tree in our eastern woodlands, along with its innumerable cottage and industrial uses, and its sustenance for so much of our native wildlife. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: Skiing McCauley Mountain

Even with the lack of winter snow we have plenty to do to keep our family active outside. We’ve managed to use our Microspikes and crampons so much on every winter hike that my children automatically grab a pair to explore the icy parts of our yard.

With the recent dumping of snow it is with great pleasure to exercise our downhill muscles and toss our Microspikes to the bottom of our bag. We’ve gone downhill skiing this winter but our outings were not met with the same enthusiasm that 16” of fresh snow can bring.

For a family mountain, Old Forge’s McCauley Mountain can’t be beat. With an elevation of 2,330’ McCauley has something to offer everyone in our family.

The terrain park is the first thing we see as we pull into the parking area but we quickly pass it to the lifts and make the most of the day. There is one double chairlift and one T-Bar that access all 20 trails and a Rope Tow for the Mighty Mite. The second T-Bar is at the terrain park area. My kids are well past the Mighty Mite but it is still sweet to see that special place right in the middle of the mountain for those beginner skiers.

There is also the spectacular view of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. The Fulton Chain of Lakes is a portion of a river system that extends to Lake Ontario and was first dammed in the late 1700s. According to the Fulton Chain of Lakes Association the present dam at Old Forge holds back 6.8 billion gallons of water. Lower Fulton Chain starts at Old Forge Pond and travels to First Lake, Second, Third, Fourth Lakes to the Towns of Eagle Bay and Inlet and ending sequentially with Eighth Lake.

If you still have time or energy after riding the lift, there are 20 km of XC ski trails that can be accessed right at the base of the main lodge. For the month of March you can access the trails for free.

With March coming in “like a lion” we are looking forward to making the most out of the rest of this Adirondack ski season. Don’t forget that every Friday is “Crazy” at McCauley with $12 lift tickets.

McCauley Mountain is located in the center of Old Forge. From Route 28 (Main Street) follow the signs to McCauley Mountain. The road is very well marked. McCauley Mountain is located at 30 McCauley Road in Old Forge.

photo of McCauley Mountain Ski Area used with permission of Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™.

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities in Lake Placid and the High Peaks. Her second Adirondack Family Time Four-Season guide for the Champlain Valley from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga will be in stores in summer 2012.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Honey Bee Numbers Drop: Native Bees Rejoice?

In recent weeks, there have been several news reports concerning the large scale devastation of honey bee colonies this past winter throughout the Northeast. While these losses are described as catastrophic by those that rely on these insects for the production of certain agricultural crops, other individuals note that the honey bee has only a minimal impact on the Adirondack environment, and a few may profess that a serious decline in honey bee numbers could have a positive effect on some of the native species of bees that reside within the Park. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Depot Theatre Welcomes New Managing Director

The Adirondacks’ professional theatre company, the Depot Theatre, has announced the addition of Angel Wuellner as its new Managing Director.

“We are thrilled to welcome Angel into our theatre family,” said George Davis, president of the Depot Theatre Board of Trustees. “She was a standout in the executive team’s national search, with ample industry experience and terrific energy.”

Wuellner has worked in the theatre industry for the past twenty years, as an administrator, stage manager, director, and actor. Most recently, she worked at Actors’ Equity Association in the Auditions Department. She has also worked with The Vineyard Theatre (NYC), Clarence Brown Theatre, Actors Co-op, Tennessee Stage Company, and Smoky Mountain Shakespeare Festival. Wuellner is the founder of PromCon, an organization that collects prom dresses for underprivileged young women. She is a graduate of NYU’s Performing Arts Administration Masters’ Program and of Northern Kentucky University’s theatre department. » Continue Reading.


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