While in Tennessee 2 months ago, I joined my grandfather and his group of “Friday Hikers” on a jaunt up Pinnacle Mountain. We had a very nice hike up to the top where we met approximately 1000 middle school kids who were in the school’s hiking club. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. It was closer 25 kids, but it was great to see a group like that out enjoying a great Fall day.
There’s a few more pictures in the Pinnacle Mountain set on flickr.
Merging Galaxy pair VV 705, imaged with the Hubble Space
Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team
(STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans
(University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)
Every year the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club organizes a “Star Fest”, featuring talks, food, and stargazing. This year the weekend event is scheduled for 21-23 October at Bays Mountain, near Kingsport, TN. The park has a newly refurbished planetarium and its own set of telescopes. The full schedule hasn’t been posted yet, but there should be programs involving those facilities.
I am also happy to announce that I will be giving a talk at Star Fest, titled “Galaxy Collisions”. It is currently scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Saturday 22 October. Here is a summary of the talk:
Collisions between galaxies are thought to be important in the life of a galaxy. In these collisions individual stars are re-ordered, drastically changing a galaxy’s appearance. New stars are also created at accelerated rates. We will look at real galaxy collisions to see where new stars are formed and where the old stars go. What role do black holes play in galaxy collisions? And what would happen if our Milky Way Galaxy collided with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy?
Let me know if you’ll be attending, I would love to meet up with you there!
Edit (22 August 2011): Registration is now open for Star Fest!
I have been getting out and doing a fair amount of hiking lately. In the middle of October, David and I went out for a quick night backpacking in St. Mary’s Wilderness. The quick in and out trip was a fun time. The predicted snow didn’t materialize in any strong fashion, which was probably best. Although, we were both looking forward to seeing some sign of winter. I uploaded a few pictures from that backpack:
St. Mary’s Wilderness on flickr
Later that weekend, Ryan, Tang and I hiked the Rivanna Trail around Charlottesville. This ~20 mile trail encircles the city and spends an impressive amount of time in forested areas. The trail is also fairly flat, so other than sore feet, the hike wasn’t overly challenging. We managed to hike the whole thing in just over 8 hours (plus a short stop at David’s for apple pie! ).
Rivanna Trail on flickr
The most recent backpacking trip was a little over a week ago. Several of us headed down to Tennessee to do some backpacking in the Smoky Mountains. We started out with a Friday hike along the AT, from Newfound Gap to Clingman’s Dome.
It was a fun 8 miles, with some solid elevation gain! After reaching Clingman’s Dome, we shouldered our backpacking gear and headed down the trail. The weather was misty, but not quite raining (yet). After dropping down another 2000+ ft, we camped near the creek.
It began raining in the middle of the night and kept up all day Saturday. We hiked back up the trail we came, aiming to meet up with the Ridge trail and continue along the loop. However we ended up with soaked gear and clothes, so we abandoned the hike. Despite the rain, everyone had a good time. We’ll be back again I’m sure…
The rest of the pictures from the Smokies are online here: Smoky Mountains National Park on flickr
About a week and a half ago, a couple friends and I ventured down to Tennessee to do a bit of hiking. We skipped town on Thursday night, driving down to Kingsport, TN. We rose the next morning and joined the “Friday Hikers” for a 7 mile hike up Grandfather Mountain. My grandfather organizes the hikes and it’s always fun to hike with him and his hiking buddies. As usual, we were the youngest by a fair bit. It is very inspiring to hike with folks in as great shape as they are! I can only hope to be active at that age.
After a few hour drive to Grandfather Mountain State Park (with a stop in Boone, NC to get the free permit), we hit the park. We hiked up “Profile Trail”, so named because of the good view of the Grandfather profile after which the mountain has its name. It was quite a fun hike.
After returning to the parking lot, the three of us split off from the Friday Hikers and continued on to Smoky Mountain National Park. On our way we drove through the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. It is the first time I can remember being on a reservation. It was an interesting experience. Sadly, it appeared fairly economically depressed save the expanding casino.
We arrived in the park just as the sun began setting. After deciding not to camp near the entrance ($20 to do so!), we drove to the trailhead at Clingman's Dome and were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Despite the lack of light, we hoisted our packs on our backs and walked off into woods. Things progressed smoothly for the first mile and a half. Unfortunately disaster struck there! One of my companions sprained his ankle. We managed to make it the other mile and a half to camp, calling it a night just before midnight.
When we woke the next morning, his ankle was still hurting and it was obvious we shouldn’t continue the backpacking trip. So, we backtracked the 3 miles to the car. The parking lot near Clingman’s dome was quite different during the day. Filled with cars and people. We rounded out the trip with a nice drive back to Charlottesville.
Click here for all the pictures from the trip: Hiking in the Smokies on flickr