Thomas Cole: The Course of the Empire

Thomas Cole: The Course of the Empire

British-American artist, Thomas Cole, was largely inspired by great British artists, Turner and Constable. And like many artists in the early 19th century, he took The Grand Tour of Italy and the Mediterranean to visit the great sites of the Ancient world, rediscovering the incredible ruins of Rome, Athens and beyond.

Cole had grown up in the midst of the Industrial Revolution in Northern England, witnessing the dramatic changes it inflicted on society. He would paint that story and it was a theme he revisited again in his new home on America’s East Coast where he emigrated with his family at the age of 17 in 1818.

The United States was in the throes of rapid industrialisation and change, and Cole – who was instrumental in the establishment of the Hudson River School – yearned for a natural world where bucolic landscapes lay undisturbed by progress

These themes, the influence of Turner and Constable and his wonder for the ancient world, would form the basis of Cole’s greatest work: The Course of Empire. Its five canvasses depict the foundation, growth, celebration, collapse and eventual ruin of a mythical empire. It’s a universal story repeated through the ages.

Browse The Course of Empire gallery below and check out our 10 part series, Empire Builders, which charts the growth, power and eventual collapse of 10 of the world’s great empires.

Desolation, 1836

Desolation, 1836

Destruction, 1836

Destruction, 1836

The Consummation of Empire, 1834

The Consummation of Empire, 1834

The Pastoral or Arcadian State, 1834

The Pastoral or Arcadian State, 1834

The Savage State, 1834

The Savage State, 1834

Watch the Empire Builders trailer!

Life cycle assessment vs comfort? Guests’ influence on sustainable hotel practices

Life cycle assessment vs comfort? Guests’ influence on sustainable hotel practices

“The guest is king” – a principle providing great comfort for hotel guests. Nevertheless, wishes and demands by guests can impact hotel practices strongly in some cases. The life cycle assessment, in particular, can suffer from guests’ longing for alleged comfort: coffee machines with aluminum capsules, daily towel exchange, and single-packaged hygiene products. Below, we find out from some partner Green Pearls® partner hotels how to deal with the challenge of keeping guests’ requests and the sustainable alignment balanced.

No benefits for the environment

In many hotels you can find various environmentally harmful practices. A common example is coffee machines with aluminum capsules. Aluminum is the most energy-intensive metal to be processed and the capsules produce heaps of waste – thus, they are anything but eco-friendly and energy-efficient. Exchanging towels and linens daily is gradually declining – even in hotels that are not explicitly sustainable. A good thing since laundry uses up many resources, and, besides, when the textiles consist of synthetic materials micro fibers detach while washing and pollute the oceans. Minibars such as small refrigerators are energy-wasting and small snack packs, single-wrapped soaps and disposable toothbrushes produce excessive trash. In addition, care products and cleaning detergents often contain liquid or micro plastics.

Handtuchwechsel © Green Pearls

Handtuchwechsel © Green Pearls

Alternate ways exist…

Current trends show that guests increasingly demand sustainable actions from hotels and also provide suggestions to the hotel to become (more) eco-friendly. Even though the Green Pearls® hotels are pioneers in terms of sustainability and environmental protection, dedicated guests can be found recurrently. Guests at the hotel SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA are asked to fill in questionnaires about eco-friendly improvements in the hotel. If these are feasible, the hotel does implement them. Due to the guest’s ideas, recycled toilet paper was introduced and plastic straws were banned, among other things.

© SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA

© SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA

Consistent for the climate

In the Hotel Speicher am Ziegelsee, guests repeatedly criticise the lack of coffee machines and minibars in the rooms. According to the guests, minibars, in particular, should not be missing at a 4-star hotel. However, the eco-hotel thinks differently: “You must remain consistent,” emphasises the managing director Christian Petersen the hotel’s persistence. The business hotel cannot be misled by guests’ complaints to protect its climate-neutral status. Instead of minibars, a 24-hour room service for drinks is available at the hotel Speicher am Ziegelsee. On the contrary, environmentally conscious vacationers praise and support the hotel’s consistent sustainable philosophy and climate-friendly projects.

Blick vom See auf das Hotel © Hotel Speicher am Ziegelsee

Blick vom See auf das Hotel © Hotel Speicher am Ziegelsee

Communication as a solution

Communication can prevent dissatisfied guests in many cases. The hotel SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA provides an example: Many environmentally conscious guests used the “Do Not Disturb” sign to signal that neither their room should be cleaned nor the towels be exchanged. Though a good idea, but the room service cleaned those rooms later that day, since the sign does not explicitly concern the room cleaning. Meanwhile, printed lavender bags for the doorknob make it easier to communicate: “No room cleaning today!” Moreover, the Creativhotel Luise applies multi-layered communication during the sustainable renovation to inform its guests and avoid complaints that way: banners outside, information boards in the hotel, gift boxes including letters and small presents as compensation.

Frisches Obst © Leitlhof

Frisches Obst © Leitlhof

Preventing complaints with sustainable services

In the eco-hotel Leitlhof in the Dolomites guests have not yet complained about sustainable initiatives or provided ideas for improvements. However, the hotel always communicates its environmentally conscious goals in person on site to prevent misunderstandings. In addition, all emails contain the note to avoid the printout to save paper. Furthermore, guests are also informed about alternative, sustainable services to prevent complaints: instead of a minibar, guests are offered tea and fresh fruits daily, and a shuttle service takes them to the city and the slopes.

Bach im Wald © SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA

Bach im Wald © SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA

Rethinking complaints

Before complaining about something, one might rethink if the demand is inevitable: a coffee machine in the room appears superfluous when it is available at the breakfast buffet. A plentifully covered buffet is a delight for the guest, though it produces lots of leftovers at the same time. If everyone is a bit more humble, it will be a big step for the wellbeing of our environment. The solution is to act more consciously, as recognised by Stephan Bode from the SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA: “We are not only aware of our role as a host, but we have understood that our company is the guest of our host the Earth. Therefore, I see myself less as managing director and owner, but rather interpret my role as guardian of the guest-house SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA.”

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Interested in learning more about cool, innovative or just downright quirky hotels around the world? From the bizarrely themed to the bizarrely constructed, Globe Guides Extreme Hotels brings you the world’s maddest collection of overnight stays on the planet.

Legal Cannabis in California

Legal Cannabis in California

Any visitor to Californian cities, such as Los Angeles, can’t help but notice the proliferation of shops selling cannabis legally to the public. In addition, a number of industries have sprung up to support this growth.

Here are ten questions answered about California’s legal cannabis boom.

1. Why has it happened?

California has always been known as being amongst the most socially progressive states in America, so its relaxed laws on cannabis come as little surprise. Indeed, cannabis has been decriminalised in California since 1975 before being legalised for medicinal purposes in 1996. Thus, there has been much precedent for cannabis’ complete legalisation in 2018. Due to these long-term relaxed laws, cannabis has been a major part of Californias cultural identity. Even prior to the complete legalisation of cannabis, the state has been generally accepting of recreational marijuana use. Thus, the legalisation of cannabis in California is a culmination of its cultural and legal history within the state in addition to the significant potential economic benefits. 

2. What is the extent of the boom in shops selling cannabis?

Prior to the official legalisation of cannabis at the beginning of 2018, cannabis was available for medicinal use through dispensaries. These are prevalent throughout the state. Since legalisation, however, there has been a considerable uptick in cannabis-associated businesses covering a number of different brands. Due to the robust infrastructure already in place from the medicinal marijuana industry, it has been very easy for recreational cannabis sellers to rise up quickly. There are currently 261 separate dispensaries in addition to many more medicinal dispensaries. The only state with more dispensaries is Oregon, where cannabis has been legal for a longer period of time. None of these dispensaries have permanent licenses yet, instead being endowed with temporary ones. In addition to dispensaries, a number of other businesses have emerged including delivery services such as Eaze and dispensary locator apps. A full-fledged, sophisticated industry has emerged surrounding the cannabis industry.

3. What do these shops sell? Are there different types of cannabis reflecting brands and strengths?

Cannabis products in California are divided into four major categories: Flowers, Concentrates, Edibles and Applications. Flowers refer to the marijuana plant itself – dried buds, which are by far the most popular form of cannabis consumption. There are hundreds of different varieties of strains, each slightly different from the other. Concentrates refer to a number of different products created through the extractions of trichome from marijuana plants. Trichomes are the small, shiny crystals found on mature plants. These are generally stronger than flowers and are made into a number of different products including wax and oils. These are most often consumed through the use of a vape pen, a more inconspicuous means of consumption. Edibles, as their name indicates, refer to food items incorporated with cannabis extractions. These often have more of a delayed effect than other means of consumption. Applications are a more medicinal means of consumption, containing high doses of CBD in the forms of patches used to alleviate physical pain or mental disorders such as anxiety. 

Cannabis is divided into two main forms – Sativa and Indica, with hybridised forms of the two also being available. Sativa strains are known for being more cerebral effects with a higher THC content whereas Indica strains are known for their more sedate effects and have a higher CBD content. 

4. Is the cannabis sold for medicinal purposes?

cannabis-in-california-by-pilot-productionsCannabis has a number of medicinal functions and has been legal in California for medicinal purposes in the state of California since 1996. There has been evidence to suggest that cannabis has beneficial effects in alleviating pain and nausea for those suffering from illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and even multiple sclerosis. Its use for mental disorders is more inconclusive such as PTSD, anxiety and depression. Cannabis can have adverse effects, including cognitive impairment and psychosis. However, these effects differ from person to person. Its medicinal purposes, while they doubtlessly exist, are not supported by overwhelming evidence due to laws over its legality restricting research. 

5. What are the legal issues?

As of the beginning of 2018, cannabis is legal for recreational use in the state of California. Despite this, there are still certain restrictions in place regarding its consumption and distribution. Users of cannabis must be over the age of 21, the same as alcohol. Furthermore, like alcohol, consumption is legally prohibited in public spaces and there is a penalty of a $100 fine for those who do this. Cannabis in excess of one ounce must be privately stored in ones residential property away from a public space. There is a limit of six plants at any one residence. Consumption of cannabis while driving is also illegal, as is possession within a school area. 

6. Is there a similar boom in the number of growers?

Cannabis plantations can be found throughout the entire state, although production is mainly in the region of Northern California nicknamed the Emerald Triangle. Prior to legalisation, a vast network of authorised growers were active, producing vast quantities of cannabis for medicinal consumption. Following legalisation, the law allowing adults to grow up to six plants within their own residence has been ratified. There are no limits to the amount those growing marijuana for medicinal purposes, although these laws are rumoured to change. There are over 68,000 cannabis cultivators in California, although fewer than 1% of these are licensed. Many growers have struggled to adapt to the new regulations of cannabis production. Despite the legalisation, a black market still remains intact. 

7. How is cannabis taxed? Is it a revenue earner for the government?

Since legalisation, a number of different taxes have been imposed upon the emerging cannabis industry. In the first quarter of 2018, the California State Government collected $60 million in tax from cannabis, well below expectations. The excise tax generated $32 million. Cultivation tax comprised $1.6 million while the sales tax comprised the remaining $27.3 million. Despite falling short of initial predictions, cannabis is projected to generate a considerable tax windfall for the Californian government in the coming years. Prices are increasing from an average of $54 per ounce to $65 per ounce. 

8. Is big business getting involved?

There are so far 6,000 licensed cannabis businesses operating within California. A wealth of start-ups have emerged in tech hotspots such as Silicon Valley and Los Angeles in addition to boutique businesses. Larger conglomerates, having sensed the industrys highly lucrative potential, have gotten involved. This development has left a number of smaller operations concerned, with there being government motions drawn up to protect small-level businesses from being put out of businesses. Despite this, given the ripe potential for the cannabis industry, it is only a matter of time before major companies become more intimately involved. With taxes driving up prices, wealthy companies may look to combat this by flooding the market and dominating supply and demand. This will drive small businesses out of work or alternatively consolidate them.

9. What other states and counties allow cannabis for sale? 

cannabis-in-california-by-pilot-productions-1Currently, cannabis is legal for recreational use in 9 US states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachussetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington as well as in the District of Columbia. With the exception of Vermont and the District of Columbia wherein the commercialisation of cannabis is prohibited, the laws are generally the same between these states. An additional 13 states have decriminalised recreational marijuana use. Furthermore, medicinal marijuana is legal in 31 states. Indeed, only in 3 states – Idaho, Kansas and South Dakota – is cannabis consumption entirely illegal. Despite this, cannabis use and possession is classified as illegal under federal law, which causes conflict and confusion over laws surrounding the drug throughout the country.

Outside of the United States, only three countries have legalised recreational cannabis use – Canada, Georgia and Uruguay. However, a wealth of countries around the world have decriminalised cannabis or have some form of medicinal marijuana laws. Portugal and Spain are well-known for their relaxed laws and the Netherlands is particularly well-known for its cannabis culture. While it is not legal all across the country, in certain areas such as the capital city Amsterdam, it is legal to consume cannabis within coffee shops. This style of cannabis culture differs from the more heavily-regulated one which exists in California and elsewhere in the United States.

10. Can anybody buy cannabis? What documents do you need to produce when purchasing?

Cannabis is available to purchase for those who are over the age of 21, producing a valid form of ID such as a passport or a drivers license. In regards to medicinal marijuana, customers must be over the age of 18. Since the legalisation as of the beginning of 2018, it is legal for non-citizens to buy and consume, although it remains federally illegal.

Interested in all things Californian and revolutionary? In our Metropolis – Los Angeles episode presenter Charlie Luxton learns that LA’s unique architectural legacy stemmed from a freedom afforded no-where else on earth. In many ways, this was a city where anything goes, and did. Here, revolutionary ideas were tried and tested with spectacular results.

Captain Cook continues to inspire travel habits

Captain Cook continues to inspire travel habits

As the 26th of August marked the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s maiden round the world voyage, take a look at some of the amazing destinations that were discovered on this epic journey.

Departing from Plymouth in 1778, Cook and his 100-strong crew embarked on the trip of a lifetime that would have even today’s jet-setters jealous.

Madeira, Portugal 

This tiny island off the coast of Portugal, rising out of the Atlantic’s waves, was the first stop of the Endeavour. The iconic harbour of the island’s capital, Funchal – with its dazzling firework displays and botanical gardens – will be sure to keep you entertained. The island is also famed for its wineries, its sports fans and the CR7 Museum is also a must see!

madeira-portugal

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil  

Cook used Rio De Janeiro as a supply stop, but travellers today will take in the sights of Copacabana Beach, Christ the Redeemer and shimmy to some Samba Music. Revellers will also marvel at the views from Sugarloaf Mountain or party the days and nights away in Rio’s carnival atmosphere. One thing’s for certain, Rio is a far cry from the days of Captain Cook.

rio-de-janeiro-brazil

Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina 

When Cook ventured ashore at Tierra Del Fuego, he described the locals as, “the most miserable group of people on the planet”. Tierra Del Fuego truly could be ‘The End of the World’. But nowadays, travellers are blown away by the staggering scenery offered at the gateway to Antarctica. The snowy mountains and glaciers are timeless or visit Ushuaia’s busy port and take a boat trip to Penguin Isle.

tierra-del-fuego

Tahiti, French Polynesia

Just the thought of Tahiti brings images of palm trees and sandy beaches. In fact, when it was time for Cook’s voyage to leave the island, two of his crew attempted to desert, due to falling for local women. The Polynesian hospitality and staggering natural scenery will make you fall in love with this little piece of paradise in the Pacific.

tahiti

New Zealand

When Cook first arrived on the coast of New Zealand, he was greeted by the Maori people and the Haka. Nowadays, the traditional war dance can be experienced by watching the world famous All Blacks rugby team. New Zealand is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and it’s not hard to understand why. The ultra-modern city of Auckland, the beautiful 15,000-kilometres coastline, and of course, the scenery and landscape that made Lord of the Rings possible.

new-zealand

Australia

When Cook landed at Stingray, New Holland, as the land Down Under was known back in 1770, he can’t have known that just 250 years later, the area would be home to the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and some of the most amazing beaches on the planet.

sydney

Jakarta, Indonesia 

Indonesia’s capital was the port where the Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, received repairs after damaging itself on the Great Barrier Reef. Back then, it was part of the Dutch East Indies, but now, it could be one of the most multicultural spots on the planet. Javanese? Arabic? Malay? European? You name it, there is some part of the culture in Jakarta! Visit the old town for a taste of what Cook experienced when he sailed to this former Dutch Colony.

jakarta

Cape Town, South Africa

Cook’s final stop on his epic voyage, Cape Town, sits on the Cape of Good Hope. Dramatic cliffs, table top mountain and Robben Island – the prison that held Nelson Mandela for 25 years – are tourist hotspots for visiting holiday makers. Cape Town can truly be seen as one of Africa’s jewels, and no true around the world voyage can be completed without seeing this incredible city.

cape-town-bo-kaap-south-africa

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To replicate Captain Cook’s journey, check out the Nomad feature on this travel website.

Love learning about famous explorers throughout history? Watch our mini series The Lost World of Joseph Banks.

The world’s most liveable cities in 2018

The world's most liveable cities in 2018

The Austrian capital, Vienna, has beaten Australia’s Melbourne to be named the world’s most liveable city in 2018.

It’s the first time a European city has topped the rankings of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) annual survey.

The worldwide league table ranks 140 cities on a range of factors, including political and social stability, crime, education and access to healthcare.

In the survey, Manchester saw the biggest improvement of any European city, rising by 16 places to rank 35th.

Interestingly, Manchester’s rise puts it ahead of London in the rankings by 13 places, the widest gap between the two cities since the survey began two decades ago.

The ten most liveable cities in 2018:

1. Vienna, Austria

2. Melbourne, Australia

3. Osaka, Japan

4. Calgary, Canada

5. Sydney, Australia

6. Vancouver, Canada

7. Tokyo, Japan

8. Toronto, Canada

9. Copenhagen, Denmark

10. Adelaide, Australia

The ten least liveable cities 2018:

1. Damascus, Syria

2. Dhaka, Bangladesh

3. Lagos, Nigeria

4. Karachi, Pakistan

5. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

6. Harare, Zimbabwe

7. Tripoli, Libya

8. Douala, Cameroon

9. Algiers, Algeria

10. Dakar, Senegal

Inspired to travel (or move) to this incredible European city? Watch our Vienna City Guide below!

France’s Chaîne des Puys joins the UNESCO World Heritage List

France's Chaîne des Puys joins the UNESCO World Heritage List

On Monday 2 July 2018, the World Heritage Committee inscribed the Chaîne des Puys, a group of 80 dormant volcanoes, on the UNESCO World Heritage List – making it the first natural site in mainland France to be listed. This unique landscape now joins sites such as the Grand Canyon, the Okavango Delta, Kilimanjaro and the Great Barrier Reef on this prestigious list.

The alignment of the Chaîne des Puys volcanoes and the Limagne fault provides evidence for a large-scale process which has fashioned the Earth’s surface continental break-up. A natural showcase, the site demonstrates how the Earth’s crust was faulted and underwent collapse, allowing magma to rise up and the surface to be significantly uplifted.

Backed by the government, this inscription is the culmination of a long process initiated 11 years ago by the president of the Puy-de-Dôme department, Jean-Yves Gouttebel. The nomination is deeply rooted in the local territory, drawing on local authorities, businesses, associations and inhabitants to further the recognition and preservation of this exceptional natural heritage. The dossier was compiled by the departmental council of the Puy-de-Dôme, in close collaboration with local universities for the scientific component, and the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park for that of the management. This international recognition follows more than 40 years work of protection and management of the site.

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UNESCO

World’s first open air planetarium debuts in Canada

World's first open air planetarium debuts in Canada

National Geographic and the award-winning Au Diable Vert ‘Station de Montagne’ outdoor resort in Glen Sutton in the Eastern Townships of the Canadian province of Québec, have joined together to present the world’s first open air augmented reality planetarium, the ‘National Geographic ObservEtoiles’. This innovative new activity, that combines the technology of several cutting-edge companies from around the globe, will be officially launched to the public on 23 June 2018.

A world first, made in Quebec and signed by National Geographic

Recently certified as a Canadian Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), Au Diable Vert Station de Montagne and National Geographic present a truly unique experience. National Geographic ObservEtoiles is an open air astronomy show combining science and education. Perched at over 1,000 feet of altitude with heated stadium seats, this open air show takes place in a multilevel mountainside amphitheatre, specially designed for this purpose at Au Diable Vert in Glen Sutton.

Guests will be able to witness the night sky take on another dimension, as high definition digital overlays of 17th century illustrations align with the stars and planets. For the first time anywhere in the world, innovative technology in the form of an augmented reality headset will enable visitors to unlock the mysteries of the night sky! Narrated by talented astronomers, each night’s presentation will be tailored to the ever changing beauty of space. One of the key collaborators in developing this experience is the National Geographic astronomy expert, Andrew Fazekas (also known as the ‘Night Sky Guy’) who will be creating content for this Quebec-made and Quebec-based experience.

A unique and innovative concept

Jeremy Fontana, co-owner of Au Diable Vert, well known for creating unique projects such as the VeloVolant canopy cycle activity, the world’s highest suspended bicycle ride at over 1,000 feet high, developed the concept and joined forces with leading technology partners to bring the National Geographic ObservEtoiles to life. To name a few, he called upon the expertise of Escapist Games developers and the developers of the Star Chart application (widely used by astronomers around the world), Aryzon from the Netherlands to create the custom AR headset, as well as National Geographic, in order to present the world’s first open air augmented reality planetarium.

About the National Geographic ObservEtoiles

Thanks to its heated seats, this open air planetarium will be running shows for nine months of the year, immersing up to 184 guests in a time of astronomical discovery. This immersive experience will be enhanced by a high-performance sound system and theatrical lighting. The activity is made possible through the use of an application running on a smartphone and an augmented reality headset. The headset enables the viewer to see digital overlays of the sky, with the names of the stars and more, while seeing the actual sky in real-time. It will also be possible to augment the experience by adding animations and going on a tour of the solar system. Even cloudy weather will not keep the show from running, as the projection made by the smartphone will compensate for any clouds. At the end of the night, guests can take home their augmented reality headsets, so they can relive the experience anywhere in the world, by downloading the application on their own smartphones (download and headset included in the price of the activity).

National Geographic ObservEtoiles would like to thank the Quebec Ministry of Tourism and Eastern Townships tourism for their generous financial assistance, without which this project would not have been possible. Home to 22 regions, Québec is Canada’s largest province. Last year the province’s tourism body, recognised under the brand QuébecOriginal, launched ‘14 Experiences of Québec’ a new tourism strategy which aims to highlight what makes Québec such an original destination. Home to vast protected areas including 28 national parks, Quebec’s forests, mountain ranges, rivers and lakes make the Great Outdoors one of its key signature experiences. As a year-round adventure playground Québec offers an array of activities for visitors to experience its stunning lakes, rivers, forests and wilderness first hand. Visitors are therefore invited to embrace the great outdoors, and the new National Geographic ObservEtoiles experience joins a range of interactive light shows available across the province which help bring the great outdoors to life thanks to the creativity of Québecers and their expertise recognised worldwide in the fields of multimedia and technology.

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Quebec Original

National Geographic

Singapore Airlines to launch the world’s new longest flight

Singapore Airlines to launch the world’s new longest flight

Singapore Airlines has announced that it is preparing to launch a 19-hour flight travelling from Singapore to New York… making it longest in the world!

The flight will beat out fellow contenders, currently held by Qatar Airways for its Auckland to Doha route which travels 14,536 kilometres and takes 18 hours, followed by Qantas’ Perth to London route, which flies 14,499 kilometres and takes just over 17 hours.

Airbus, the maker of the A350 XWB, the ultra-long-range plane that will be used on the route, announced that the aircraft had recently successfully completed its first flights. The company says that the plane will enter service with Singapore Airlines by the end of 2018.

Where to experience the 2017 US Solar Eclipse

Where to experience the 2017 US Solar Eclipse

This summer, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical wonder will grace the US – a total eclipse, where the sun is blocked out by the path of the moon, will stretch out across the entire American mainland.

The first full solar eclipse since 1918, the line of totality will lead south and east across the country from Oregon to South Carolina, blanketing parts of 14 states in complete shadow for around two-and-a-half minutes on 21st August.

If you’re planning a trip to see this stunning phenomenon there’s a calendar of events brimming across the country to mark the occasion. Taking in stargazing parties, observatory tours and some of the country’s finest natural scenery through Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska, here are some of the best ways to celebrate the 2017 eclipse.

lower_falls_of_the_yellowstone_river

Lower falls of the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone National Park

Not under the path of the full eclipse, but Yellowstone’s a great place to head if you’re looking to spend a weekend beneath the stars. Spread across three states, the park fully lives up to its billing as one of the picks of the US’s natural beauty spots, with opportunities for canoeing and kayaking, fishing and horseback riding thrown in. You should squeeze in a visit to Old Faithful too – the world-famous geyser gets its name from the reliability of its eruptions, which unfold every 60 to 90 minutes.

As long as the weather’s clear, you’re in for a stunning show as just about anywhere at Yellowstone – with three full hours of the moon’s passage across the sun starting at around 10.15am and two minutes of 95% peak coverage timed for around 11.35am.

Snow King Mountain, Jackson

Yellowstone is not getting a complete eclipse, but nearby Grand Teton National Park and the town of Jackson, Wyoming are set to land the whole nine yards. The state’s astronomical society is duly pulling out all the stops, with two nights of events set to play out in the Jackson Hole valley over the weekend.

Visit the Snow King resort on Saturday and Sunday for presentations from astronomers and the chance to chat with astronaut Scott Altman, as well as expert demonstrations and a guided stargazing session. All this is bookended by the chance to take the chairlift up to the top of the resort and take in dramatic views of the night sky.

Wyoming Eclipse Festival, Casper

The people of Casper predict the moon will be throwing shade on them for a full two minutes and 26 seconds during the eclipse – a fine reason to throw a week-long festival in its honour. Located almost exactly on the centre of the path of totality – 280 miles from Jackson – Casper will be home to a fit-to-burst schedule of talks and workshops across its galleries and museums.

Stop by the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center for talks on all things starry, while AstroCon 2017 will pitch up at the Parkway Plaza with an all-day feast of talks and workshops, plus the chance to chat with eclipse experts. There are an array of public parks and open spaces, just about anywhere you pick in town will be the perfect spot for an unforgettable eclipse experience.

mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

South Dakota is away from the path of totality, but if you’re making the most of your US trip with a cross-country drive then it’s well worth pitching up between eclipse hot spots at one of the States’ most iconic man-made monuments.

Located within the beautiful surroundings of the Black Hills National Forest, the heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln are immortalised in granite, a tribute to the nation’s best-loved presidents.

Originally meant to serve as a head-to-waist portrait of its subjects, Mount Rushmore was completed in late 1941 after further funding fell through. But that won’t stop you marvelling at the work of dedicated craftsmen in celebrating some of history’s most vaunted figures.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

The Badlands and Black Hills are just nearby Mount Rushmore, offering outdoor escapes along with a special treat for space fans. The Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater offers regular Night Sky viewing programmes at weekends, where rangers break out the telescopes and give visitors the chance to look out to the heavens.

With light pollution firmly out of the equation, in the Badlands it’s possible to spot the swirls of the Milky Way. With entire star clusters and nebulae visible from the park, take in the skies from an entirely new light within the intimate surroundings of an amphitheatre.

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska, USA, central cars

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska, USA, by Brian W. Schaller

Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska

Some say the awe-inspiring Stonehenge was built by druids in tribute to the almighty Sun; it lines up perfectly with the entrance on the Summer Solstice. Whatever its intentions, a neat parallel presents itself just three miles north of Alliance, Nebraska, in the form of the mysterious Carhenge.

Here a circle of cars in a similar formation to the stones at Salisbury, some standing on their rear ends with others laid across. Eccentric art project or mysterious ode to consumerism? Whatever your take, this unique construction is well worth a look.

As is happens, Carhenge is one of the prime viewing spots for the 2017 eclipse; with the skies set to go dark for a full two-and-a-half minutes at 11.49am local time. If you’re planning to visit, be sure to arrive early to nab a vantage point at perhaps the country’s quirkiest viewing spot.

Wherever and however you enjoy the eclipse, just remember never to look at the sun without appropriate safe eyewear.

main image: The progression of en:Solar eclipse of August 1, 2008 in Novosibirsk, Russia

This article was brought to us by Hertz car rental

Look up, it’s the super super moon!

Look up, it's the super super moon!

Internet legend suggests it was astrologer Richard Nolle who first came up with the term supermoon, which he defined as “… a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90 per cent of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit”.

Five years ago – when the closest and largest full moon fell on March 19, 2011 – many began using the term supermoon, which we’d never heard before. In the following years, we heard this term again to describe the year’s closest full moon on May 6, 2012, and again on June 23, 2013, and again on August 10, 2014, and yet again on September 28, 2015.

Whilst supermoon is an astrological term, the scientific name for the occurence is perigee-syzygy, but since supermoon is catchier the media use it to describe our celestial neighbour when it gets up close.

Astronomers call it a perigee full moon describing the moon’s closest point to Earth for any given month.

Today’s event is the biggest and best in a series of three super moons, the first of which was on 16 October and the third is due on 14 December.

The moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034.

In addition to today’s moon making the moon appear bigger and brighter in the sky, there will also be a “low hanging moon” effect; an optical illusion caused by the moon being close to the horizon making it easy to measure against familiar landmarks or objects such as trees or houses.

The full moon story:

To observers, the moon will appear approximately 7% larger than normal, around 15% brighter – although to the human eye this is barely discernable.

As the Moon traces its orbit around the Earth, we see different proportions illuminated by the Sun. Once in each orbit, our satellite is totally illuminated – a full moon.

And as the Moon orbits the Earth every 27 days or so, it travels in an elliptical or oval shape.

This means that its distance from our planet is not constant but varies across a full orbit.

But within this uneven orbit there are further variations caused by the Earth’s movements around the Sun.

These mean that the perigee – the closest approach – and full moon are not always in sync.

But occasions when the perigee and full moon coincide have become known popularly as supermoons.

To observers, the differences between a supermoon and a normal full moon are quite subtle.

Generally, supermoons can be up to 14% larger and 30% brighter, but only when compared with the furthest point the Moon gets to within its orbit.

 

main image by: Monday super moon shot by Rob Pettengill as part of his Austin Super Moonset