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Archive for December, 2007

Orion

One of the most prominent constellations in the northern hemisphere’s night sky during the winter is The Hunter, Orion. In lore he was a guide to the seasons for mariners and farmers, signaling the onset of winter storms. The Egyptians called him Osiris, God of the Underworld, with the Milky Way his River Styx. His companion dog, Canis Major follows him in his travels across the sky from east to west as the winter progresses.

 Orion

 There are seven major stars in Orion, three in his belt and two each in his shoulders and feet.

The brightest is Betelgeuse, also known as Alpha Orionis using the Bayer system of classification. It is a pulsating red super giant of 0.5 (var.) magnitude. It is located in Orion’s shoulder, in the north east portion of the constellation. It is about 427 light years from earth and is so large that if it was to replace our sun, its outer surface would extend between Mars and Jupiter.

The other star in Orion’s upper body is Bellatrix, a blue super giant of the second magnitude (1.6). It lies about 240 light years from earth and is one of the hotter naked eye stars. It is the Gamma Orionis star.

The Beta Orionis star is Rigel, a blue-white super giant that lies below Bellatrix. It is a first magnitude star (.2); it is over twice the distance from earth as Betelgeuse, somewhere between 700 and 900 light years, depending on whose research you use. It is also a visual binary star.

Directly below Betelgeuse, and across from Rigel is Saiph, also known as Kappa Orionis. It is a blue-white super giant, mid-second magnitude at 2.05, and is 720 light years away.

And now on to the three stars that make up Orion’s belt.

Below the beautiful Betelgeuse is Alnitak, the brightest O Class star in the sky. A double star with a combined magnitude of 1.8, it lies about 800 light years away, it is a hot blue super giant. Classified as Zeta Orionis by Bayer, it hides from most backyard telescopes the amazing Horsehead Nebula, IC434 just to its south.

Next to Alnitak is Alnilam, Epsilon Orionis. It is a hot B class super giant. A second magnitude (1.7) star, it is 1300 light years from earth.

The final star in Orion’s belt is Mintaka, rated as Delta Orionis. With a magnitude of 2.2, it is over 900 light years away. It is also a double star like Alnitak.

Any visit to Orion would not be complete without mention of the wonderful Orion Nebula, that hazy patch lying below the three starred belt. Also known as M42 and M43, this is a vast cloud of swirling gas containing very young stars of magnitude 4 to 8. The asterism Trapezium lies within this nebula.

Much of the Constellation Orion is visible with both the naked eye and with binoculars, making this a popular viewing spot in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky.

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Astronomy

Today I am starting a series of articles on astronomy. This has always been of interest to me and I have finally made the effort to learn more about the night sky. I see this as a wonderful companion to hiking; both take in the great outdoors and both hobbies are reasonably inexpensive to get started in. Invest in a good pair of binoculars and you are all set for either hobby.

I am starting out by learning one constellation or asterism per week. These will be in no particular order, but will probably follow the seasons.

I will not be providing explanations or definitions for astronomical terms. If you want to know what they mean then you will have to research them yourself, just as I have done. And a short note on research. I have found that information regarding interstellar objects is not always consistent from one source to another. So if you find any discrepancies in my”facts” as compared to your “facts” please remember that I am only passing on what I have read.

I hope you enjoy this tour of the night sky. It’s vastness is breathtaking and it’s beauty is unsurpassed.

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Middle Falls And Lookout

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another incredible fall day! I’ve strayed a bit farther from home this time. It’s a good half hour drive to what was at one time an active provincial park called Pigeon River. It is now abandoned but hikers are still welcome. Access to the falls is very easy, either through the old park or off of the Devon Road (Highway 593). With all of the rain this fall, the falls were very impressive. They don’t compare with Kakabeka Falls, or High Falls, but just the same they are well worth visiting.

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I then followed the trail south along the river to the lookout. It’s a more difficult trail, lots of up and downs, than I had experienced before. A little tough for an old out of shape guy! It took me about an hour to get to the lookout but it was worth every minute. It is an absolutely incredible view of Lake Superior! I sat for a while taking it all in while I sipped on my cup of tea and had a biscotti. The hike out was quicker by about ten minutes or so. The trail along the riverbank was still muddy from the earlier weeks rain. There were plenty of deer tracks on all parts of the trail, but the only wildlife I say were sqirrels.

This is a must hike for anyone who lives in this area. As mentioned the view from the lookout is not to be missed. But be careful as there are no barriers at the cliff’s edge.

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Cedar Creek

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cedar Creek, a Lakehead Region Conservation Area, is located west of Thunder Bay, past Kakabeka Falls. Follow highway 590 and turn left at 2nd Sideroad. Turn left again at Broome Road and follow it to the end, about 1.5 kilometers. There is a good parking area and, as with all LRCA trails, a pay box where you can drop off your $2.00.

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This is a short trail, under a half hour one way, but is very pleasant and suitable for all ages. The trail is well maintained with only minor up and downs. At the end is a small waterfall and numerous rapids. A bench awaits those that want to sit and contemplate nature. On this trip I brought along my Kelly Kettle, some water of course, and some tea bags. I had boiling water ready in a matter of minutes! Trouble was, I’d forgotten to bring along a mug to drink from. This is when I realized a check list would have been a great benefit to me. So from now on I check and double check my list. But I sat and enjoyed the view anyway. When I left I drove the long way home, following some great back roads along the Kam River. It was warm and mostly sunny and a very enjoyable day.

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Mills Forest

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Today’s hike was along the trail in the Mills Forest Block, a Lakehead Region Conservation Area site off of John Street Road. It was overcast and about 15C, great for walking but not the best picture taking weather. The trail runs along a pretty swampy area and then up and around a ridge before it comes back on itself. The long straight stretch lets you view a couple of beaver ponds. The whole trail is suppose to be four kilometers, but seemed shorter. The only wildlife I came across was a young duck in one of the ponds and a partridge that I heard but did not see. With the abundance of deer in our area, I thought for sure I would see one.

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The trail is very easy with only minor up and downs. It certainly could get messy along the beaver ponds so be aware during rainy periods. The loop around and over the ridge is very nice and includes a rest area with a small bench. If not for the trees you would get a very good view of the south side of the city. I would recommend this trail for all ages.

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Little Falls Trail

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A beautiful September day, over 21 C. I dressed too warm for the weather – long pants, long-sleeve shirt, vest and hat. I should have worn shorts and a t-shirt. The trail was wet, but well worth the walk to see Little Falls.

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The trail starts at the parking lot of the interpretive centre on the south side of the river. Once you cross the bridge follow the boardwalk along the escarpment, then up the slope and veer left to the parking area. You will have no problem finding the trail-head. Follow this excellent trail about two thirds of the way to the return loop and you will find a trail off to your right. This will take you to Little Falls and return you via the river bank. The trail is very easy to follow and has some good up and downs, particularly at the very end. As I mentioned, it can get wet along the lower parts, so be prepared.  A walking stick will help get you through it.

The falls are very picturesque, be sure to bring your camera. You can do this trail in under an hour for sure, so it’s great for any time of the day.

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First Hike At The Cascades

Sunday, October 2, 2005

I took my first real hike in my new boots. They seem to be fine, I just have to remember not to make them too tight. I went to the Cascades at the end of Balsam Street. I’ve lived here all my life and had never been there before. I tried to follow the map once I got started, but misread where one trail started. I took the Forest Trail to the short cut over to the Orange trail. This lead me down to the Blue trail where it meets the Red. This allowed me to follow the river up to the cascades. Today was absolutely beautiful, at least 20 – 23 degrees Celsius, so the place was busier than normal. I didn’t spend a lot of time at the river and headed back on the Yellow trail to the parking lot. Then I redid the Blue – Orange and cut-off trails once more, then back to the car. Lots of families and dogs, the trees are in full autumn colours and lots of leaves where falling. A beautiful day.

Note: The above entry was made in my hiking journal after returning home from the hike. I made no mention of the fact that these trails are easy and enjoyable for all ages. The actual “cascades” are quite beautiful and have great areas for picnicing. Don’t forget to take your camera.

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