Greetings from Palmia Observatory
Well we are coming down to our final days in Fairbanks and the search for the northern lights is just that, more searching, with little success due to the clouds. But we have had a lot of fun seeing
all the sights.
Since about 40% of my retirement income comes from my years spent working for big oil, it was significant for me to visit the Alaska Pipeline, which runs from Prudhoe Bay, past Fairbanks, and terminates in Valdez. Here I am at one of the supports that carries the pipeline and protects the permafrost from melting. It was pretty neat seeing the pipeline, even now as we recognize we can't just keep burning fossil fuel, or at least not releasing all of the CO2, because of the impact of climate change.
|Resident Astronomer at TransAlaska Pipeline (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
We also discovered that during the colder parts of the year, when the Chena River freezes over, the ice forms a natural bridge across the river. At this time of year there is ice along the banks of the river, but not frozen all the way across.
|Resident Astronomer Peggy at entrance to ice bridge (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
But back in 2017 and in 2015, at this time of year, the river was frozen enough for the start of the Iditarod dog sled race to begin here in Fairbanks. Normally, when the race runs in the northern direction, it would begin in Anchorage and end up in Nome, but in those years there was not enough snow around Anchorage, so the race was started in Fairbanks.
|When the Iditarod race started in Fairbanks due to low snow in Anchorage (Source: Pike's Landing)|
We also learned about the story of Mary Shields, who in 1974 was the first woman to complete the Iditarod race. She had to persevere against all sorts of criticism and heckling, just because she was a woman. Yet, she persevered and completed the race. Her story reminds me of Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars, and was most likely denied the Nobel prize, because she was a woman. But both women persevered and kept to the course of their dreams!
|Mary Shields was the first woman to complete the Iditarod Race in 1974 (Source: Fairbanks Museum)|
There were several dog sled races and competitions going on so we attended one race to get a sense of what it was all about. We saw the dogs arrive in truck carriers and the mushers laying on the ropes and harnesses and tying the dogs to the sleds.
|Dog sled team leaves starting line at Mushers Hall (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
|Dog carriers on trucks are common site in Fairbanks (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, after seeing and hearing about the dog sled races, we decided we should try it ourselves. Well, at least we would just sit in the sled while the musher took care of the dogs and staying on the trail. We had a very nice team at Jesse and Becki's dog sledding home. Jesse and Becki were great hosts and they live somewhat off the grid and are quite adapt at living in the wilds of Alaska. When we first arrived there all of the dogs were excited and greeted us with lots of barking. Once the dog team was selected, the remaining dogs sort of said, "well it's not our turn" so they just quieted down and went back to rest. If you haven't been dog sledding you might want to look up Jesse and Becki the next time you are in Fairbanks and hey are located on the Chena Springs Road. Thanks for a great time, Jesse and Becki!
|Resident Astronomers on the trail at Jesse and Becki's place (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
We also had a chance to see many ice sculpture exhibits. Wow, it is pretty neat that the artists can create such shapes and details and not have the whole thing just fall apart.
|Fantastic ice sculptures at State Fairgrounds (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
We also took a little trip up to Chena Hot Springs Resort. We brought our swimming suits but decided to just have lunch and visit the ice museum and have a martin there.
|Inside the Chena Hot Springs Ice Museum (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
|Resident Astronomer Peggy enjoys martini at Chena Hot Springs Ice Museum (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Finally, after being clouded out so many nights in a row now, the weather forecast shows one possible opening between 1 AM and 4 AM. Hmm, it still seems pretty risky, but , hey, that is what we expected and the search for the northern lights must go on!
|Last chance in Fairbanks search for northern lights, 1 AM to 4 AM (Source: ScopeNights app)|