An astronomy trip to remember

Posted by Ron Kovach
on Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Clark Telescope Dome, Lowell Observatory // photo by brewbooks
You probably remember the film The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men who head off on a road trip with a list of things to do before they die. Now comes a to-do list with truly astronomical implications — the second edition of the Bucket List Astronomy Tour (BLAST Class), courtesy of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

The June 1–22 tour, coordinated by the school’s Office of International Programs and its Physics Department, is open to the public — albeit on a limited basis — and taking reservations through January 31. Space is tight — the tour is planned for a maximum of 25 people, including students. Two astronomy professors at the school, Dr. C. Renee James, a frequent contributor to our magazine, and Dr. Scott Miller, will lead the group to sights in the United States and Australia. The cost is $5,000 for the full three-week tour; an option is to purchase just the Australia portion of the trip for $3,500.

The 64-meter Parkes Radio Telescope // photo by David McClenaghan
Highlights of the 2014 trip include astronomy lectures and viewing at three observatories: Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona; Ballarat Observatory in Ballarat, Australia, which is a gateway to scenic Grampians National Park; and Macquarie University Observatory in Sydney, Australia.

“If anybody has not seen the Southern Hemisphere skies, once you get there you go, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ ” said James. “It really is upside down!"

Other tour stops: the Grand Canyon; Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona; and Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia, which helped relay live television of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon and played a central role in the 2000 movie The Dish.

And in case you’re wondering, the itinerary also makes time for hugging a koala and picking up a kangaroo. (Gently, one hopes.)

For more information, contact James at phy_crj@shsu.edu and check out the BLAST Class website. Also read James’ guest blog for our magazine about the 2012 BLAST Class trip.

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