Summer Stargazing: 5 Best Observatory Trips - United Hub
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Summer stargazing: 5 best observatory trips

By Bob Cooper , July 26, 2016

Heading to the mountains and looking to the stars are two cherished summer pastimes. You can combine both by flying to any of these four mountain observatories, which are among the world's finest, or an historic fifth one in the hills of Wisconsin. Once you've arrived, you can combine stargazing and learning about the heavens in observatory tours with more customary summertime activities like hiking and beach-going.

the Volcanic "Big Island" of Hawaii with a night full of stars

Kona, Hawaii

As if you need another excuse to fly to Hawaii, add one more: the Mauna Kea Observatories on the volcanic “Big Island" of Hawaii. Astronomers adore Mauna Kea's thin, dry, clean air, continually purified by trade winds, which lets them peer easily into space from the world's largest array of telescopes atop the world's tallest mountain. Yes, the tallest (13,802 feet) — but only if you start from the base of the mountain, which is four miles below sea level. It's about a 1 ½ hour drive from the resorts of Kona (or Hilo) to the 9,200 foot elevation visitor center, where you can view the sun through a solar telescope or the stars through a night scope. You can also attend a special program on most Saturday nights.

The cloudless night view of the stars in the sky in Chile

Santiago, Chile

Several of the world's finest observatories are clustered on the cloudless, high-altitude plateau of the Atacama (the driest desert in the world), making northern Chile the favorite destination of “astrotourists" from around the globe. The top two for visitors are the Paranal Observatory, with its aptly named Very Large Telescope (VLT), and the ALMA Observatory, the world's largest and priciest ($1.4 billion) astronomical project, with a telescope more powerful than the Hubble. You can venture out to tour them after flying into Santiago where you can take in: the nightlife, the culture of nearby Valparaiso, the beauty of national parks in the Andes, and the beaches and wine regions of central Chile.

Stars fill the night sky with many cacti surrounding the image

Tucson, Arizona

While golfers brave triple-digit temperatures on Tucson summer days, visitors who brave the twisty 31 mile drive from Tucson to Mt. Lemmon arrive in sweater weather at the 9,157 foot summit. The University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter is both literally and figuratively cool, as you may spot a meteor or satellite through the Southwest's largest public telescope during the nightly, five-hour stargazing program ($65/adults, $40/youth, dinner included). Summer or fall is the best time to go. Kitt Peak National Observatory, atop a 6,877-foot mountain, is also a 90 minute drive from Tucson, featuring a visitor center and daily 3 ½ hour guided tours of its massive telescopes ($9.75/adults, $3.25/youth).

Night sky filled with hundreds of bright stars in the Canary Islands

Tenerife, Canary Islands

The Canary Islands, an autonomous territory of Spain off the Moroccan coast, is a favorite getaway spot for Europeans and is cherished for its beaches, volcanoes and mild climate. On the island of Tenerife, Teide is the shared name of: the national park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the tallest mountain (12,198 feet), and the sprawling observatory situated partway up the volcanic mountain. On it you'll find a visitor center and an array of telescopes, which will give you a good look at the galaxy during guided English-language stargazing telescope tours every Friday ($34/adult, $27/youth, by reservation). A second major observatory in the Canaries, Roque de los Muchachos on the island of Las Palmas, offers daytime guided visits (70-90 minutes) by arrangement.

View of Geneva Lake during the day

Williams Bay, Wisconsin

Only the most serious astronomy buff would make a special trip to Williams Bay (pop. 2,600, elev. 1,050 feet), but it makes for a pleasant small-town diversion on a trip to Chicago, Milwaukee or Madison, which are all within a 90-minute drive. Why? Because oddly enough, the village on Geneva Lake is where you'll find Yerkes Observatory, regarded as the birthplace of modern astrophysics. Research at the University of Chicago-operated facility has continued since it opened in 1897, but visitors can stop by any day except Sunday for a 45 minute daytime tour ($8-$10), or most evenings for a telescope stargazing program ($37.50 by reservation). While in town, you can hike through the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy or visit Williams Bay Beach.

If you go

Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your stargazing adventure.

Reflecting on Veterans Day: a message from our CEO Oscar Munoz

By Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines , November 11, 2019

Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.

When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.

They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.

I want them to look no further than United Airlines.

That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.

They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.

That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.

We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.

We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.

We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.

As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.

Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.

They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.

Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.

Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.

Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.

But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.

We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.

It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.

On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.

Humbly,

Oscar

United named a top workplace for veterans

By The Hub team , November 10, 2019

Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.

"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.

"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."

Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.

Mission Accomplished

By Matt Adams , November 06, 2019

The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.

Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.

Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.

Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.

"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."

When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.

For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.

Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.

That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.

"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."

The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.

About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.

"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."

When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.

"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."

On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.

"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."

For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.

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