Summer stargazing: 5 best observatory trips
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines today announced the five lucky grand prize winners of its "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes, who will each get to fly anywhere in the world United flies with a companion over the course of the next year. The winners of the "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes are:
- Ashley Cronkhite from Bradenton, FL
- Robert Simicak from Cleveland, OH
- Sean Husmoe from Goodyear, AZ
- Lauren Aldredge from Oakland CA
- Lauren M. from San Francisco, CA
The sweepstakes was in support of the Biden administration's ongoing national effort to encourage more people to get their COVID-19 vaccination and encouraged United's MileagePlus® loyalty members to upload their vaccine records to United. In less than a month, more than one million MileagePlus members uploaded their vaccine cards to the United app and website for a shot to win one of the grand prizes. In June the airline awarded 30 first prize winners with a pair of roundtrip tickets anywhere United flies.
"We were proud to do our part to encourage more Americans to get their shot and were thrilled by the overwhelming response we received. This prize clearly struck an emotional chord with our customers, as the opportunity to travel and connect with people and places that matter most is something that clearly has been missed during the pandemic," said United's CEO, Scott Kirby. "I'd like to extend my personal gratitude to everyone who entered the sweepstakes and more importantly, made the decision to get vaccinated."
United is the only U.S. airline to offer its own one-stop-shop where customers can conveniently get "travel-ready" by uploading and storing their COVID-19 test results and vaccination records directly through the airline's website and award-winning mobile app with the Travel-Ready Center. The airline's easy-to-use travel tool enables customers to reduce stress and save valuable time at the airport right from the palm of their hand.
All of the grand prize winners are already starting to plan out the adventures they and their families will have in the upcoming year thanks to United. Ashley Cronkhite is an advertising professional who began working at a grocery store during the pandemic. She plans to travel to European destinations including Ireland and Italy with her best friend – her mom. Robert Simicak plans to travel to national parks around the U.S. with his wife, who is a frontline healthcare worker in Cleveland. Lauren Aldredge will experience her first time flying in a premium cabin and will be traveling to celebrate her 30th birthday with her partner. Sean Husmoe plans to travel with his wife and daughters to check off the final two continents that they have not yet visited, including South America and Antarctica. Lauren M. plans to travel with her family, including a trip to Tahiti with her husband.
The rest of United's customers will have no shortage of opportunities to plan long-awaited getaways of their own, as the airline has continued to grow its schedule in response to increased travel demand. Since May, the airline has launched new flights to Greece, Iceland, South Africa, Ghana and Croatia, and has resumed service as countries like Italy, Portugal, Spain and France re-opened to vaccinated travelers or travelers with a negative COVID test. For those planning to stay closer to home, United is adding nearly 150 flights to warm-weather destinations across the U.S, just in time for the winter holiday season.
Since its launch, United customers have been able to easily access testing or vaccine requirements needed for travel destinations, upload country specific required forms, completed testing results and vaccination records as well as have them verified, all within United's award-winning mobile app and website with the Travel-Ready Center. The Travel-Ready Center is an industry-leading digital platform that offers customers the ability to choose from thousands of COVID-19 testing providers across the country, book appointments and receive confirmation whether their test results meet their destination's requirements. Once requirements are validated, customers will see a status indicator informing them that they are "travel-ready" and receive their mobile boarding pass. United is the only airline that offers its customers these services as part of an integrated experience within its own app and website. The airline was also the first to set up an easy way for international travelers to bring a CDC-approved test with them, self-administer while abroad, and return home through an innovative collaboration with Abbott.
Mileage Plus: A 40-Year Legacy
United introduced its MileagePlus loyalty program in 1981 and over the past four decades, it has continued to be a leading airline loyalty program, with a number of industry-first innovations designed to enhance the travel experience for members. United added its Premier® program in 1983 and then its first loyalty credit card in 1987. More recently, in 2019, United announced that MileagePlus award miles never expire, and introduced PlusPoints for MileagePlus Premier members, giving customers more flexibility in how they choose to fly. United has also proudly worked together with MileagePlus members to contribute to the communities it serves, most notably donating 3.4 billion miles to charity organizations since 2003.
SOURCE United Airlines
CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Starting today on select flights, all United customers – no matter what cabin of service they're flying in – can use the airline's award-winning mobile app and website to pre-order meals, snacks and beverages up to five days before they're scheduled to travel. United is the first and only U.S. airline to offer economy customers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages, a reflection of the customer experience transformation underway at the airline.
United's pre-order technology is an extension of the airline's contactless payment platform that allows customers to store payment information in a digital wallet. United's pre-order option is now available on select flights departing from Chicago to Orange County, CA Sacramento, CA and San Diego, and will expand to all flights over 1,500 miles by early fall.
"Our new pre-order option reflects the customer experience transformation taking place at United – customers in our economy cabins will have an easy, convenient way to choose their snack or drink, and our flight attendants can move through the cabin faster, delivering more personalized service," said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United. "This new feature also builds on our existing contactless payment technology, which has enabled us to safely resume our inflight food and beverage program on select flights."
How It Works
- Five days prior to departure, customers will see an option in the Reservation Details section of the United app or on United.com to pre-order food and beverage items available for their specific flight. Customers will also receive an email notifying them when pre-order is available.
- In economy cabins, customers can pre-order snacks and beverages from United's buy-on-board menu. They will be asked to enter their credit card information but will not be charged until the items are served to them onboard.
- In premium cabins, customers can select their meal option directly from the United app or website. Once they make their selection, they will get a receipt emailed to them.
About United's Contactless Payment Technology
For customers looking to purchase drinks and snack items while onboard, United's contactless payment platform allows them to store their payment information in a digital wallet on the United app and on United.com prior to departure.
- Once in flight, customers can access a menu to view available items either on the United app or in Hemispheres® magazine.
- Rather than handing the flight attendant a credit card, the flight attendant will ask for the customer's name and seat to confirm the card on file.
- Once confirmed, customers will receive their products and the card on file will be charged.
About United's Newly Enhanced Buy-On-Board Menu
United recently unveiled its refreshed buy-on-board menu, which includes a wide variety of food and beverage offerings including:
- Adult Beverage Options: Mango White Claw®; red, white and sparkling wine, and new beer options such as Breckenridge Brewery Juice Drop Hazy IPA and Michelob ULTRA®.
- Three New Snack Boxes: A Tapas snack box with European-inspired offerings; a Takeoff snack box with high-protein options; a Recline snack box with movie theater themed treats.
- A la Carte Snack Options: Including chips, dips, trail mix and chocolate-covered dried fruit.
New Domestic Premium Cabin Menu Items
United also introduced brand-new meal offerings to customers seated in domestic premium cabins on flights over 1,500 miles and hub-to-hub flights over 800 miles.
- The enhanced meal service includes a choice of entrees – including fresher options like egg scramble with plant-based chorizo and grilled chicken breast with orzo and lemon basil pesto – sides and dessert.
- United has also teamed with Eli's Cheesecake to create a uniquely United chocolate pie flavor called "Pie in the Sky."
- The meals will be served on one tray, with items individually wrapped, to limit person-to-person contact and further the safety of our employees and customers.
United's pre-order technology is available beginning July 28 for flights departing on or after August 2. The technology will initially be available on flights from Chicago O'Hare International Airport to San Diego International Airport, Sacramento International Airport, Orange County's John Wayne Airport and Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
For information on snacks available, United's contactless payment technology and FAQs, visit United.com/snacktime.
SOURCE United Airlines
CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- With today's announcement of England reopening to fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. beginning Aug 2, United Airlines is making it easier for business and leisure customers to jet across the pond with the addition of flights to London. In August, United will have six daily flights between the U.S. and London, including a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. and increasing service from Houston to daily. United looks forward to resuming additional London service in the coming months as well as launching new nonstop service between Boston and London. Customers traveling to England must be fully vaccinated in the U.S. with vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and must take a test before departure as well as a PCR test within the first two days of arrival. Passengers vaccinated in the U.S. will also need to complete a passenger locator form prior to traveling to England and provide proof of U.S. residency.
United is the only U.S. airline to offer its own one-stop-shop where customers can conveniently get "travel-ready" by uploading and storing their COVID-19 test results and vaccination records directly through the airline's website and award-winning mobile app with the Travel-Ready Center. The airline's easy-to-use travel tool enables customers to reduce stress and save valuable time at the airport right from the palm of their hand. United also announced a new collaboration with Abbott and became the first U.S. carrier to set up an easy way for international travelers to bring a CDC-approved test with them, self-administer while abroad, and return home.
"Today's announcement is yet another major milestone in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic with the opening of one of the most important markets from the U.S." said Patrick Quayle, vice president of international network and alliances at United. "United has demonstrated that we can operate flights between the U.S. and England safely and we are eager to help rebuild these economies by facilitating business and leisure travel."
United in England
United has provided service to London Heathrow for nearly 30 years and over the course of the pandemic has maintained continuous service between the U.S. and London. In August, United is increasing its service from Houston to London from five times weekly to daily and adding a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. United will continue operating daily flights to London from Chicago, New York/Newark, San Francisco. The airline plans to continue offering these six daily flights in September.
United flies to more European destinations than any other U.S. carrier, and is welcoming back customers on more than 30 daily flights to 16 destinations in Europe this summer. The carrier has expanded its service to Europe including new routes to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Reykjavik, Iceland and Athens, Greece. All of these flights are available for purchase on united.com. To see the full list of reopened countries where United is flying visit united.com/reopen. Customers should review local country requirements before they travel.
Committed to Ensuring a Safe Journey
United is committed to putting health and safety at the forefront of every customer's journey, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness through its United CleanPlus SM program. United has teamed up with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic to redefine cleaning and health safety procedures from check-in to landing and has implemented more than a dozen new policies, protocols and innovations designed with the safety of customers and employees in mind. To manage entry requirements in different destinations, and find places to get tests, customer can visit Travel Ready Center on United's app and website.
SOURCE United Airlines
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Take your next video call from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude with United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Newly added to our collection is a background encouraging our employees and customers to vote. Our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. No matter which party you support, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and vote.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started.
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
To use on Microsoft Teams:
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
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A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.