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Wildlife and Other Sightings: Dark Night Skies & Sequoia Seedlings

August 25, 2012 Posted by: LM - Mather District Interpretive Ranger

The Dark Night Sky

Aug 20, 2012

Last night was a beautiful night for stellar observations. With no moon visible, the Milky Way shone brightly above us. Spanning from Cassiopeia to Sagittarius, its dark areas apparent, it majestically stretched across the dark night sky. How amazing it is to gaze deep into our own galaxy.  

At the same time, low on the horizon, the Andromeda Galaxy was apparent. It appears to the naked eye as a fuzzy patch above the constellation Andromeda and to the north of Pegasus. This galaxy is our closest neighbor at approximately 2.5 million light years away!

As Theodore Roosevelt once said after observing the Andromeda Galaxy, "Now I think we are all small enough! Lets go to bed." (Recounted by William Beebe)

Sequoia Seedling
Sequoiadendron giganteum
Sequoia sprout  Sequoia cone and seed

August 2012
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias

I recently spotted a Giant Sequoia seedling in the Tuolumne Grove of Sequoias. It is growing in an area that is fenced off to protect the shallow roots of a nearby giant. This is the first sequoia sprout I have seen in the Tuolumne Grove. Sequoias rely on fire to open their cones and to clear the forest of "clutter" so that the tiny seeds can fall onto bare mineral soil and root in.

For a long time, we feared fire in our forests and suppressed it. We are now seeing, as a result of this, very few young Sequoias in the groves. Thanks to the fine work of a Yosemite Association volunteer group, I have seen my first sequoia seedling (YA first built the protective split-rail fencing, and most recently aerated the soil in an area that had been severely compacted due to previous human usage). The Park Service has re-introduced fire into the Mariposa grove of Sequoias and has seen positive results. In the future, fire will also be re-introduced in our two other Yosemite groves.


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