Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Colors

This year the fall colors keep going on and on.  Today it is sunny, but we have a heavy frost.  The temperature outside my house this morning is in the mid 20s, but it is supposed to go up into the upper 40s.









Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Close Ups of Agates in Book

For today's blog posting I decided to play with the photos from my book.  Thanks to Tom Shearer's great photos, you can really zoom in on the detail.

Rhyolitic rock seam agate....


Lake Superior shadow agate....


Queensland shadow agate...


Lake Superior stalk aggregate agate....


Oregon Priday agate....


Lake Superior tube agate....


Kentucky agate....


Lake Superior paintstone agate....


Texas moss agate....


Argentina Black River agate...


To finish today's post is a photo I took the other day of a freighter out on the big lake.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Once in a million years Comet Encounter with Mars

A comet is an icy cosmic chunk of ice and dust held together by frozen carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane, and other gases.  Comets orbit the sun, but the majority inhabit the region beyond Pluto called the Oort Cloud.  Every once in a while, one of these comets is pushed into the inner solar system, releasing gas or dust as it passes closer to the sun.  Some scientists believe that early in the Earth's formation, frozen comets that hit our planet were responsible for bringing water and organic molecules. 


According to the website http://www.space.com/53-comets-formation-discovery-and-exploration.html:  "As a comet gets closer to the sun, the ice on the surface of the nucleus begins turning into gas, forming a cloud known as the coma. Radiation from the sun pushes dust particles away from the coma, forming a dust tail, while charged particles from the sun convert some of the comet's gases into ions, forming an ion tail. Since comet tails are shaped by sunlight and the solar wind, they always point away from the sun."


Today during mid-afternoon eastern time a mountain-sized clump of ice and rubble will pass close by Mars (87,000 miles, 139,500km).  The nucleus of the Siding Spring Comet is thought to be up to five miles (8km) in diameter, but may be smaller.  It will not hit the red planet, but it will pass close enough that NASA moved the orbiting spacecraft to the opposite side of the planet.  Scientists believe that this is the first time that this particular icy dirt ball will visit the inner solar system.  This type of cosmic encounter happens only once every million years or so.  


Everyone will be watching, including the Mars rovers.  Satellites orbiting Mars and rovers on the surface hope to capture the event on their cameras and instruments.  Since this is a one in a million years event, it is an opportunity to learn about comets as well as about the origin of our solar system since this chunk of cosmic debris was formed 4.6 billion years ago.
Because the comet will be impacted by the warmth of the Sun for the first time, scientists will be able to study a "pristine" relic with the left over materials that went into building the Solar System.

The Hubble telescope captured the following images.


It is believed that the comet was gravitationally pushed toward the inner solar system by a passing star.  This nudge most likely occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago.  The comet was discovered on January 3, 2013 by Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory, located in New South Wales Australia.



CITES:
http://imagecache.jpl.nasa.gov/images/640x350/epoxi-1-640-640x350.jpg
http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/review/comet-quest/hale_bopp.en.jpg
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29665247
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mars-C2013A1SidingSpring-Orbits-20141019.png

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Porcupine Mountain Adventure -- Post 3

The last hike Helen and I took while in the Porkies was at the western end of the park.  We checked out both Overlook Falls and Greenstone Falls.  The first falls was a half mile or so from the parking area.  To get to the second falls, we crossed the river and hiked along the river for 1.25 miles. 

It was misting most of the day.  I had to capture the droplets on the leaf below.


The first half mile was downhill and easy.  Of course, on the way back we had to walk back up the hill.




Overlook Falls....


The ecosystem along the trail is almost rain forest like.  I love the detail....








We headed up river and hiked to the Greenstone Falls cabin.





There were a lot of old growth trees in these woods.  I roughly estimated the number of growth rings in the downed tree shown below.  I counted around 200 years.


The 3-4 foot falls below does not have a name.  Helen named it Bruce Falls after her favorite rocker.



A good part of the trail required walking over a skinny and, in some cases, not too stable boardwalk.


Much of the trail went through an old growth cedar swamp.


Burl...


I have never seen red shelf fungi before....







We assumed that the falls and cabin are named after this seven foot high chunk of Copper Harbor conglomerate, which was probably dropped by the glacier or moved by a glacial river.




Here is the view from the cabin looking toward the river.  The park has numerous rustic cabins that are available for rent.



The root ball from the overturned tree is around 12 feet tall!