Friday, April 18, 2014

New Earth Like Planet Found

NASA announced this week that the Kepler Space Telescope has discovered a new Earth-sized planet located not too far from our own solar system.  Of course, not too far is only 500 million years ago.

Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA on March 7, 2009 to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other star (i.e., those one half to twice the size of the Earth).  

The spacecraft is looking for planets that are in or near the habitable zone of their respective stars:  they are close enough but not too far from their respective stars).  The challenge is to find terrestrial planets that are close enough to their stars to allow liquid water and possibly life to exist.

The diagram below compares the planets of our inner solar system with those in this "neighboring" solar system that has five planets.  The five planets of this other solar system orbit around a dwarf star that is is half the size and mass of our sun.

This discovery is the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet's surface. 

You are invited to visit this new planet in NASA's simulation below.

The size of Kepler-186f is known to be less ten percent larger than Earth, but its mass and composition are not known. Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130 days, receiving one- third the heat energy that Earth does from the sun. This places the planet near the outer edge of the habitable zone.

The inner four companion planets each measure less than fifty percent the size of Earth. Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186d and Kepler-186, orbit every 4, 7, 13 and 22 days, respectively, making them very hot and inhospitable for life as we know it.

The Kepler space telescope infers the existence of a planet by the amount of starlight blocked when it passes in front of its star. From these data, a planet's radius, orbital period and the amount of energy received from the host star can be determined.

NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Still More Agate Close Ups

I am in the art mode as of late completing custom mineral art orders as well as making art for the upcoming shows and museum opening -- so for today's blog, just a few new USB microscope photos of agates.

Brazilian tube agate...

One of Axel's Lake Superior agates...

Another Lake Superior agate....

Another Laker....

Oregon Priday agate...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hardest Snow Shoe of the Year (in April??????)

Yesterday friend, Lois, and I went on a snowshoe from the Sable Visitor's Center along the Sable River, to the footbridge by Sable Falls, and into the dunes.  It was hard.  Very hard.  There is eight inches of new snow on top of three to four feet of soft snow.  With each step we sunk in, even with snowshoes.  In fact we were post holing it with snowshoes.  A few times my snowshoe sunk in so deep that I had to dig it out.  The snow on top of the shoe was like concrete.  Despite the massive effort that it took, it was beautiful out. 

Throughout our three and half hour snowshoe and picnic, it was sunny and snowing at the same time.  Weird.

The sign barely showing below shows that we still have four feet of snow on the ground.

It really looks more like January outside in Grand Marais than it does mid-April.

But Sable River is definitely flowing.


Going across the foot bridge was a challenge.  There was a very brittle ledge of snow that was two to three feet tall, threatening to collapse with each step.

By the time we got into the dunes we were both spent.  I didn't take a picture of our picnic.  We just rested and snacked for around 45 minutes before we headed back.  We took the ski trail on the return trek, which was a whole lot easier.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Even the Deer are Tired of Winter

Winter just will not stop in Grand Marais this year.  We woke yesterday morning to yet another blizzard.  According to TV6, we received over eight inches.  I had to go to town and I must admit that it was really scary driving down and up my driveway.  When you put eight inches of snow on top of mud:  it is a challenge.  I made it back up the driveway, but I bounced off a few snow banks.

Even the deer are tired of the deep snow.  I caught these deer hanging out.

I have been working on custom mineral art orders.  Here are a few photos of recent creations.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lake Superior Vessel Convoy is Struggling

My internet has been down since Sunday morning so I did not get a chance yesterday to finish this post.  Thankfully, Hiawatha Telephone was able to talk me through re-programming the modem.  It is still not working as it should, but it is working.

Thanks to Carol Rose who called me yesterday I was able to get some photos of a convoy of five freighters and two ice cutters making slow progress as they travelled through the thick ice on Lake Superior north of Grand Marais.

The convoy started at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, MI with two ice cutters leading the way through the thick ice of Lake Superior.

First I drove down to the end of Coast Guard Point to get some photos.  First one of the freighters and ice breakers.  Yes the freighter is surrounded by ice.

The picture below shows one of the ice cutters plowing through.

While at the point, I took a few other photos.

Next I drove over to Agate Beach and captured several photos.

On my way home I stopped by Bayshore.  One of the employees, Meagan, told me about the webpage to find out more about the convoy vessels.  The webpage is     I did some screen captures to show you the vessel convoy.  Using one of the webpage capabilities, I found out that they were 9.7 miles north of Grand Marais.  In the photo below, there are seven icons representing the seven vessels.

Here is the information about the seven vessels.  First the two ice breakers....

Then the five freighters....

It took the convoy one day to get through the thick ice in front of Grand Marais and another day to travel towards Copper Harbor on the way to ports in Duluth MN, Superior WI, and Two Harbors MN.  Below is a track map as well as data from one of the ships.  Notice that the ship seemed to be stopping and starting to make slow progress.


I checked this morning and the freighters did reach their ports.  The Mackinaw is currently in Duluth and the other ice cutter (Raddison) is on the way to Thunder Bay.