Azurite owes its name to its beautiful azure-blue color, which makes it a very popular and well-known mineral. It usually occurs with green Malachite, which may form green stains or specks on Azurite crystals or aggregates. The two minerals sometimes occur admixed or banded together, forming what is called “Azure-malachite” in the gem and mineral trades.
Just like with Aragonite and Calcite, Azurite over time turns to Malachite, which is one reason they are seen together so much in specimens. This is due to Azurite being more unstable is open air, and then is pseudomorphically replaced by Malachite.
Smoky quartz on albite.
I hope you guys don’t mind if I post my minerals here, but I think they are pretty and I want to share them with YOU.
Zhangye Danxia - Geology From a Storybook
Long ago, colorful sediments were deposited in western China, layer after layer, century after century. If you were there at the time, you would have seen unremarkable ground, a single hue of dirt no different from a thousand other places on Earth.
But after thousands and thousands of years subject to the forces of pressure and tectonic movement, the total of those layers has been pushed upward, letting us peek at a rainbow-hued slice of Earth’s past perhaps unmatched on this planet. The planet looks more like the cross-section of a jawbreaker candy than layers of rock in these photos, near Zhangye, China.
The Zhangye formation, not to be confused with this danxia, a UNESCO heritage site, reminds us how our crust is heaved and hurled throughout the ages, a slow evolution that will continue into the distant future. It’s yet another story of Earth’s past, written in stone, but perhaps with the same pen as a fantasy storybook.
One of my absolute favourite places on Earth.
Hexagonal rocks-WUT: The columns form due to stress as the lava cools. The lava contracts as it cools, forming cracks. Once the crack develops it continues to grow. The growth is perpendicular to the surface of the flow. Entablature is probably the result of cooling caused by fresh lava being covered by water. The flood basalts probably damned rivers. When the rivers returned the water seeped down the cracks in the cooling lava and caused rapid cooling from the surface downward. The division of colonnade and entablature is the result of slow cooling from the base upward and rapid cooling from the top downward. (via Hexagonal rocks)
Columnar basalt is just too awesome.
A research team led by the Canadian Museum of Nature has identified the first evidence for an extinct giant camel in Canada’s High Arctic. The discovery is based on 30 fossil fragments of a leg bone found on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, and represents the most northerly record for early camels, whose ancestors are known to have originated in North America some 45 million years ago….
The camel bones were collected from a steep slope at the Fyles Leaf Bed site, a sandy deposit near Strathcona Fiord on Ellesmere Island. Fossils of leaves, wood and other plant material have been found at this site, but the camel is the first mammal recovered. A nearby fossil-rich locality at Strathcona Fiord known as the Beaver Pond site has previously yielded fossils of other mammals from the same time period, including a badger, deerlet, beaver and three-toed horse.
Determining that the bones were from a camel was a challenge. “The first time I picked up a piece, I thought that it might be wood. It was only back at the field camp that I was able to ascertain it was not only bone, but also from a fossil mammal larger than anything we had seen so far from the deposits,” explains Rybczynski, relating the moment that she and her team had discovered something unusual.
Some important physical characteristics suggested the fossil fragments were part of a large tibia, the main lower-leg bone in mammals, and that they belonged to the group of cloven-hoofed animals known as artiodactyls, which includes cows, pigs and camels. Digital files of each of the 30 bone fragments were produced using a 3D laser scanner, allowing for the pieces to be assembled and aligned. The size of the reconstituted leg bone suggested it was from a very large mammal. At the time in North America, the largest artiodactyls were camels.
Full confirmation that the bones belonged to a camel came from a new technique called collagen fingerprinting that was pioneered by Dr. Mike Buckley at the University of Manchester in England. Profiles produced by this technique can be used to distinguish between groups of mammals.
Minute amounts of collagen, the dominant protein found in bone, were extracted from the fossils. Using chemical markers for the peptides that make up the collagen, a collagen profile for the fossil bones was developed. This profile was compared with those of 37 modern mammal species, as well as that of a fossil camel found in Yukon, which is also in the Canadian Museum of Nature’s collections.
The collagen profile for the High Arctic camel most closely matched those of modern camels, specifically dromedaries (camels with one hump) as well as the Yukon giant camel, which is thought to be Paracamelus, the ancestor of modern camels. The collagen information, combined with the anatomical data, allowed Rybczynski and her colleagues to conclude that the Ellesmere bones belong to a camel, and is likely the same lineage as Paracamelus.
“We now have a new fossil record to better understand camel evolution, since our research shows that the Paracamelus lineage inhabited northern North America for millions of years, and the simplest explanation for this pattern would be that Paracamelus originated there,” explains Rybczynski. “So perhaps some specializations seen in modern camels, such as their wide flat feet, large eyes and humps for fat may be adaptations derived from living in a polar environment.”
The scientific paper also reports for the first time an accurate age of both the Fyles Leaf Bed site and the Beaver Pond site—at least 3.4 million years old. This was determined by Dr. Gosse at Dalhousie University using a sophisticated technique that involves dating the sands found associated with the bone. The date is significant because it corresponds to a time period when the Earth was 2°C to 3°C warmer than today, and the Arctic was 14°C to 22°C warmer.
The Rover Curiosity
UC Davis geology professor Dawn Sumner uses virtual reality 3-D images to walk around the surface of Earth and Mars. This new technology enables the study of rocks, particularly the much older ones on the Mars, which can offer clues to the origins of the red planet and our own planet.
According to NASA, Mars at one time had conditions that could harbor life. Watch how researchers at UC Davis helped with the Curiosity Mission here on Earth.
Such an awesome video. Click and watch!
The number of places in our solar system that could have ever supported life now stands at 2!
The first, of course, is Earth, because … well, us. According to an awesomely exciting announcement today by NASA and JPL, we can add Gale Crater to that list!
What they found: Curiosity’s rock drill recently uncovered clay-like minerals below Gale Crater’s rusty red surface. These muddy minerals, pictured above, hint at a “Gray Mars” era, when Gale Crater and the ancient stream bed it holds could have been home to intermittent lakes. When the onboard instruments scanned the chemical makeup of the clay, it found carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur compounds, a group of elements known as “CHONPS” that have to exist in order to create life as we know it. Most importantly, the minerals were pretty neutral in pH and were found in forms that point to a possible chemical energy system (another key ingredient for life).
What remains unknown: This does NOT mean that anything ever actually lived there. But it is the first time that the ingredients for the evolution of microbial life, and the correct conditions to support it, have been directly observed beyond Earth. Mars still has water frozen at its poles, and once had quite a bit of water above and below the surface. The rover will poke around this site, called Yellowknife Bay, for a while longer before heading toward the mountainous center of Gale Crater. There, it will study the multiple layers of rock present on the hillside in order to piece together an even clearer picture of Gale Crater’s muddy, moist, maybe* microbial Martian past.
*Maybe. Just want to emphasize that part.
I’d love to know how many of you have gone on fossil digs, or been to palaeontology/geology events (like lectures, festivals, fossil/mineral shows, etc).
These kinds of events can be extremely informative and fun for all that attend, and with summer coming up soon, there will be a lot more going on! Does anyone have plans to attend digs this summer, or will be going to shows and other events? If so, is it your first time or are you a regular?
For anyone curious, there is a very handy guide that lists contact information for museums/groups that host digs, tours, and featured locations called “Dinosaur Digs” (Discovery Travel Adventures) (North America). This will help you narrow down places you’d like to visit, or would want to contact to join in on a dig.
As well, get to know your local museum, volunteer, make friends, and learn the tools you’ll need out in the field.
It’s an awesome experience to go on digs with fellow enthusiasts/professionals, and it is also a lot of work, tedious, and can be frustrating, but with all that, it is extremely rewarding! Besides, when people ask how your week was, you can go, “Oh, no big deal. I was just digging up some dinosaurs. You?”
Sinkholes: An Introduction
I don’t know how many of you have heard this news, but a massive sinkhole in Florida took the life of a man while he was sleeping in his bed. The area is very unstable, and the house is being demolished. The neighbouring home was also compromised, and both families had only a short amount of time to retrieve precious items within the homes.
In such a tragic event as this - and because this deals with geologic topics I often focus on - I felt very compelled to talk about the importance of knowing your area, as well as signs of how to contact officials if you find you may be in danger of sinkholes. I’ve personally dealt with sinkholes on too many (planned & unplanned) occasions, have fallen in them, have rescued animals from them, and had my past home demolished because of them. I feel for this family greatly.
The photos above are screencaps from the video on nbcnews.com that accompanies the story. There are examples of past sinkholes, as well as the diagrams giving you a cross section with the general way they work.
I’ve studied sinkholes from the small to the massive. They can range in all sorts of sizes: from length, to width, to depth. Just goole “sinkhole” and you will find a whole bunch of photos. Here’s some from National Geographic that show the world’s most well known pits.
Sinkholes can occur anywhere on Earth, at any time, and the process that manifests before they collapse can be sudden or many, many years in the making. These events are all due to erosion. Much of the time, underground caverns/voids form under the karst process when water erodes the vulnerable soluble bedrock (like limestone), making the ground above unstable over a period of time until it collapses. Here are a few diagrams other than the ones above: state.fl.us, esi.utexas.edu.
Sinkholes also are not always isolated, as underground drainage (natural and artificial) can lead to networks of caverns and underground streams which contribute to the general weakening of a certain area. One may form today, but another could form within minutes, days, or years from the other. In the second photo above, the states highlighted are ones that have been found to be more vulnerable to sinkholes in the US.
I explained the geological term for “sinkhole” above, but the word is more widely used in media to discuss any depression that forms on the Earth’s surface. Many sinkholes can occur due to piping, mines, or anything artificially made that has compromised the stability of the surrounding rock too. There are “sinkholes” (technically: piping pseudokarst) that have occurred like the ones in Guatemala, where the city lies on hundreds of feet of volcanic deposits, and ageing piping was part of the area’s demise.
When it comes to sinkholes in your area, it’s best to do research and read about past incidents in your town, study what your house/area sits on, and read about your climate. If you find yourself surrounded by small sinkholes, there’s a good chance something bigger is below. Speaking from experience, when you’re in a foot of water, and the surface is being covered quickly with developing bubbles all around you, get out.
Usually, with the thousands of sinkholes that happen each year, most of the time no one is severely hurt. Though, this story is a sad reminder of why we must continue to study Earth Sciences, learn from these events, and figure out what we can do to prevent anyone else from being injured or killed.
Azurite with Malachite - National Mineral Collection
NASA satellite images of the Richat Structure.
The Richat Structure, also known as the Eye of the Sahara and Guelb er Richat, is a prominent circular feature in the Sahara desert of west–central Mauritania near Ouadane. This structure is a deeply eroded, slightly elliptical, 40-km in diameter, dome. The sedimentary rock exposed in this dome range in age from Late Proterozoic within the center of the dome to Ordovician sandstone around its edges.
Head over to the source link and take a look through this awesome gallery of Volcanoes as snapped by the ISS over Earth:
Few people have seen as many volcanoes as the astronauts that inhabit the International Space Station.
Not only does their imaging of the Earth’s surface capture volcanism action, but it can provide remote sensing information on volcanoes that geologists cannot visit with any regularity. In honor of the thousands of volcano images that have been taken from the ISS, I present a gallery of some of the best shots I found, including some volcanoes that most people don’t even know exist!
Everyone knows the quartz variety called citrine, but did you know most of the “citrine” you find for sale isn’t natural at all? Yep, there’s a good chance you may actually just have some super heated amethyst or smoky quartz that’s been treated to resemble citrine.
Natural citrine can be just as you may find commercial citrine: pale yellow to darker shades of brown, but natural citrine is very rare.