Conversation with a Beekeeper (audio)

Did you know that bees dance? How about why they swarm? Listen and learn!

On Monday, October 29th, I had a virtual sit down with Ben Gajewski to speak bees as a follow up to his guest post. The final product is just over an hour in length – we covered a lot of ground. There are around 40 sub-topics, from social biology (biologist Tom Seeley of Cornell gets a shout-out) and beekeeping regulations to buying tractor trailers of corn syrup and why Ben has “a lot of dead bees in the garage”.

BEN: Want me to introduce myself again, or…?

PAT: No, I have to introduce you, and then you say ‘thank you for having me’.

BEN: I can’t wait for this interview, I think it will be fantastic.

PAT: Hello everybody, this is Pat from poikiloblastic, interviewing my good friend Ben Gajewski from Geneseo, NY about his beekeeping facilities…

BEN: Thanks, thanks for having me, Pat. Good to chat with you again.

Continue reading

Guest Post: Beekeeping With Ben

Too lazy to read? Check out the follow-up interview with Ben!

Slight departure today: I’m off on a geology adventure to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so in the meantime I’ve lined up my friend Benjamin Gajewski to give a beekeeping overview! He is a hobby beekeeper in Geneseo, NY and part of the Ontario-Finger Lakes Beekeepers Association. From his hives he is able to harvest honey for gifts and small scale sales, but more importantly enjoys the beekeeping process and learning about bees. A full time conservationist, Ben is also a freelance photographer. He’s a decent photographer and recently started keeping bees, which seemed a good combination for a guest post. I will have a follow-up Q&A with Ben in a week or two (Update: the interview is here), so leave a comment if you have any questions! Photo and text credit go to Ben.

For a newbie (pun intended) honeybees can be obtained through purchase of a package (a screen box containing 3lbs of honeybees, sugar water for food, and a caged queen that is new to the bees), a nucleus hive or nuc (five honeycomb frames split from a pre-existing colony containing eggs/larva in all stages, workers, a queen, pollen, and honey), or by capturing a wild swarm or extracting bees from a wall or other structure. Seen here, a swarm clings to a tree branch allowing for easy capture.

Once the colony (a group of bees) is installed into a hive (the physical space a colony inhabits) it is helpful to ensure the bees are aware they are in a new location so they do not attempt to return to their previous hive. Placing grass clippings and leafs in front of the hive entrance will alert the bees they are in a new spot.

Short circular orientation flights will take place as the bees first exit the new hive prior to longer work flights to find flowers.

The Langstroth hive (above) is the most widely used worldwide and is designed to provide an agreeable space for bees. Placing frames with foundation (a thin sheet of plastic or wax with a honeycomb pattern) or foundation already drawn out with honeycomb will help keep the bees from leaving their new hive. Adding feeding jars will also help prevent the bees from absconding; seen here 1:1 sugar-water is being added through the inner cover. The outer cover, leaning on the hive will prevent other insects from being attracted to this food source.

Bees will immediately start to draw out comb to allow the queen to begin laying eggs to increase the colony’s population. A swarm or package may only be one tenth the size of the ultimate colony population. A colony can contain upwards of 80,000-100,000 bees. Honeycomb will also provide for the storage of pollen and nectar, and eventually honey that will be capped for future use.

Once oriented, bees will quickly begin their work looking for nectar and pollen sources. Food brought from their former hive and the sugar water feed will only temporarily sustain the bees.

When a worker finds an ample nectar or pollen source, they will return to the hive and dance to allow others to return to the site. Two bees (on right) dance here, one leading with precise angles and distances to describe the location, the other bee follows behind to learn the location.

Nectar is retrieved from flowers. Nectar will be processed by the bees into honey for later consumption.

Pollen, collected and stored in pouches (yellow here), also brushes against a bee’s fuzzy body and will pollinate other flowers the bee visits. Pollen is used directly in the hive as a source of protein.

The Langstroth hive design allows for easy removal of neatly drawn out comb with honey. An uncapping tool is used to carefully remove the wax cap on honey cells.

Various hand and electric extracting machines exist to spin frames, flinging honey out of the honeycomb onto the side walls where it drips to the bottom of the container.

A series of filters are used to remove wax and other debris that gets mixed in with the honey during the extraction process. Honey is edible straight from the hive but impurities can limit salability.

A sweet reward for a season’s work. Properly harvested and bottled honey will last indefinitely.

Extraction of honey may be the end to the season, but preparations must be made to help ensure the hive will survive through the winter. Beekeepers use various methods, or none at all, to aid bees during the winter months. Here two hives have been wrapped with tar paper. Holes are left at the bottom and toward the top of the hive to allow for proper circulation and bee exits.

During the winter short cleansing flights will take place on sunny days when the temperature allows bees to leave the hive briefly. Bees will leave the hive to defecate and remove dead bees to help keep the hive clean cold periods when leaving the hive is not possible.

Wedge Fifty: The Catskills Conundrum

The following mystery was written for Accretionary Wedge #50, hosted by Evelyn of Georneys. This month we are invited to:

Share a fun moment from geology field camp or a geology field trip. You can share a story, a picture, a song, a slogan, a page from your field notebook– anything you like!

On to the story…

The Brunton Compass is a field geology staple. Image from the Brunton website (click to visit).

Every geologist worth their rock salt recognizes – and hopefully knows how to use – a Brunton Compass (Evelyn gave them their due in B is for Brunton). Housing a compass (with adjustable declination), clinometer and mirror at less than 10 ounces, the Brunton is important as much for its form as its function. One of the more common uses of a Brunton is to take strike and dip measurements of strata. Strike indicates the compass direction of the originally horizontal bedding plane (i.e. the orientation). Dip is the angle relative to horizontal in the downward direction of the bedding plane, measured with a simple adjustable bubble level.

Visualizing strike and dip can be tough at first, and it’s easier done than said. That’s why, on an undergraduate class trip to the Catskills, our first task of the day was to warm up with some Brunton practice – and we needed some warming up. It was crisp late September morning, and many of us were sporting geology club hoodies, warm hats and gloves. Fortunately the Catskills record a smorgasbord of interesting geologic events to get the blood flowing, and our first stop of the day was a doozy.

The “Taconic Unconformity” near Catskill, NY. Steeply dipping Ordovician sandstone interbedded with shale (right) lies unconformibly below a not-quite-as-steeply dipping Silurian-age limestone and medium-grained sandstone (left).

There is no evidence of deformation on the discontinuity (it is an angular unconformity), but there is a fault zone as well, with slickenlines. Ron Schott’s gigapan of the area shows the broader context, though I couldn’t find any slickenlines. Anyway, Bruntons in hand, we spread out over the outcrop to measure the strike and dip of the surfaces with slickenlines. Some of the not-quite-awake students worked in pairs.

It is not difficult to persuade geologists to climb. Here the structures class swarms an outcrop in the Catskills to practice using a Brunton in taking strike and dip measurements.

After our Professor had made the rounds to see everyone had the general idea, we collected together and reached a general consensus of strike and dip measurements. The slickenlines were striking towards the west-northwest and were dipping around 45 degrees south…I think. My notes from this trip aren’t very good, but everyone seemed to be in agreement. Well, almost everyone.

One student spoke up about some wonky strike measurements she had recorded. Sometimes they would be striking west, but then other areas seemed to say the slickenlines were striking north or southwest. Her dip measurements were spot on, but she was getting no consistency with strike. It wasn’t a method issue, as she demonstrated she used the normal strike-taking steps. We had a mystery on our hands! A nice little brain teaser to start the morning. The Prof started running through a process of elimination to find the source of error.

It is possible for magnetic minerals in rocks to mess with the compass and give erroneous strike measurements, but that was ruled out as the rest of us were getting consistent results. The Prof took strike in one area, then had her measure the same location and it was way off. They swapped Bruntons with the same result. A little frustrated, the student took off her fingerless mittens to get a better feel when taking strike measurements. She remeasured the strike and finally read a west-northwest strike. The Prof gave her back her Brunton, and the needle once again pointed west-northwest. Things seemed back to normal…but what caused the slew of mis-measurements that morning?

The Prof figured it out first. He asked to see a mitten, which had a flap that could be folded back to make a fingerless glove. The student had been using it in the fingerless configuration, with the flap held securely to the back of the mitten. The Prof folded the flap near the back of the mitten and smiled as several small but powerful hidden magnets pulled the flap back into place with a dull thud.

Restructuring NASA Lunar Science

Resources are not infinite, and the 2013 administrative budget will call for a significant cut to planetary sciences. This is causing a stir (to put it mildly) in the planetary community and has left many organizations scrambling for a plan. For example, the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) presented their final report this week, summarized here by Casey Dreier. Essentially, the proposed cuts severely limits the potential of future Mars missions, and once again Mars sample return is at least a decade away. You can read Casey’s post for the latest on the Mars program, but it’s a similar story across the board and has been for many years. Visit the Planetary Society for the latest on how the community is responding and how you can help. NASA calls for promising returns but winds up in trouble either by underfunding programs (see: the Constellation program) or allowing budgetary overruns at the detriment to other programs. Many missions are pulled off within their proposed budgets (like the Moon’s GRAIL mission and the Juno probe), but overruns are often joked about as being standard operating procedure.

Despite the challenges, we keep reaching out beyond low earth orbit. “50 Years of Space Exploration” via National Geographic (image linked to source).

As the momentum of the Apollo missions began to wane in the eighties, the lunar community also started to shrink. Papers published from the Proceedings of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) saw fewer lunar papers as the Apollo-era scientists started to leave the field – and of course at the same time other areas of planetary science were growing. Funding for lunar research lessened and many researchers followed the money to Mars (and elsewhere). In some years, the week-long LPSC would host only a couple lunar sessions (of 35+ total sessions). The most recent LPSC had 6 lunar-specific sessions, and of course there is significant overlap with broader session topics like Impact Craters and Airless Bodies. In addition, right now several satellites are further characterizing our nearest neighbor and keeping the Moon in the science spotlight.

Facilitating the Moon’s resurgence is the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), a virtual institution and primary hub of lunar research. Established in March 2008, NLSI is comprised of a small home base at NASA Ames and several US teams and international partners. They host the annual Lunar Science Forum at NASA Ames (the 5th annual NLSI Lunar Science Forum was recently held in July). Each year the Forum is bigger and better-attended, packed with three full days of lunar science. The institute has been key in rebuilding and strengthening ties in the lunar community, but that seems set to change.

NASA recently put out a call for comments on soon-to-be-released Cooperative Announcement NNH12ZDA013J (CAN). The call for comments are to deal with high-level features of a proposed virtual institute to be jointly supported by NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and Human Exploration and Operation Missions Directorate (HEOMD).  A selection from the Addendum about the scope of the CAN:

The research scope for the planned CAN will be in the fields of lunar, NEA and Martian moons sciences, with preference given to topics that relate to the joint interests of both planetary science and human exploration.

This new Institute will replace the NLSI and expand its role to include near earth asteroids (NEAs) and Martian moons (Phobos and Deimos). There are a number of current organizations I assume will be part of or partnered with the new Institute, as their goals overlap. This includes the MPPG as mentioned above, the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG), the Lunar Exploration and Analysis Group (LEAG), and the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE), the Next Generation Lunar Scientists and Engineers (NGLSE) group, and the Lunar Graduate Conference (LunGradCon). While the MPPG, SBAG and LEAG are independent planning groups which I think will remain intact, I am not as certain about the effects this new Institute will have on the CLSE, NGLSE and LunGradCon. Holy crap that is a lot of acronyms.

NASA loves acronyms. They have a whole search engine devoted to searching through 14198 acronyms, which does not include many mission and organization names (click image for page).

The CLSE is also a primarily virtual institute (I think), but is organized by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, TX. The CLSE states they state they are an “integral part” of NLSI, so perhaps CLSE will become the sole lunar-specific virtual institute.

NGLSE I believe has independent funding from but arose in partnership with NLSI. There is always a one-day NGLSE workshop held the day prior to the start of the NLSI Lunar Science Forum. Noah Petro, part of the NGLSE executive committee, has a very broad definition of “next-gen” which encompasses anyone who entered the lunar field post-Apollo.

LunGradCon is held the weekend before the NLSI Lunar Science Forum (typically a one-day conference on Sunday), and is run by graduate students for graduate students (and some post-docs). As a participant and member of the organizing committee, I am totally unbiased when I say it is a great opportunity to network with those new to the field of lunar research and see what the community is working on. The LunGradCon organizing committee will have to figure out (with input from other graduate students) how to adapt to this new community.

There are a couple of other points in the CAN that are worth mentioning. I wrote above that the new Institute will expand the role of NLSI, but not that it will expand its size. During the recent Forum there was much discussion about the future of NLSI, and whether there would be future Lunar Science Forums. The diplomatic answer from Greg Schmidt was that there would definitely be another Forum at NASA Ames, but he never specified Lunar Forum. What I see happening is a defocusing of the Institute that mirrors the defocusing of NASAs exploration strategy from Moon First to Flexible Path. I started this article with discussion of funding because I think the current status of NASA’s budget is a large player in why this change is occurring. In regards to the research scope of the Institute, the addendum is not very exclusive:

Additionally, while the topics of the planned CAN focus on potential destinations for human exploration (the Moon, NEAs, Phobos and Deimos), these topics can sometimes best be considered within the broader context of comparative planetology. Therefore, innovative proposals that include comparisons with main belt asteroids, comets, Mercury, Venus and Mars would be appropriate. Similarly, studies of telerobotic operational sites and associated research potential, including Earth-Moon Lagrange Points and the moons of Mars, may also be appropriate as part of a larger scientific effort.

There is no foreseeable future where Venus, Mercury, or comets will be targets of human exploration, but their inclusion leaves the door open to further defocusing of the Institute. In addition, Mars is unique and already has its own NASA funded program and plan for human and robotic exploration. Large sample return from Mars and the Moon are feasible if funded, and the success of Hayabusa showed we can actually get something from asteroids. OSIRIS-REx will hopefully continue that trend (with a potential return next decade).

This CAN is asking for comments on the “high-level operations” of the proposed Institute, so I believe it is an inevitability that NLSI will be replaced. Note that the interpretations and opinions I’ve talked about are my own, and both them and the CAN are subject to change. I am concerned about the connections the lunar community has built in the past few years, and am worried it will once again start to fade. Worried, but not closed to the idea of this new Institute. There is much potential here, and I do see value in collaboration between groups studying these airless bodies. However, I attend both the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and the NLSI Lunar Science Forum, and I have benefited greatly from both. LPSC is a huge, week-long conference with four simultaneous sessions going on throughout the day, making it impossible to see everything. The Forum is a much more intimate setting with my immediate peers in the lunar community, and I can see that being lost in the incorporation of new solar system bodies.

Sampling Gruithuisen

The following is an abstract I wrote for – but never submitted to – the 2011 micro-symposium on The Importance of Solar System Sample Return Missions to the Future of Planetary Science. Because of time constraints I had to limit myself to a single presentation on how and why we sample crater ejecta (PDF of that abstract here).

Introduction:  The case for planetary differentiation has been well established for inner Solar System planets. Samples from meteoritic material and robotic and manned missions have contributed to current models of planetary evolution. A key early finding of the Apollo missions was evidence for a lunar magma ocean (LMO) and the early differentiation of terrestrial planets [1, 2]. This model was later applied to other rocky planets such as the Earth, Mars, and Venus.

Silicic volcanism represents a compositional end-member of planetary differentiation. As late-stage products, these evolved magmas may be used to place constraints on mantle sources and processes. Silicic magma in sufficient quantities may also play a role in early planetary mantle dynamics, magmatism and crustal evolution.

Non-terrestrial silicic volcanism is potentially identified on Venus (e.g., Pancake Volcanoes) and the Moon (e.g., Gruithuisen Domes) [3, 4]. Of these locations, the Moon is both uniquely preserved and accessible to robotic and manned missions. The Gruithuisen Domes were a Constellation region of interest, and much work has been done to characterize the area.

Samples to determine the extent and range of products of differentiation are among the highest lunar science priorities [5, 6]. Silicic volcanic terranes are rare in the current lunar sample collection. Those that have been identified are of uncertain provenance [4]. Origins as the products of silica-liquid immiscibility or basaltic underplating have been proposed for non-mare domes, but it is unclear whether they are volumetrically minor late stage residual melt or form large intrusive (and extrusive) bodies [7, 8].

Gruithuisen Dome region

Image and caption from [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]: “All three of the Gruithuisen domes and the surrounding terrain are shown in WAC frame M117752970. Image width is 64 km and illumination is from the left.” Click the photo to visit the post on the LROC website.

Gruithuisen Domes:  Located on the northeast margin of Oceanus Procellarum, the Gruithuisen Domes area contains three dome structures: Gruithuisen Delta (27 km diameter), Gruithuisen Gamma (19 km), and Gruithuisen Northwest (7.5 km) [4]. As nearside non-mare volcanic features, they represent an accessible and valuable scientific site. Spectral observations indicate the domes are low in iron and titanium compared to mare and are also enriched in thorium (~20-40 ppm), similar in nature to rhyolite domes on Earth [7,9]. Emplacement and rheology models also indicate similarities with rhyolite [10]. Elevation profiles of central summit craters are consistent with non-impact origin [6].

The Gruithuisen Domes are located in a geologically complex region proximal to highland and mare units. On the basis of crater counts and geologic mapping, the timing of dome emplacement has been calculated as 3.85-3.72 Ga (Late Imbrian), earlier than the ≤3.55 Ga surrounding mare units [7, 11]. A significant contribution of sample return would be the establishment of an absolute age for these units and the association with the surrounding mare and underlying highlands. [Click here to visit the featured post on the Gruithuisen Domes at the LROC website.]

Sample Missions:  Scientific potential is significant for a stationary lander, and only increases if mobile rovers and manned missions are also considered.

Automated Sample Return.  There are several potentially key areas of focus for a sample return mission from the Gruithuisen Domes. The summits of larger domes are plateaus large enough to target for automated landing. Targeting the plateaus may avoid issues associated with landing on mare or highland terrane. Flank slopes (11-18 degrees [6]) may present problems for a lander, but are manageable by rover. A single sample return from the Gruithuisen Domes would likely yield rock types currently lacking in the lunar sample collection.

Manned Sample Return.  Adding a human element enhances the diversity and quality of collected samples. Mobile missions are currently restricted to a 10km radius around the lunar module on slopes of less than 25 degrees. Within these architectural constraints, a single mission could fully explore one dome or sample the flanks of two domes and the surrounding mare.

References:

  1. J. A. Wood et al. (1970) Lunar anorthosites and a geophysical model of the Moon. Proceedings of the 11th Lunar Science Conference, 965-988.
  2. P. H. Warren (1985) The magma ocean concept and lunar evolution. Annual Reviews of Earth & Planetary Science 13, 201-240.
  3. J. H. Fink et al. (1993) Shapes of Venusian “pancake’ domes imply episodic emplacement and silicic composition. Geophysical Research Letters 20, 261-264.
  4. J. W. Head and T. B. McCord (1978) Imbrian-Age Highland Volcanism on the Moon: The Gruithuisen and Mairan Domes. Science 199, 1433-1436.
  5. NRC (2007) The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon, 107p.
  6. S. E. Braden et al. (2010) Morphology of Gruithuisen and Hortensius Domes: Mare vs nonmare volcanism (PDF). Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXXI, #2677.
  7. S. D. Chevrel et al. (1999) Gruithuisen domes region: A candidate for an extended nonmare volcanism unit on the Moon. Journal of Geophysical Research 104, 16515-16529.
  8. S. E. Braden et al. (2007) Unexplored Areas of the Moon: Nonmare Domes. Planetary Science Decadal Survey, 2013-2022.
  9. J. J. Hagerty et al. (2006) Refined thorium abundances for lunar red spots: Implications for evolved, nonmare volcanism on the Moon. Journal of Geophysical Research 111, E06002.
  10. L. Wilson and J. W. Head (2003) Deep generation of magmatic gas on the Moon and implications for pyroclastic eruptions. Journal of Geophysical Research 108, 5012.
  11. R. Wagner et al. (2002) Stratigraphic sequence and ages of volcanic units in the Gruithuisen region of the Moon. Journal of Geophysical Research 107(E11), 5104.

Flippin’ Rocks

click to view Flickr group

Thanks to this post by Rebecca in the Woods, I found out that today is International Rock Flipping Day! The purpose of IRFD from the main post at Wanderin’ Weeta:

It’s a day set aside to explore a too-often forgotten part of our world, one we walk past every day, and rarely are aware of; our nearest neighbours, the vibrant life under our feet.

I needed to take a walk, so I grabbed my phone and headed out with a friend to circle St. Mary’s Lake on the Notre Dame campus. Unfortunately the college landscapers apparently decided against leaving any rocks of size lying about for passerby’s to trip on. Instead we headed home and I had to settle for some concrete rip-rap near an apartment complex.

rock unflipped

The “rock” in its natural state

It became unusually blurry and overexposed when flipped (a defense mechanism?)

rock flipped

The “rock”, flipped

Getting closer, there was a slug that didn’t seem to perturbed to being exposed. His buddy the worm schlooped underground when I got too close:

snail and worm

Mr. Snail and The Worm hanging out

And bonus creature, clinging to the underside of the “rock” was this guy:

Spider!

Spider chilling out

I placed the rock back in place, being careful not to crush the slug. Happy International Rock Flipping Day!

Six days in the crater, day three

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

This post is part of a slowly unfolding saga of my experience at the Meteor Crater Field Camp that was held from October 17-23, 2010. The field camp was run under the NASA Lunar Science Institute and headed by Dr. David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute.
This post also doubles as my entry into Accretionary Wedge #49: Out of This World, which focuses on extraterrestrial geology and terrestrial analogues. Thanks to Dana at En Tequila Es Verdad for hosting this month’s Wedge!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010.

From above, our deluge of sun hats would appear to run into and froth against the tourist rope corral for a moment before spilling over and around into the area of No Trespassing. Rapidly arriving at a flattened part of the rim, we diffuse and come to rest, idly shifting for something in our backpacks and maybe a better view into the crater. David starts speaking of the plans for the day, and it takes us a few moments to realize we’re looking in the wrong direction. We turn around and he points at a small hill near the side of an access road. Pondering aloud, he wonders What do you suppose that boulder is doing on top of that hill?

Hint: It’s not a geocache.

The plains surrounding Meteor Crater are afflicted with an excess of flatness. Aside from the crater itself, the only relief is from scattered blocks, mounds and low rises of Coconino Sandstone and Kaibab Dolostone. They are blemishes on the otherwise flat patchwork terrain surrounding the crater. Like the boulder on the hill, many large coherent blocks of ejecta excavated during impact were thrown out of the crater and now rest upwards of 300 feet above where they ought to. Three days in, we were no longer tourists; It was time for science. We started work to answer a few relatively simple questions: Where in the crater did those blocks originate? How big are they? What would it take to launch them tens and hundreds of meters to their current position?

To answer those questions, the group split in two. One team examined the ejecta blocks, recording their dimensions and lithology. The other team measured the distance from crater to ejecta, using a physical measuring tape and recording map position and GPS coordinates to cross-check calculations. It was a rather straightforward assignment that also got us thinking in terms of cratering processes. The furthest blocks we studied were a solid five minute walk from the crater. It is easy to lose sight of something that is no longer present, but after the initial impact we would have been scrambling over several additional meters of ejecta the whole trip.

The measuring group stands on the rim of Meteor Crater as the tape is prepared for the trek to ejecta block E-3. Some members of the lithology group are visible on the white block of Kaibab (limestone) in the distance.

Team Tape and Team Lithology knocked out six profiles over the course of the day, including an assessment of the famous three-story-tall House Rock (a.k.a. Monument Rock). Six blocks is a small sample set to be sure, but one that lays the groundwork for a more thorough and complete ejecta study to be conducted over a number of Meteor Crater Field Camps. With a few simplifying assumptions – radial path, ballistic trajectory, 45 degree angle of ejection – our results indicated flight times for these boulders of three to fifteen seconds at ~60-360 km/hr [~15-100 m/s]. These velocities get well above hurricane force winds (though they pale in comparison to the ~12 km/s impact velocity). And we’re not talking about shingles and trees flying around – these are multi-ton boulders getting hucked out in all directions. Given enough force, ejecta can go anywhere. House Rocks might not get very far, but there are loads of examples of ejecta traveling hundreds of kilometers, into the atmosphere, or even off-planet. We only have fragments of Mars as a result of a few impacts into the martian surface sending material into space and eventually to Earth. Simon Wellings (@metageologist) wrote a bit more about the evidence of impacts in his contribution to the Wedge, What came from outer space.

The Apollo Era really brought to light the importance of impact processes on the evolution of planetary surfaces. Apollo missions also proved a challenge to geologists. No lunar material was collected in-situ, which means the provenance of many samples is uncertain. The provenance of regolith (soil) and impact breccia fragments is still the subject of intense debate. Many of these fragments likely have origins in basin forming events (e.g., the Sea of Tranquility). Boulders like those surrounding Camelot Crater in the above photo, are a bit easier to reconcile with their source. Mapping the distribution of ejecta lithology around terrestrial and lunar craters is the ground-truth to theoretical distribution models. Gravity and atmospheric conditions may differ between the Earth and Moon, but the results of an impact are similar across the solar system.

Top: Boulder field at Camelot Crater from the Apollo 17 mission. Panorama compiled by Warren Harold of NASA/JSC. Bottom: Looking outward from the rim of Meteor Crater. Both images are in color.

Learn more about impact cratering processes with the Lunar & Planetary Institute Impact Cratering Lab

Cosmic Stopover?

After a long day full of fantastic and varied music, Mumford & Sons took the stage in Dixon, Illinois as part of their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Tour. After warming up with a slow-paced lover’s lament, we jumped right in to Little Lion Man and just kept going. Hits and soon-to-be-new-releases were mixed in fair abundance, and will definitely go down as one of my favorite concerts. There was even some icing on the cake:

Mumford & Sons brought out Jerry Douglas (who would put on a separate show in Dixon later that evening) to play their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer. The stage lights began to dim as they played the opening licks. Between then and the opening lines, almost directly above the stage behind a thin veil of smoke and clouds, a fireball blazed from stage left to stage right. I heard a few “Wow!”s and “Did you see that?!”s, but crowd memory is short and the forces of nature on stage took rein. But I will remember, and I hope those people will, too.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t have a watch/phone to check the time – and didn’t think to ask those nearby – but as I said it started when The Boxer started. It appeared to travel N/NW, and was probably 45-60 degrees above the horizon, lasting less than 2 seconds. Because of the smoke and cloud cover, there is a small possibility that this was a firework. However, I did not see a smoke trail, no other fireworks were shot off, and it did seem to be behind actual clouds and not only smoke. Therefore I hope others will report their sightings, here or elsewhere so we can know for sure!

Have you seen this migmatite?

33 years ago on her first day of work at a hospital, my friend’s mother inherited, in her words, an “antique doorstop and/or paperweight …we think it is petrified wood”. It is fist-sized, shiny, and much heavier than it appears. It is stumpy and rhombohedral-ish, with many semi-parallel lines along the sides and curving bands along one face. It kind of looks like petrified wood…but it is not. Far from it.

migmatite

The mystery migmatite. Dime for scale. Click for full resolution.

Petrified wood results from rapid burial and slow hydrous alteration into silicified casts (permineralization). Lying underground in a wet, mineral-rich environment, picking up hues of red and yellow and gray. Calmly, coolly, entirely without incident. A history about as far removed as possible from the sample that arrived in the mail over the weekend. Migmatites (from the Latin migma for mixture) are the product of intense heat and pressure that result both high-grade metamorphism and partial melting. Check out the Georneys post M is for Migmatite for fantastic coverage of all things migmatite.

migmatite_top

“far side” of the migmatite from previous photo. Was there a vug/gap here that allowed free crystallization?

What’s missing from this story is the provenance (origin) of this fantastic rock. Not all migmatites look the same – some lack the leucosomes (light bands) seen here, and they are not all black-and-white – and my hope is that this sample is from the Pacific Northwest… maybe someone out there knows where. For the past three decades it was hanging out east of the Cascades in Central Washington, which is a good place to start. The crustal accumulation and volcanic history of the Pacific Northwest is a prime migmatite-forming environment. I’ve found references to the Okanogan dome/highlands and the Skagit migmatite as starting points, but detailed online photographic records are somewhat lacking. Now I reach out to the ether: Have you seen this migmatite?

Findings from the USGS Store $1 Sale

The USGS Store $1 Spring Mega Sale ends Monday, June 4th, 2012. I pored through their archives for a couple of days and ended up with 40 items in my basket. Then, of course, after purchasing those i found ‘just one more map’ that I had to have. Total cost: $49 dollars (includes $5 handling charge and two duplicate maps).

Instead of merely posting a picture of my flood of maps after they arrive, it would be more beneficial for y’all if I put my shopping list on display while the sale is still ongoing. Hopefully something will spark your interest or remind you of a map you’d like to have! Product codes are shown with links to items in the store in case my link-fu is poor (If a link fails at first, usually a second try does the trick).
Continue reading