Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rockhounding Class

For today's blog posting you are invited to go on a rockhounding class.  As many of you know I offer a rockhounding class at the Gitche Gumee Museum.  Anyone interested in a class can call 906-494-2590 in the evening or 906-494-3000 during the day.  The class is $30 per hour per group (1-6 people).  The class starts at the museum wherein we use rock and mineral specimens and a microscope to learn to classify rocks as igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.  We also use other specimens to review agate characteristics and learn about the agate want-to-be rocks.  Then we go down the beach where participants compete in a rockhounding exercise and collect, display, and present specific rocks.  Then we go back to the museum where participants select a free agate and see the "wowser" rocks.  The entire class takes around two hours.

The photos below show the beach segment of the class and also show the foggy morning.  In Grand Marais we have had several foggy days this week.  

With my camera's zoom, I captured the photo below showing lots of people on the beach over by the boardwalk.

The class participants included parents and two kids.

After the class I headed over to the post office and captured the photo below of fog over the bay.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Great Summer Dunes Hike -- Post 2

Today I'll post the rest of the photos from the hike I went on Sunday evening with Jamey and Lois Fite.   Most of the photos are of the sunset.  I eliminated several, but could not decide which others to remove -- so I included them all.

Dropping down below the clouds....

...a little more....

Our view from the top of a dune, looking northwest.  Magic.

Almost down below the clouds....

Free again....

...but becoming squished.   I was curious why that is, so I searched the Internet.  According to the web page : "Right on the horizon, a ray of light is bent upward by about a half degree. In fact, the light from the top of the Sun is bent less than the light from the bottom, so this effectively pushes the bottom of the Sun up toward the top, squishing it! You’ve probably seen countless pictures of the Sun looking squashed on the horizon."

Now, disappearing below the horizon, but seemingly dipping into Lake Superior.

Time to head back to the car....

A few last peeks at the sunset...

Be bushwhacked through rubbery brush -- thicker than it has been for years.

Below is a photo of a raspberry like plant and berry, but there was just one berry on a very small plant, not a bush.

I love these giant dandelions.  This one was around five or six inches in diameter.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Great Summer Dunes Hike -- Post 1

At least according to the calendar it was a summer dunes hike.  The temperatures were in the low 50s with a stiff wind coming off Lake Superior, so it felt more like October than it did July.  However, it was an absolutely gorgeous evening, a great dunes hike, and a terrific picnic.

Today I will post the first half of the photos.  The vegetation in our area this year is growing like crazy.  I have never seen so many daisies -- and they are tall!

Down the path....

We noticed the large trillium leaves.  Huge!

We bushwhacked up into the dunes.  Jamey found this moss covered huge tree.

Does anyone know what the plant/fruit is below?

The photo below may look like flat terrain, but it is a very steep dune!

Below is the view from the top of the dune, looking north.

Here is the view looking east.

We walked up and down a dune or two, cut through the woods, and hiked up to a high dune to enjoy a picnic dinner.  Below is the ridge looking south.


Two freighters sailed by.  One of them is shown below.

Sunset pre-glow....

Notice Au Sable Point lighthouse sticking up in the center of the photo below.

The second freighter....

Sunday, July 27, 2014

News from Mars

For today's blog posting I decided to check in with the Mars rover, Curiosity.  Curiosity is a car-sized robotic rover currently exploring Gale Crater.  This incredible roaming scientific laboratory was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011 and successfully landed  on August 6, 2012. The Bradbury Landing site was less than 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the center of the rover's touchdown target after a 563,000,000 km (350,000,000 mi) journey. The rover's goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration. Curiosity's design will serve as the basis for a planned Mars 2020 rover mission. In December 2012, Curiosity's two-year mission was extended indefinitely.

The rock shown above discovered by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is an iron meteorite called "Lebano."  This specimen is similar in shape and luster to iron meteorites found on Mars by the previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Lebanon is about 2 yards or 2 meters wide. The smaller piece in the foreground is called "Lebanon B."

The imaging shows angular shaped cavities on the surface of the rock. One possible explanation is that they resulted from preferential erosion along crystalline boundaries within the metal of the rock. Another possibility is that these cavities once contained olivine crystals, which can be found in a rare type of stony-iron meteorites called pallasites, thought to have been formed near the core-mantle boundary within an asteroid.

Iron meteorites are not rare among meteorites found on Earth, but they are less common than stony meteorites. On Mars, iron meteorites dominate the small number of meteorites that have been found. Part of the explanation could come from the resistance of iron meteorites to erosion processes on Mars.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is stepping on the boundary line added to this June 27, 2014, image captured by a camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  The line represents the edge of the ellipse that was charted as safe terrain for the rover's August 2012 landing. Curiosity is visible right on the ellipse line in the lower center of the image. This 3-sigma landing ellipse is about 4 miles long and 12 miles wide (7 kilometers by 20 kilometers). Curiosity reached the edge of it for the first time with a drive of about 269 feet (82 meters) earlier that day.  The 3-sigma landing ellipse is a statistical prediction to determine how far from a targeted center point the rover might land, given uncertainties such as the atmospheric conditions on landing day. The "3-sigma" part means three standard deviations, so the rover was very, very likely (to about the 99.9-percent level) to land somewhere inside this ellipse. Such 3-sigma ellipses got a lot of scrutiny during landing-site selection to guarantee a safe landing.

The Mars Science Laboratory mission did not try to land Curiosity right at the base of Mount Sharp, where the most interesting terrains lay, as seen from orbit. To do so would have put unsafe slopes within the landing ellipse. Instead, the rover spent almost exactly one Martian year (687 Earth days) roving and exploring before arriving at the edge of the ellipse.

Now that Curiosity is outside the safe-to-land ellipse, the landscape it traverses will get even more interesting. The rover can drive around landscape features that would have been dangerous to land on. Both the scenery and the geology should be even more exciting in the next Mars year.

This map shows in red the route driven by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover from the "Bradbury Landing" location where it touched down in August 2012 (blue star at upper right) through the 663rd Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (June 18, 2014). The white line shows the planned route ahead to reach "Murray Buttes" (at white star), the chosen access point to destinations on Mount Sharp.

The rover completed its mission goal of working for a full Martian year on Sol 669 (June 24, 2014). A Martian year is 687 Earth days.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
ASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/USGS

Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Gift Shop Items

This blog posting features new gift shop items available at the Gitche Gumee Museum.  At the Moose Lake agate show last weekend, I purchased 200 pounds of rough Lake Superior agate.  Thanks to Sharon Smith and Michael Carlson for selling me high quality rough at a great price!  In May I purchased a lot of larger Lake Superior agates.  Plus I acquired some larger agates this past spring when I purchased a small rock collection.  But what I needed now was small lakers.  Mission accomplished.  Thanks to Bob Beal as well for selling me 20 pounds or so of beautiful polished agates!

Also thanks to Brian Costigan for selling near the remainder of the Jequitinhonha river agates from Brazil, other than a few he has for sale in his internet store.  As those who have visited the museum know, I have been selling and showing these amazing agates for the past four years.  These Brazilian agates that were taken from the Jequitinhonha River look like they are coated in lacquer.  However, they instead were naturally polished by the African diamond dust deposited in the river sand when the South American and African continents were connected as part of the supercontinent, Pangea.  Thus, these agates are proof of plate tectonics.  I have three large specimens for sale (33,33, and 21 pounds) plus a dozen smaller specimens.

Other new items for sale include these amethyst points....

It has been a couple of years since I had any chalcopyrite for sale.  Also called peacock ore, this copper iron sulfide mineral has a brassy to golden yellow color as well as a mixture of other colors that varies depending on the exact chemical composition.  It has a hardness of 3.5 to 5 on the Mohs scale. Chalcopyrite is present with many ore-bearing environments such as in volcanic sulfide ore deposits and sedimentary deposits, formed by deposition of copper during hydrothermal circulation. Chalcopyrite is concentrated in this environment via fluid transport.

This ore can be found at several locations worldwide.  One of the largest deposits is found in Canada.

From a dealer I also purchased some new upright agate tea light candles.

The onyx marble dice are selling well.

For the first time I am selling alligator teeth key rings.

I have some smaller (1.25 inch) labadorite hearts.

 I packaged up these raw crystals into 1x3 inch bags.

I also have several new agate window panels.  Here are a couple, including the first one below with a large slab of puddingstone.