Friday, February 22, 2019

Technicolor Moon Rocks

Moon rocks like you've never seen them before! We generally tend to think of the moon in... oh, about 50,000 shades of grey, as it were.

However, samples returned to Earth are just full of secrets at many levels. BEHOLD! The microscopic colors of Luna Selene...

Apollo 12 basalt thin section

These amazing images are the work of Stuart Forbes, taken when he was a geology student at Edinburgh University, in preparation for an exhibition at a public observatory to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Thanks to a loan scheme with NASA and PPARC (Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council), Stuart obtained access to a pack of lunar material, containing a lucite disk of six whole moon rocks and twelve "thin sections" -- slices of rock cut so thin (30 microns) that light is able to pass through them.

Apollo 15 Regolith thin sections

Because of the optical properties of minerals, two polaroid filters, one above and one below, produce an interference pattern that results in the lovely colors; interpreting them is one of the core skills learned by geology students.

Apollo 16 astronaut John Young was scheduled for a lecture, whereby Stuart asked the hosting museum if they would like the exhibition re-created. THIS time, when they got their hands on the moon rocks, he had special equipment prepared to photograph them!

Apollo 17 gabbro thin section

Stuart even had the pleasure of escorting Astronaut Young through the exhibition, and such was his exciting turn-of-the-century brush with planetary geology. These samples are available to borrow for schools, universities and museums in the USA & UK, so other educators should definitely feel encouraged to do wat Stuart did, if you are affiliated with spaces that hold science exhibits of any kind.

John Young's Thank-You Gift to the photographer!

Click on any of the pictures in this post to see the entire lunar gallery by Stuart Forbes, where you can see other examples of basalt, regolith, breccias, soilin, anorthositein and gabbro… and thank you, Stuart, for generously sharing these beautiful photographs with everyone!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Yon Flaming Orb

It would take 333,000 Earths to equal the weight of our Sun, which loses four million tons of itself each second as it delivers nearly a kilowatt of energy to each square yard of the Earth's sunlit surface.

The Sun is not always at the exact middle of the solar system. It shifts by its own diameter in varied directions, depending mostly on Jupiter's position. Jupiter's 12-year orbit is not around the Sun, but around a point NEAR the Sun. Meanwhile, the Sun too, performs a small orbit around that spot, which it completes every 11.86 Earth years.

Green Sunlight What does the sun emit most strongly? Yellow rays? Heat (Infrared)? Ultra-Violet? Gamma rays? Nope. GREEN LIGHT.

The first photograph of the sun was taken in 1845.

Greek scholar Thales of Miletus (624-546 BC) was the first human to accurately plot and record the path of the Sun across the sky, and the first to predict an eclipse in 585 BC. Anaxagoras (500-428 BC) was the first to postulate than the moon reflects light from the sun, rather than glowing on its own.

Aristotle (384-322) then held back science for the next two thousand years with his geocentric model of the universe, where the Earth was fixed and the Sun moved around it. This somehow became church doctrine until the time of Galileo -- and any attempt to question it meant being burned at the stake.

Sun Symbols In 1714, clergyman Tobias Swinton wrote a book claiming the Sun was Hell, since there would be too little room for all the current and future damned souls, not to mention that having the fire and brimstone beneath the earth's surface would soon be snuffed by lack of air. All righty then.

In contrast, Charles Palmer published a theory in 1798 saying the sun was made of ice, arguing that the Bible claimed light existed before God created the Sun. It must not be a source of light but rather simply a reflector of light from the rest of the universe, which was clearly focused on Earth.

The Sun kills about a million people per year, with desert exposure, dehydration complications, and melanomas.

People in the villages near the Konark Sun Temple (Orissa, India) bathe before and after any eclipse of the Sun, which is considered dangerous – so much so that any food prepared during such an event is regarded as poisonous and pregnant women take particular care to keep their eyes tightly shut, lest the fetus be malformed.

Spending just 10 minutes in strong sunlight, the kind you get from 11am to 3pm between April and August, will allow your body to make as much vitamin D as you would get from drinking 200 glasses of milk.

Facts, and much wit, courtesy of Bob Berman, in his new book The Sun's Heartbeat. This was just a taste!

Quips & Quotes IV

"Really, I have no idea why my acting career never took off." ~ Astronaut Garrett Reisman, who was in an elementary school play with Jane Krakowski

"The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition." ~ Carl Sagan

"Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth." ~ Ptolemy, 150 A.D.

Quotes about Space Travel "God has no intention of setting a limit to the efforts of man to conquer space." ~ Pope Pius XII

"It is humanity's destiny to explore the universe. When we start thinking and working on that cosmic level, we will transcend our parochial differences and tribal natures and become global creatures, solar system creatures. Then we will figure out where we fit in." ~ Astronaut Story Musgrave

"The rocket will free man from his remaining chains, the chains of gravity which still tie him to this planet. It will open to him the gates of heaven." ~ Dr. Wernher von Braun

"We are irresponsible in our failure to make the progress we will need for protecting our severely threatened and probably endangered species – us. NASA is not about the ‘adventure' of human exploration, we are in the deadly serious business of saving the species. The bottom line is about preserving our species over the long haul." ~ Astronaut John Young

"Okay, so what's the speed of dark ?" ~ Stephen Wright

Space Quotes
"What was most significant about the lunar voyage was not that man set foot on the Moon but that they set eye on the earth." ~ Author Norman Cousins

"As we got further away, Earth diminished. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man." ~ Astronaut James B. Irwin

"When I orbited the Earth in a spaceship, I saw for the first time how beautiful our planet is. Mankind, let us preserve and increase this beauty, and not destroy it." ~ Yuri Gagarin