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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Partial Ellipsis of the Sun is on Spring Break, Week 2

     A smattering of images from our last week in NM and CO, USA. Guesses as to where? Some are pretty easy. Hope you are having a great week!

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Partial Ellipsis of the Sun is on Spring Break

     Enjoy a few views of the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado, USA, after our big April snow. . . Amazing Clouds! All the moisture slowed dune movement considerably. The snow outlined some great star and other dunes.

     Next up, Abiquiu, Taos. Santa Fe, Albuquerque. Ah--Georgia O'Keeffe country!

      See you next week! 

Have a great week!
Steph, Maizie, (CO contingent) Mom and Liz (CT contingent)

Abiquiu skies in GO'K country

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Tully (Not Telly) Monster was a VERTEBRATE (!) Extremely Well Preserved in Siderite

      A 300 million year-old fossil mystery has possibly been solved by a research team at the University of Leicester, which has identified the ancient 'Tully Monster' as a vertebrate, due to the unique characteristics of its eyes.

      Tullimonstrum gregarium or as it is more commonly known the 'Tully Monster', found only in chucky-jam full of fossils coal quarries in Illinois, USA, is known to many Americans because its alien-like image can be seen on the sides of large U-haul™ trailers along the freeways. 

    Dr. Sarah Gabbott from the University of Leicester's Department of Geology said: "Since its discovery over 60 years ago scientists have suggested it is a whole parade of completely different creatures ranging from molluscs to worms -- but there was no conclusive evidence and so speculation continued."

        Thomas Clements, a PhD student from the University of Leicester and lead author on the paper, explained: "When a fossil has anatomy this bizarre it's difficult to know where to start, so we decided to look at the most striking feature -- the stalked structures with dark blobs."

      The Tully Monster, unlike the Telly Monster of Sesame Street fame, is extremely well preserved in siderite which, as we've previously discussed has very high iron concentration.

     "In a new study published in Nature, the University of Leicester paleontologists discovered that the dark 'blobs' were actually made up of hundreds of thousands of microscopic dark granules, each 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair."

     "The shape and chemical composition of these granules is identical to organelles found in cells called melanosomes; these being responsible for creating and storing the pigment melanin."

     "We used a new technique called Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) to identify the chemical signature of the fossil granules and compared it to known modern melanin from other vertebrates and this proved that we had discovered the oldest fossil pigment currently known."

      Identifying fossil melanosomes containing melanin and a lens is the first time it has been conclusively proved that Tullimonstrum had eyes on stalks.

      Professor Gabbott said: "There were two distinct shapes of melanosomes in Tullimonstrum's eyes: some look like microscopic 'sausages' and others like microscopic 'meatballs'. This evidence was crucial because only vertebrates have two different shapes of melanosome, meaning that unlike previous researchers that thought that Tullimonstrum was an invertebrate (animal without a backbone), this is the first unequivocal evidence that Tullimonstrum is a member of the same group of animals as us, the vertebrates."

     Thomas added: "This is an exciting study because not have we discovered the oldest fossil pigment, but the structures seen in Tullimonstrum's eyes suggest it had good vision. The large tail and teeth suggest that the Tully Monster is in fact a type of very weird fish."

       So. . .Tully and Telly Monsters, melanosomes that look like meatballs and sausages, eyes on stalks, very weird fish--there must be some good puns and jokes in there somewhere. . .


South Park, Colorado, clouds 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Revisiting Iceland: A Kentucky-Sized Place Where Geology is in Your Face at Every Turn

         A friend's trip to Iceland the past two weeks has reinspired a look at this Kentucky-sized land. My friend's description of her trip included words about geology staring one in the face at every turn. Young, changing, extraordinary geology is located next to the much older geology of Greenland.

     "Iceland is a manifestation of plate tectonic activity along a 10,000-mile underwater mountain range called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The island, which is about the size of the state of Kentucky, is only 15-20 million years old, making it one of the youngest landmasses of its size in the world, according to Ari Trausti Guðmundsson, a geophysicist, poet, and former Iceland presidential candidate."

     “If you hop over to Greenland, the bedrock is over 3,000 million years old,” says Guðmundsson, who guided Pitcairn during his expedition to Bárðarbunga and wrote the text, including 120 poems, in his book. “In comparison, Iceland is an infant.”

     "The Mid-Atlantic Ridge gives rise to Iceland’s volcanoes, one of its signature geological features. The country boasts 30 volcanic systems, which contain hundreds of active volcanoes. The natural upwelling of magma from beneath the ridge, as well as a mantle plume located almost right under the middle of the country, send billions of tons of lava surging through the bedrock annually, causing the country to expand about one inch per year, on average, according to Guðmundsson.

       Additional information about this geologist's dream country is located at this link. Hoping to get to Iceland before too many of the glaciers have melted.

        I am also fascinated by the unusual diacritical marks in the place and author names. It's also fun to see a geologist poet who ran for the presidency of Iceland! With a small population, I guess residents wear many hats. . .

        How about you; what about Iceland fascinates you?