Posts Tagged ‘volcanoes’

Geo Party! Crater Lake National Park Category

Posted by Zoe on 10th August 2013 in Geo Party, Main Page

This past week marked the beginning of the second full game of Zoe’s Geo Party!, starting with a category on Crater Lake National Park. Filming here was a unique experience—it’s not every day you see a lake in a caldera. Crater Lake was quite picturesque. It was also very cold, very beautiful, and very blue, more than you can even see in the videos.

Miss a clue? Rewatch all five with the links below:

Clue 1

Clue 2

Clue 3

Clue 4

Clue 5

Geo Party! Crater Lake National Park Clue 5

Posted by Zoe on 9th August 2013 in Geo Party

Last chance to guess more about Crater Lake. Here’s your last clue. Come back on Monday for the correct response!

There were five clues total in this category. Click here to see them all.

Click here to watch the first game and the previous clues in this game.

Geo Party! Crater Lake National Park Clue 4

Posted by Zoe on 8th August 2013 in Geo Party

Want to guess more about Crater Lake? Here’s your next clue, and remember to come back tomorrow for the answer!

There will be five clues total in a category. Tomorrow, you’ll get the last Crater Lake National Park clue.

Click here to watch the first game and the previous clues in this game.

Geo Party! Crater Lake National Park Clue 3

Posted by Zoe on 7th August 2013 in Geo Party

Want to guess more about Crater Lake? The next clue has just been revealed. Remember to come back tomorrow for the answer!

The rest of the category will be released over the rest of this week. There will be five clues total in a category.

Click here to watch the first game and the previous clues in this game.

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 10

Posted by Zoe on 19th June 2013 in Exogeology, Main Page

In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 10, we talk with Dr. Rosaly Lopes, a planetary scientist at JPL. She tells us all about volcanoes on Io, cryovolcanism on icy moons like Enceladus, and her travels to Earth volcanoes. I liked hearing about how you should do what you love, and how as a scientist, you always have to keep learning. Her story about catching a gigantic volcanic eruption on Io during the Galileo mission is really interesting. Watch it all here:

Iceland Volcano Erupts!

Posted by Petra on 15th April 2010 in Petra's Blog

Wow! An eruption; that ROCKS! Only, it doesn’t at all. All flights to and from Iceland were postponed, including mine. It turns out I’ll have to wait a few more days before going home. The Icelandic volcano Fimmvorduhals near Eyjafjallajoekull glacier erupted just recently on March 21. It was a small, relatively harmless eruption. There was ash,  flights were canceled, and there were evacuations, but there wasn’t much damage done considering what could have happened. Yesterday it erupted again–and I was there. Well, not there precisely, but in Iceland, so I was affected by the eruption (just a canceled flight).

Don’t ask me how to pronounce the name of the glacier; I have no idea, even though I’ve been hearing it on all the television and radio channels (I’m not a linguist). The volcano is just as difficult to pronounce. Somehow I manage to get the locals to understand me when I’m pronouncing local cities and words. It helps to know that “j” is pronounced like “y”…

I wish I’d been nearer to the volcano, but on the other hand, I was far enough to be out of harm’s way. Even still, I would have loved to see it erupt (from the sky)! Not only was there lava, but this time there was flooding due to the fact that the volcano was under a glacier! The March eruption wasn’t directly under the glacier, so there wasn’t any flooding. But yesterday’s eruption was in the main crater, which was underneath the icecap. I should figure out what would happen if a volcano erupted under the north Martian ice cap…

There might even be another eruption. There’s another volcano, Katla, which is more destructive and has an easier name. It could affect a larger area than Fimmvorduhals, even causing global damage! Fimmvorduhals, which was the one that erupted yesterday, had ash that spread all the way to the UK and stopped flights to and from there. A colleague of mine in Ireland told me that her flights were canceled due to ash there (the ash can cause a lot of damage to airplane motors)! Wow, ash can go a long ways! The lava itself seems to be less of a problem than the ash and flooding. I hope I get to see something from above when I fly home.

I guess I’ll have a bit more time to look around as a tourist before I go, and time to do more research, too, of course. Isn’t it awesome that geology can be so exciting? It’s not all just looking at rocks. Exogeology is pretty exciting, too. I mean, Io has more volcanic activity than any other body in the Solar System. And ice on Mars is being studied for traces of water ice, which is part of what I’m doing right now! Exogeology most certainly ROCKS!

To find out more about the recent Iceland eruption, read these articles:

The last link has a great photo; it really shows the scale of the eruption.

My Travels

Posted by Petra on 9th April 2010 in Petra's Blog

I love to travel! I’ve been to many different countries, and nearly every U.S. state. I love going to different places and seeing the world! Some of my favorite vacations were combined with fieldwork, often unintentionally. An example of this is when I went to White Sands, New Mexico. I went there to study the dunes, and I went sledding on the sand. Alamogordo, the closest town to where White Sands is located, is a town devoted to astronomy! This is where the New Mexico Museum of Space History is located (and I highly recommend it for all ages). I also went to the solar observatory nearby in Sunspot, NM. You can’t tell from their websites just how different the observatories I’ve been to are, but they really are distinct!

Here are photographs I took of the gypsum dunes at White Sands:

Another one of my favorite trips was to the Arkansas Crater of Diamonds. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a crater with diamonds in Arkansas. The Crater of Diamonds is the only place in the world open to the public to find diamonds. It’s not an impact crater, it’s a diatreme. That’s  volcanic crater formed by an explosion from a buildup of gas. The explosion helped to bring diamonds to the surface. I identified the rocks in the crater as lamproite, and I found some beautiful butterscotch colored jasper. I also found some quartz fragments, and volcanic tuff. I expect the moon looks a bit similar to the crater, with the gray volcanic rocks and tuff. I didn’t find any diamonds, unfortunately. The area around the crater was a very pretty and humid forest environment though, so only the crater itself is at all like something found somewhere other than Earth.

Here are a couple of photographs from when I went rock collecting there:

I went to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument just recently. I needed to see a volcano in order to compare and contrast with Io and Martian volcanoes like Olympus Mons. Most of my work is with Mars, but I’ve been doing research for some probes like Cassini and New Horizons, too. Some of the things I found showed me that Sunset Crater is not like Olympus Mons, since Sunset Crater is a cinder cone and Olympus Mons is a shield volcano. I climbed to the top of Lenox Crater, a cinder cone right next to Sunset Crater (which you’re not allowed to climb). It was a bit tricky, especially since rocks kept getting in my shoes. It seemed a bit strange to me that there are volcanoes in Arizona, but I figured out the answer. It’s a hot spot! There are no tectonic boundaries in AZ, but mantle plumes can happen anywhere. That’s something I study with other planets, too: I find something which seems strange and I figure out what caused it. It’s like a mystery! Exogeology ROCKS!

Here are a couple of photographs I took at Sunset Crater:

I just plain like traveling, and pretty much anywhere I go I can find something that ROCKS! I take little trips around the state, like to Sunset Crater, all the time. I enjoy visiting (and using) observatories, seeing geologic formations, and going to places that are completely non-exogeology related. Be sure to look at the Telescopes and Observatories page written by Zoë to see some of the telescopes I’ve used. I want to see all the most varied and interesting places I can! But I always go back to Arizona. I love it here. Besides, what better place could there be for doing what I love? Geology and astronomy both seem to lead me all over the globe, but the best place is back home in Arizona. It works out well for me!

Exogeology on Earth

Posted by Petra on 4th April 2010 in Petra's Blog

Yes, on Earth! Even though I mainly study other planets, Earth is a great place to see all sorts of geologic formations! Let me tell you about some great things to see on Earth that I’ve seen on the planets and moons.

Wait, craters on Earth? I thought there were only craters on the Moon! No, actually there can be craters on just about anything (as long as it has a solid surface; there aren’t craters on jovian planets). Earth has relatively few though, because smaller meteors burn up in our thick atmosphere. But some of the few meteor craters there are on Earth can be quite something to see! It’s almost like you’re on the moon! Barringer Crater in Arizona is the best example. Most craters on Earth are a bit less dramatic though, after being eroded for thousands of years. It gives you a great sense of what you’re dealing with to go and see a real crater.

Canyons are usually carved out by rivers, so why would they be in a list of exogeology related formations? After all, Earth is the only planet with such a large amount of water. Well, I’ve added them for a couple reasons. The first is that there are some formations that can best be described as canyons, even though they’re not made in the same way as the canyons we’re used to seeing. Take Mars’ Valles Marineris. It’s the largest canyon in the Solar System, but it’s a rift valley (a type of fault). On the other hand, there are channels on Mars that might have been made by the flow of water, like dried up riverbeds. I’ll talk about that more in a later post.

Ice fields are the only formation on this list I have yet to see. I’m actually going to be flying to Iceland for a few days to study glaciers. Because of this, posts over the next few days will be automated while I’m gone. Ice has been found all over: in comets and asteroids, on moons (Europa in particular), and on Mars. The gas giants are theorized to have icy cores. But not all this ice is actually frozen water. Europa might have water ice, but we don’t know for sure. Comets have water ice though. Water is so important on Earth that I think everything with water is exciting! Water is necessary for life, and that’s something I’d be thrilled to find. Could you imagine? I’m a huge science fiction fan, and that inspires me to think about big new scientific discoveries like life or undiscovered planets all the time. I’m getting off topic. Let’s get back to those awesome rocks!

Sand dunes can be found wherever there is sand, wind, and a dry climate. I went to the White Sands National Monument recently, and it was beautiful! As soon as you drove into the park there were sand dunes as far as you could see. The field of dunes was comparable to some of the dunes on Mars. An even better comparison is Utah’s Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The reddish sand makes it feel as if you’re really on Mars. Dusty parts of deserts are also good places to look for dust devils, a common sight on the red planet.

Yes, I know, I was supposed to tell you about formations and not minerals. But minerals are important too! You need to look at the big things and the little things. There are a whole bunch of rocks and minerals that occur on Earth and also in space. One of my favorites is hematite. That’s an iron based mineral common on Mars. It comes in a few different forms. One form of hematite is red and rocky, and another is silvery gray and metallic. Iron in rocks is what makes Mars red! Moon rocks are pretty cool too; a rock from a lunar mare is made of the same thing as lava rocks on Earth! That ROCKS! 😉

Volcanoes have been found on Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Io. And on Titan there are cryovolcanoes! There are active and inactive volcanoes all over Earth that are fascinating to see in person. I try to go to as many volcano sites as I can during field research.

Plate tectonics is the process that makes the continents move. They spread apart like at the mid Atlantic ridge, and move under each other (called subduction) in places like Japan and the Aleutian islands of Alaska. The Earth’s surface is changing! And what’s more, there used to be plate tectonics on ancient Mars, and there still are on Titan!

Strata is just another term for rock layers. There are strata everywhere! That’s because rock layers can form all sorts of ways, like an ocean depositing sand on a beach or volcanoes erupting new lava flows. Strata can show a lot about that geographical area’s past. One time I looked at the strata in the Grand Canyon to figure out what order things happened in. I could easily see that the layers on the bottom formed first, then were tilted, and then that surface was eroded flat. More layers formed, and finally the Colorado River eroded the rocks away to create the Grand Canyon! How cool is it that you can tell what was happening for millions of years just by looking at rocks? I say that ROCKS! I do the exact same sort of thing when I look at strata from anywhere.

Can you believe so many of the same things happen on Earth that happen on other planets? I think it’s amazing. Exogeology ROCKS!

How I became an Exogeologist

Posted by Petra on 31st March 2010 in Petra's Blog

Well, I’ve always been an exogeologist really, it just wasn’t my job title until now.

I’ve always been interested in geology. When I was little some of my favorite books were about volcanoes, and I started a rock collection. As I got older I learned to recognize a lot of different minerals and rocks. I just loved learning about different kinds of lava and eruptions, and about which rocks were quartz and which were pyrite. As I got older I got more books, and my rock collection grew. I read about geology as much as I could. I had a lot of other interests along the way, and I’d focus on that for a while, but geology was always an interest of mine, even if it wasn’t the focus of my life.

I also watched a lot of episodes of NOVA and The Universe. I’ve also always liked space, but never as much as rocks. I mean, lots of kids want to be an astronaut at some point, or an astronomer, or something like that. Space is just too cool not to! Or at least that’s my opinion. I lived in a great place for both geology and astronomy (Tucson AZ), and just for fun my family visited places like the Kitt Peak and Whipple observatories.

At age 13,  I started taking college classes at the local community college. By then I knew all about how geology could be used for things like analyzing moon rocks, and finding volcanoes on other planets. I thought it was really cool that Earth wasn’t the only planet to have geology! And of course, I wanted to learn more. I first took a geology class, because geology was my passion. The very last part of that class was about exogeology. And it was by far the best part. I got to see a picture of a hypothetical planet; I figured out what caused different landforms and how to use relative dating. I also got to look at craters on Earth. I later took an astronomy class, because I wanted to learn more about exogeology, but I didn’t know as much about the astronomy aspect. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I was hooked, I wanted to be an exogeologist.

I then took more exogeology-related classes, which were mostly just geology or astronomy, one or the other, but they were all really interesting and I learned a lot. A few years ago I started working for NASA as an exogeologist. I’ve done all kinds of neat things since then, but my favorite is figuring out just what caused different formations (especially on Mars, that’s my specialty), like the Valles Marineris, or just rock strata. I love my job! I hope you’ll have just as much fun exploring exogeology as I do!

Exogeology ROCKS!