Wednesday, April 12, 2017
I recently visited the NY/NJ Mineral and Gem Exposition in Edison, NJ. The long, unpleasant drive from Virginia on Interstate 95 wasn't much fun, but when I first entered the vast exposition hall, I immediately knew my journey was worthwhile! Spread before me was the equivalent of hundreds of rock shops all in one place. It took more than one day to see all the displays and shop for additions to my modest collection of curiosities.
Many display cases were simply beautiful. For example, look at this orderly array of colorful crystals.
Some dealers had elaborate glass display cases.
I wanted to purchase one of the beautiful blue specimens of benitoite, pictured below, but they were incredibly expensive. The benitoite specimen in the upper left of the next image was priced at about $7,000!
Next to the benitoite was a meter-high array of blue fluorite crystals.
High intensity lights, strategically placed, increased the attractiveness of many displays like this next one.
During a visit to Denver years ago I saw red rhodochrosite crystals and thought they would be a great addition to my collection. I hoped to buy a rhodochrosite specimen, but, as you can see below, they were surprisingly expensive, even for a small specimen. I really liked the large $775 specimen with the colorful pyrite foreground.
A few vendors were selling meteorites like the ones in this display case.
I'm particularly fond of pallasite meteorites whose cross-sectional slices look like stained glass windows. Several expensive slices were displayed in the case shown in the next image. Meteorites are usually sold by weight. The pallasite slices were going for something like $20/gram! Since the slices are mostly heavy nickel and iron, there are quite a few grams involved! The slice in the upper left was about $2,600! (Unfortunately, there was no way to get a picture without white reflections from overhead lights.)
Many exquisite fossils were also on sale.
Not sure where I would display this enormous 30,000 year-old cave bear fossil even if I could afford its $29,500 price!
By the end of my second day at the expo I was completely exhausted from walking around peering at specimens. As I was about to leave I saw a sign for an ultraviolet light display, so I took one final detour from the main floor to look at displays of fluorescent minerals under ultraviolet light. I'm glad I made the effort because the exhibit was amazing and beautiful as you can see in the next two images.
I ended up buying an ultraviolet flashlight and a couple of phosphorescent minerals to show my granddaughter. I left the expo very satisfied with the whole experience.
At this point it was way past lunch time, and I was starving in addition to being exhausted. I decided to eat at nearby Harold's New York Deli, an over-the-top authentic Jewish deli, where truly ENORMOUS portions are served. For example, the sandwiches are about a foot high, packed with so much meat it's nearly impossible for one person to eat an entire sandwich at one sitting. (The patrons deconstruct towering sandwiches into manageable sizes and, either share the smaller sandwiches with companions, or take the remains home to eat for a week.) The smallest menu item I could find was the thick, foot-long hot dog with sauerkraut seen below. I was able to finish it, but it was quite a salty overload to my system. It cured my hot dog craving for the foreseeable future. I enjoyed the NJ atmosphere of the place with NJ/NY accents all around.
Below are pictures of some of the minerals I bought. First is brilliant green dioptase from Kazakhstan. This specimen was surprisingly beautiful under short wave ultraviolet light. The white matrix fluoresced bright red!
Next is lazurite and pyrite from Afghanistan. The blue and gold colors are dazzling under bright light.
This strange round ball is prehnite sitting on epidote from Mali.
Multiple cubic pyrite crystals are always interesting. These are from Spain.
Finally, below are three images of my favorite purchase, a polished slice of the Seymchan pallasite meteorite discovered in 1967 in Magadan, Russia. This bit of extraterrestrial material was once located near a boundary between the core and mantle of a differentiated asteroid. It contains silvery crystallized iron and nickel, characteristic of the core, and pieces of the silicate olivine, characteristic of the mantle. Some unknown ancient catastrophe blasted the asteroid to bits. One of these bits ended up in Russia! Now it sits in my living room. The first image, made with a flash, shows fascinating structure resembling a stained glass window.
The next image, made without flash, emphasizes light passing through the partially transparent olivine.
This last image best shows the unique silvery iron/nickel crystallization structure known as the Widmanstatten pattern.
I'm so glad I made the effort to attend this expo.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Recent months of sunspot drought temporarily ended on April 2nd when two good-sized sunspots were visible on a cool, cloudless day. A northerly breeze accompanied 51-degree temperature as I set up my solar telescope to begin observing before noon. Seeing was not particularly good, but blue skies and sunshine were very welcome.
My attempt to construct a whole disc mosaic failed because I was careless when capturing constituent panels. But the smaller successful 9-panel mosaic below shows almost all major solar features present. Complex sunspot group 2645 is on the lower left. Sunspot group 2644 is near the right limb. A few prominences sit on the western limb.
Seeing conditions improved for a while as morning hours passed. The next image is a close view of sunspot group 2645 made by stacking the best 100 frames from a 3,000-frame video. Notice the fine detail present in the dark sunspot umbras. This sunspot group deformed surrounding spicules making a pattern similar to iron filings sprinkled near a bar magnet. White energetic eruptions sit between outlying umbras. (Click on the images for a larger view.)
Sunspot group 2644 was churning with activity near the western limb. I recorded 21 minutes of the action by capturing one 500-frame video clip every 60 seconds. Each video clip yields a still image which becomes one movie frame. The repeating movie below runs at 10 frames per second, so it compresses 21 minutes of solar action into about 2 seconds. Movies like this always make me wish I had recorded longer. Unfortunately, I had to stop too soon.
The Sun may soon go back to sleep, so I'm glad I was able to observe this temporary burst of activity.
People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game
People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball
I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go