Sunday, February 26, 2012

Curiosity...Not Just Another Mars Rover

NASA launched the MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) last year, expecting the craft to take about 8 and a half months to reach Mars. In 161 days it will descend down to the red planet and travel to the Gale Crater. There at the crater Curiosity will collect rock samples and using the on-board CheMin, it will analyze the samples for minerals on Mars. We already know that olivine and pyroxene were found on Mars by earlier rover missions. These are associated with the volcanic rock basalt. In addition, the earlier mission also found evaporates (minerals left from water). I am praying that Curiosity has a successful mission and look forward to its discoveries!

Last week I was able to visit a place that reminded me a little of what I think Mars may be like in areas. On our trip to Death Valley we stopped at Fossil Falls. Having been there last year, a few of us geology majors sidetracked over to nearby Red Mountain, a cinder cone where "volcanic bombs" are found. While "trying" to walk in this environment, I thought about the future Curiosity trek on Mars and wished I had wheels instead of legs to maneuver this terrain. I imagined Mars as a geology wonderland (no ground cover or vegetation to prevent geologists from studying the rocks). If you would like to follow the MSL Mission visit

Friday, February 24, 2012

Memories of Death Valley 2012

My favorite stop on my second trip to Death Valley was that of a playa bed where rocks are known to move across the surface. Whether you read blogs or the National Enquirer - speculation on these mysterious rocks range from aliens to one's man claim that the "Death Valley Sailing Stones Mystery is SOLVED"...although the youtube video on his blog is inconclusive (embarrassing!), and it does not even show one rock moving back to the aliens. Really? So highly intelligent extraterrestrials travel across the universe to our little planet so they can stop off to play with rocks in the desert? I don't know about you but this is just not logical to me! A lot of people have their thoughts on how these stones move...but I want evidence on film! I want the mothership!

That reminds me..has anyone seen the Apollo 18 movie? Has anyone thought about alien rocks?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Crafting with Rocks!

Creative outlets for students are important. It is a chance to decompress after studying, reading textbooks, doing homework assignments, writing papers, making flashcards, spending time with study groups, going to club meetings and working at club activities. One just needs to do something fun and mindless!

What creative outlet does a geology student have? The answer is: gluing googly eyes on rocks of course. This is a project that our Geology Club is doing in preparation for the upcoming Earth Day that we will give these out to visiting elementary school children.

Sitting around with my peers gluing tiny eyes on these rocks was so enjoyable. One of our newest club members joined us and it was great getting to know George better. I looked down after we ran out of eyes to glue, and realized that looking into these cute little rock faces, that I so wanted to adopt them all. I just loved their sweet little faces...unfortunately though I had to help pack them away for the children on Earth Day. Much to the gratefulness of my husband I am sure, since there is literally no more room in my house for "another rock" (like that would stop me? - as I through my head back and attempt my best villain laugh)!

P.S.: Yes, the Cyclops rock was my creation... o )

Return to the Valley

In a few short weeks I will be returning to Death Valley with my Geology professor and fellow students. I am extremely excited to be able to return for my second chance to learn more about this amazing section of California. Death Valley in the minds of many, might be called a desolate or barren place. I would argue that that DV is far from those descriptions, and that what 'might appear' to be barren is far from it. A small stream on a long wooden walkway turns out to be the home of pup fish, rare and indigenous to DV. Varying colors on the distant mountains across the valley turn out to be beautiful layers of rock. It is a wondrous place of uplifted, folded and tilted rock. A place where sunrises cannot offer any additional color to the beauty of Mosaic Canyon or Artists Point. It is a place where one could sit alone for hours and never feel alone with the vast views for company. Each mountain has a story, and every rock on that mountain a memory from Earth's geologic past. I love Death Valley, and I look forward to being enchanted once again!