I Should’ve Gone to Mars!

   Let’s face it. I am a ‘closet geographer’! Can you say Geomorphology? That is my passion when not looking skyward. I am fascinated by landforms and how they came to looking the way they do now. What were the weathering and erosional process that were involved and how did the patterns of those process do what it did? And that leads into this blog, sort of a repeat of a previous blog about taking a road trip on Mars, and two more recent blogs about this trip. This time a road trip, or actually an air trip to my brother’s home in Sun City Arizona, a northwest suburb of Phoenix.
   So imagine the diverse landforms you could see along the way either from the ground in a car or by plane as I did traveling across the United States from my home in Lee’s Summit, Missouri to my brother’s place near Phoenix Arizona. From the wooded and hilly and green western Missouri southwest across the Great Plains of Kansas and Oklahoma to the Texas Panhandle where the terrain takes on a more brownish and rugged look. From the Panhandle the route takes you across New Mexico through Albuquerque then into eastern Arizona to Flagstaff and then south to Phoenix.

   So imagine using the same latitudes and longitudes on Earth, but this time put them on the surface of Mars. Assuming that something like this will become a reality in the future what types of terrain would you see along the way?
(Mars Geologic Map – source: USGS)


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3 Days – 3 Trails

   This past week I was in the Phoenix Arizona area enjoying some unusually cooler weather and the mountain and desert scenery. My goal was to hike as many days as possible until the weather got too hot – which was by Thursday. Morning temperatures were in the upper 60sF low 70sF but by around 9:00 am the temperature was in the upper 80sF heading for 100oF or higher.
   Nonetheless I got in two warm up morning hikes on Sunrise Mountain and Calderwood Butte. Both were typical of what I call City Mountains. They are largely igneous masses with considerable rocky rubble on most of the trails. Locally the trails are described as ‘ankle busters’ as it is easy to step incorrectly and injure yourself. What is neat about these ‘city mountains’ is that they are very easy to get to – many of which are parts of city park systems. Trails are fairly well marked although I use the AllTrails App to keep me on the right path.
   The 3rd day I spent several hours wandering around the Phoenix Mountain Preserve That morning I pushed it and completed 3 different but connected trails. Trail 1Trail 2Trail 3. This was an incredible area with trails every which way with many taking you away from the city sounds but nearly all required some uphill and downhill navigating. I encountered a few trails that going up or down were very steep but well worth the effort. Lots of interesting rock formations along the way.
   The geology of the area is a fantastic combination of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Much of the level ground is outwash deposits from the surrounding mountains while the mountains are a mixture of igneous and metamorphic rocks. I saw what looked like either marble or chert, schist, and outcrops of slate among the types I recognized. There was a very obvious lean to many rock exposures and according to the geology of the area the rocks have a northeast strike.

   The video below shows some of the geology I encountered on these hikes.

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A Trail of 2 Geologies

   The Desert Is Calling!
   All trails lead west, or south, or anywhere but here. I am heading to Arizona for some latitude adjustment. Hiking, bouldering, and enjoying the desert/mountain Geology of Arizona as compared to the Geology of west central Missouri. So the next several posts will be from a desert perspective, looking Earthward as well as skyward.

   This map was made using Google Earth and a Geologic map made for each state. They are prepared as a KMZ file which may be loaded into Google Earth. Download the files by state from the USGS Geologic maps of US states web site.

   Yeah I know it is very hot there but, like a Pizza oven, it’s a dry heat!


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Tweets From ISS

iss-pic   If you have followed my postings you know that I am an avid fan of watching for the International Space Station passages over my part of the world. I especially enjoy capturing the ISS as it travels past celestial objects like the Moon.
iss-crop   In an interesting twist it is possible to take advantage of the ‘bird’s-eye’ view from the ISS and see what the ISS astronauts see as they orbit the Earth. Listed below are some of the web sites with pictures taken by ISS astronauts, however I wanted to call attention to this web site – ISS EXPS 40 & 41. This web site has a map of the world that links tweets from the astronauts to accompany the pictures they took of the Earth’s surface.
   Additionally the web site shows the position of the ISS updated every minute so you can track its current flight and position as you browse the pictures.
Click here to go to the ISS Exps 40 & 41 website.

Some ISS sighting web sites:

NASA Space Station Live
ISS Sightings
Heavens Above

Pictures from Astronauts on the ISS:

Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
ISS Astronaut Pictures of Earth

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Rock On

Landsat Image of Mt. St. Helens - September 1980

Landsat Image of Mt. St. Helens – Sep. 1980

   Whether you are a teacher of Earth Sciences, a ‘closet’ Geomorphologist like me, or one who is interested in the Earth, then you will probably agree that the following web sites have a lot to offer for teaching or learning more about our active planet.
   NASA’s web site, Earth Observatory is the home of images of the Earth from the many orbiting satellites dedicated to monitoring changes in the Earth – in this case the surface features. Look for a link on the web site for the ‘World of Changes’ where you may see the many pictures of the Earth’s surface and changes in forests and oceans, for example, that have taken place over the past several decades. This picture was taken by a Landsat satellite four months after the May 1980 eruption of the volcano Mt. St. Helens. At the World of Changes web site you can view a series of images of the volcano that span thirteen years and show how the area that was devastated has slowly recovered. Click here to see the images of Mt. St. Helens.

   Here are links to three short videos on YouTube produced by the USGS, United States Geological Service, that explain in basic terms some interesting information about the ways scientists measure volcanic activity.

    Volcanic Deformation
    Gas Monitoring
    Volcanic Earthquakes

   Our National Park Service, NPS, has enhanced their web site with some useful resources for teachers on part of their web site called, Come and experience your America in a new way.

   Here is a link to a WordPress science writer I follow. Stephanie Sykora is a Geologist living in Australia. However from her writings she never seems to be at home! Instead she is somewhere in the world exploring and writing about many of the Earth’s geological features and processes. Since my blog today is about volcanoes I thought it appropriate to include a link to her recent blog, The Real Mount Doom… and The Real Mount Doom – Volcanoes in Taupo, New Zealand.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Arizona Pans

   For the past week or so I have been in Tucson Arizona visiting family. One of the benefits of this part of the country is that the skies are clear — most of the time. With every visit here I make plans for taking some pictures at night as well as during the day. This visit was during the local monsoon season when the skies are cloudy, the temperature is high, as is the humidity, and it rains. So most of my pictures are of the spectacular desert and mountain scenery around the Tucson valley and mountains.
   Using the Microsoft software program, Photosynth, I’ve composed several panoramas of various locations around the Tucson area. Panoramas are from a park and a natural spring on the east side of Tucson; the Saguaro (Cactus) National Park; and along the Catalina Highway on Mt. Lemmon.
   Click on the link below each picture to go to my Photosynth web page to see that panorama.


Saguaro National ParkRincon Mountain Valley


Saguaro National ParkRincon Mountains


Saguaro National ParkJavelina Point


   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

New National Monument – Chimney Rock

    This past week President Obama designated Chimney Rock, a rock formation in southern Colorado, as a national monument.
    Chimney Rock is a sandstone formation consisting of two side-by-side pillars or towers that are coincidentally arranged such that at certain times the rising Moon is framed by the two towers. These certain times occur for a 2-3 year period centered on an 18.61 year cycle that is called the ‘Major Lunar Standstill‘. The Moon, like the Sun, rises and sets at different positions along the horizon throughout the year. For the Moon this repetitive cycle culminates with the Moon rising at its furthest north position which places it between the two Chimney Rock towers for a couple of days each month. The most recent cycle of lunar standstills ended in 2007 meaning that the next cycle of lunar standstills will not be until 2022.

Interestingly there are other chimney rocks:
Chimney Rock Park, North Carolina
Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Nebraska