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Benchmarks: February 17, 1977: Hydrothermal vents are discovered

In early February 1977, as scientists aboard the research vessel (R/V) Knorr made their way across the Pacific waters off the northwest coast of South America, they had reason to suspect their expedition might find the success that had eluded others. Previous missions had identified their destination — a site on the ocean surface about 330 kilometers northeast of the Galápagos Islands, below which two tectonic plates rift apart — as a promising location from which to search for their intended target. Once there, the researchers would deploy a variety of tools, including manned and unmanned submersibles, to the ocean bottom in the hopes of directly spotting hydrothermal vents.

17 Feb 2015

Conjunction injunction: Recent and future planetary alignments

February 1962: The five planets visible to the naked eye, as well as the sun and moon, all appeared within 17 degrees of each other in the sky. A concurrent solar eclipse and new moon made it possible to view the planets.

04 Feb 2015

Comment: Supersites: Sharing geoscience data for science and society

In 2005, the United Nations developed the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) program, a collaboration of 89 institutions and organizations that sustain comprehensive Earth-observing capabilities for the benefit of humankind. One of GEO's programs is the Geohazard Supersites and Natural Laboratories initiative, which is focused on sharing spaceborne and other geophysical data to understand geohazards and to promote preparedness and hazard mitigation.

22 Jan 2015

Geomedia: Books: A brief history of our cosmic origins

In the 1980 television show “Cosmos,” astronomer Carl Sagan famously noted: “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” This scientifically and philosophically profound concept — that we are starstuff through and through — has been known for less than 50 years, and the history of its discovery was fraught with naysayers.

21 Jan 2015

Mineral Resource of the Month: Antimony

Antimony is a lustrous silvery-white semimetal or metalloid. Archaeological and historical studies indicate that antimony and its mineral sulfides have been used by humans for at least six millennia. The alchemist Basil Valentine is sometimes credited with “discovering” the element; he described the extraction of metallic antimony from stibnite in his treatise “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony,” published sometime between 1350 and 1600. In the early 18th century, Jöns Jakob Berzelius chose the periodic symbol for antimony (Sb) based on stibium, which is the Latin name for stibnite.

18 Jan 2015

Energy Notes: August 2013-2014

Oil and petroleum imports data are preliminary numbers taken from the American Petroleum Institute’s Monthly Statistical Report. For more information visit www.api.org.

18 Jan 2015

Down to Earth With: Glaciologist Lonnie Thompson

As a child growing up in Gassaway, W.Va., Lonnie Thompson was poor. When his father died while Thompson was a senior in high school, he realized he’d need to earn a reliable paycheck as quickly as possible. As an undergraduate at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., he knew he wanted to study science; he started off as a physics major before settling on geology. Later, when he arrived at Ohio State University (OSU) as a graduate student in 1971, Thompson’s intent was to study coal geology, a practical choice that he believed would quickly secure him a job.

17 Jan 2015

Benchmarks: January 3, 1970: Lost City meteorite is tracked and recovered

On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 3, 1970, residents of northeastern Oklahoma saw a fireball as bright as a full moon blaze across the sky. The nine-second light display was accompanied by a sonic boom heard over a 1,000-square-kilometer area.

 
03 Jan 2015

Benchmarks: December 26, 2004: Indian Ocean tsunami strikes

On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude-9.2 earthquake ruptured the seafloor off Indonesia, sending the most destructive tsunami in recorded history across the Indian Ocean. A wall of water and debris slammed the shores of South Asia; some witnesses described it as sounding like a freight train. Tourists and locals alike scrambled to safety inland and atop tall hotels, recording videos of the surging water that inundated their communities. Many were unable to reach higher ground.

26 Dec 2014

Mineral Resource of the Month: Strontium

Strontium occurs commonly in nature, ranking as the 15th most abundant chemical element on Earth. Only two minerals contain sufficient strontium, however, to be used commercially to produce strontium compounds: Strontianite (strontium carbonate) has a higher strontium content, but celestite (strontium sulfate) is by far the most abundant strontium mineral.

24 Dec 2014

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