Taxonomy term

may 2016

Down to Earth With: Ethnogeologist Steven Semken

As a boy growing up in New Jersey, Steven Semken was fascinated by rocks and minerals. His father, a banker, and his mother, a municipal tax collector, loved to travel and frequently indulged their son’s yen for sparkling specimens. They also bought Semken numerous books about geography and geology, including “The Big Golden Book of Geology,” which made such an impression that his childhood copy still sits on his office shelf. Semken vividly remembers staring at the book’s picture of Ship Rock, a towering volcanic neck on the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico. Little did he know that he would later spend 15 years living and teaching geology with that Ship Rock as a backdrop.

06 May 2016

'Hot Jupiter' atmospheres come into focus

Imagine the planetary lovechild of Jupiter and Mercury — but even larger than the former (usually) and much closer to the sun than the latter — and a picture will emerge of so-called “hot Jupiters,” a class of huge, sizzling exoplanets that typically take just a few Earth days to orbit their parent stars. Not much is known about these mysterious worlds, only recognized since the mid-1990s, but new research is helping improve our understanding.

06 May 2016

Looking for life in coldest, driest Antarctica

Antarctica is nicknamed the “White Continent,” but one site — University Valley in the continent’s McMurdo Dry Valleys region — has remained virtually snow-free for more than 150,000 years, making it the coldest, driest desert on Earth. For the past four years, researchers involved in NASA’s ASTEP (Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets) program searched for signs of life in the valley because it is thought to closely resemble the northern polar regions of Mars where the Phoenix spacecraft landed in 2008. In a new study, though, the team reports that it came up empty-handed, confirming that University Valley is indeed one of the least-habitable places on Earth.

05 May 2016

Travels in Geology: Discovering Denver's dinosaurs

A rich paleontological legacy makes Denver, Colo., one of the best places in the world to learn about dinosaurs, with numerous fossils and trackways at sites nearby.

04 May 2016

Getting there and getting around Denver

Denver International Airport is the best arrival point for exploring Denver and the surrounding area. A car is necessary to see many of the attractions described here. If you fly in, you can rent a vehicle at the airport or take the new light rail into town and rent a car as needed. Although all of these sites are open year-round, snow sometimes obscures the tracks during winter and early spring, and trails can be muddy. May through October is an ideal time to visit the region.

04 May 2016

Fish evolved quickly after earthquake

Evolution is often thought of as occurring over very long timescales, but as a tiny Alaskan fish demonstrates, significant changes can take place in just a few generations.

03 May 2016

Growth rings in rocks reveal past climate

Paleoclimate studies often depend on mineral or sediment layers deposited seasonally or annually in caves, lakes and ice, but such records leave gaps where caves, lakes or ice sheets aren’t found. Now, scientists using a new technique that analyzes calcite layers ringing pebbles and rocks in arid landscapes are opening a new window onto the climate history of western North America. And because such deposits are found all over the world, the technique might prove to be a useful new tool for studying paleoclimate globally.

02 May 2016

Where on Earth? - May 2016

Where on Earth was this picture taken? Use these clues to guess and submit your answer via mail, email or Web by the last day of the month (May 31, 2016).

01 May 2016

Turtle finds lower Altiplano elevation estimate

Rare turtle fossils uncovered in Bolivia suggest that, about 13 million years ago, the southern portion of South America’s Altiplano — the arid, high-elevation plateau immediately west of the Andes — was far lower than previously thought.

29 Apr 2016