From Untamed Science, a tour with Dr. Lindsay Zanno, Director of the Paleontology & Geology Research Laboratory at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
The key things she emphasized were that a) it’s a lot of work b) it’s not glamorous c) rarely to they find complete skeletons d) they don’t excavate it with little brushes out in the field and e) they spend close to 50 times the effort on a skeleton, in the lab, once it’s been pulled out of the earth.
There’s also a field trip to Crystal Geyser Quarry, “the largest feathered dinosaur graveyard” in the world… so far, at least! From the team’s site:
We are living through the most exciting period in the history of dinosaur paleontology. More than half of all known dinosaur species were discovered within the past 25 years, including nearly all of the remarkable feathered dinosaur specimens. One of the hottest areas for dinosaur discovery in North America is the Cedar Mountain Formation of eastern Utah, where new dinosaurs are being discovered and described at a phenomenal rate. These fossil beds span the last 25-30 million years of the Early Cretaceous, a time when North America was undergoing a period of climate change that resulted in localized extinction events and invasive dinosaur species.
Our team returns to Utah every year to hunt for new dinosaurs. This year we began excavations at an unprecedented dinosaur burial ground in the Cedar Mountain Formation known as the Crystal Geyser Quarry (CGQ). The CGQ is a mass mortality site entombing a rare and remarkable dinosaur dubbed Falcarius utahensis. One hundred and twenty-five million years ago an estimated 300 Falcarius individuals ranging in age from hatchlings to 4-meter long adults died and were buried here under mysterious conditions.
Saturn’s Mysterious Moons, as well as other phenomenal data about our gas giants and what’s in their orbits, all gathered from Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Cassini. This video is eighteen-plus minutes of seriously fascinating information.
The two Voyagers sent back tens of thousands of images… of planetary realms more diverse than anyone had imagined. These long-distance marathon flyers - both now headed out towards interstellar space - made discoveries about the planetary chemistry that make these gas giants appear to us as gigantic works of abstract art.
The Voyagers disclosed new details about their magnetic fields, atmospheres, ring systems, and even the nature of their inner cores. Voyager turned up some surprising new mysteries too: a huge dark spot — a storm in fact - on Neptune. They found that Uranus is tipped 90 degrees to one side. That Saturn is less dense than water; if you had a bathtub big enough, Saturn would float!
And that you’d need the mass of three Saturns to make just one Jupiter! But what really knocked the scientists’ socks off were the moons that orbit these gas giants. All of them have been pummeled over the millennia by wayward asteroids and comets.
But a few appear to also be sculpted by forces below their icy surfaces…
Geysers are a rare phenomenon that exist in only a few places on the Earth. Some of the tallest are in New Zealand, Iceland, Geyser Valley in Russia, and Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone’s 500-ish geysers — a handful of which are shown in this video — are the product of the geothermal heat of a massive, ancient and active volcanic caldera (an exploded crater) that is a majority of the park.
Geysers such as Old Faithful are a type of geothermal feature that periodically erupt scalding hot water. Increased pressure exerted by the enormous weight of the overlying rock and water prevents deeper water from boiling. As the hot water rises it is under less pressure and steam bubbles form. They, in turn, expand on their ascent until the bubbles are too big and numerous to pass freely through constrictions. At a critical point the confined bubbles actually lift the water above, causing the geyser to splash or overflow. This decreases the pressure of the system and violent boiling results. Large quantities of water flash into tremendous amounts of steam that force a jet of water out of the vent: an eruption begins. Water (and heat) is expelled faster than the geyser’s recharge rate, gradually decreasing the system’s pressure and eventually ending the eruption.
Old Faithful, a cone geyser named in 1870, is called the most predictable in this geothermic process, erupting for 2.5 minutes every 91 minutes.
Our favorite: Beehive. Bonus: immediate rainbow sighting.
Meteorites are the chunks of meteors that have hurtled through Earth’s atmosphere and landed/crashed on the ground. There are three types of meteorites: stone, iron and stony-iron, and once they’re in science labs to be studied, they need to be handled super-carefully. The Smithsonian’s meteorite lab shows us exactly how carefully!
This is a big issue. We study meteorites to learn things about what has happened and is happening outside our own planetary system. If, in the process of that, we end up covering the samples with the detritus of Earth, then the message gets muddled. If you’re studying a meteorite, you want to be reasonably sure that you’re not accidentally studying dust or bacteria from this planet. Clean rooms like the one in this video make it easier to examine these samples in a way that is less destructive.
This is a huge mass of ice ”calving” or breaking away from Holgate Glacier at Kenai Fjords in Alaska. We found this video after watching this ice “explosion” that was shot in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica. Both are pretty stunning to watch on video, so I can only imagine what it was like to watch in person… as it turns out, watching ice melt can be pretty riveting.