O.K., so maybe she won't paint a billion. Her still-troublesome neck/brachial plexus/arm problem likely wouldn't let her do so, and The Naturalist's Notebook is only so big. But Pamelia has begun inventing and experimenting with paint, paper, fabric and collage to produce an artistic rendering of the universe for a portion of this year's Notebook. (Do any of you remember an old Creedence Clearwater Revival album called Cosmo's Factory? Pamelia is turning her studio into a Cosmos Factory.)
She's speeding up the process. Actual stars form over the course of millions of years when particles of dust and gas collide, unite and start pulling in more particles through gravity. This eventually creates enough heat inside the new body to turn hydrogen into helium (a nuclear fusion reaction) and release huge amounts of energy. We see that energy as sunlight or starlight, feel it as the Sun's warmth, or study it through various types of telescopes, some of which see and measure things that humans can't: the X-rays, ultraviolet rays, infrared rays, gamma rays, radio waves and other forms of energy that stars emit.
If you have ever seen a photo of the Orion nebula, like the one below taken by the Hubble telescope, then you have seen a place where the aforementioned process is taking place. It's what astronomers sometimes call a "star factory." This nebula, a mere 1,500 light years away, is the star factory closest to Earth.
Pamelia and I will be talking about stars and the Notebook over the next week in meetings at Dartmouth, Harvard and MIT. Stay tuned!
The Notebook's New Specimens I've been meaning to tell you about the black drumfish dental plate, the alligator scutes and the shark-tooth fossils. Bruce Lampright, the South Carolina naturalist who visited the Notebook last October with other advance scouts from the 2013 Family Nature Summit—a nature vacation group that has chosen to come to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park for its week of fun activities this July (not too late to sign up: http://www.familysummits.org/index.php)—generously donated to us some specimens he collected in his home state. You'll be able to see them at the Notebook this summer. Here are a few photos:
We're All Suckers for Cute Bear Cubs A friend forwarded this Canadian TV segment about tagging bears. It's a little goofy at times, but it is a rare look at the process, and the cubs—which are pulled out of the den along with their still-asleep mother!—will make you go, Awwwwww....
Mind you, if we're really looking to protect bear populations, we might want to let the bears pull us humans out of bed and fit us with monitoring collars that warn them when we're coming.
Seals On Ice I posted the photo below on The Naturalist's Notebook's Facebook page this week after Pamelia and I saw some of the seals who live near our house floating past on ice chunks. We've seen the seals do this every year, but usually a couple of weeks later in the season. Given that there was a full moon the night before the seal sighting, and that the moon affects the height of the tides, and that a very high tide might dislodge chunks of ice along shorelines, we wondered whether the timing of this event is linked to full moons. We'll have to pay attention to that starting in February 2014, right after I return home to Maine from Russia and the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Today's Puzzler Thanks to Notebook correspondent LJ for passing along the below photos from snowy western Maine. Can you identify the animals that made each set of tracks? (And, if you live in snow country, do you have any track photos you'd like to share with us?)
a) Wolf b) Fox c) Coyote
a) Bobcat b) Dog c) Rabbit
a) Hare and mouse b) Squirrel and vole c) Fox and hen