Explore the history of science outreach, and you’ll discover some pretty strange episodes. One of the strangest occurred in the 1700s, when Leopold III Friedrich Franz ruled the province of Anhalt-Dessau as duke. Perhaps inspired by a European tour that included a trip to Mount Vesuvius, Franz decided to recreate the famous volcano in his own backyard and enlighten his subjects, who would never have the chance to visit Vesuvius in person.
At Smithsonian.com, Andrew Curry describes the structure that the eccentric ruler established at his Woerlitz estate.
The HiRISE camera orbiting Mars spotted 269 of these beautiful coils on the surface of the Athabasca Valles Region of the Red Planet. The patterns, which range from 15 to more than 90 feet wide, seem to be larger versions of those sometimes observed on Earth after a volcanic eruption; they can arise when two lava flows going in opposite directions curl around each other, or when the molten lava rotates slowly because of differences in the density or viscosity of two intersecting flows. There has been debate among scientists over whether the region’s unusually patterned surface was formed by ice or lava, and the publication of these images in this week’s Science adds credence to the lava theory.
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
The Crater Lake caldera shows a particularly striking pattern of lava flows.
Sometimes, the results of science can be a little cryptic. But other times, data can be as beautiful as it is information rich. Betsy Mason over at Wired Science has a gallery of geological maps of volcanoes that demonstrate exactly that, with a rainbow of colors indicating different types of rock and lava flows from millennia of eruptions. Which mountain is your favorite?
Image courtesy of USGS