Sunday Science Photos, May 22 – 28

This is the last week of this particular feature on my blog until June 26th due to upcoming finals and a trip back home to Illinois after the end of the quarter. There will be other posts in the meantime, though, so don’t stop visiting. This week’s photos include many shots from my trip to the big island of Hawaii a few summers ago. I hope you enjoy them!

Anticrepuscular Rays

You’ve seen crepuscular rays many times; Rays of sunshine beaming through breaks in the clouds or gaps in a forest canopy are both examples of crepuscular rays. Anticrepuscular rays are similar, but they expand across the sky, appearing to converge at a point completely opposite of the sun. The sun is setting directly behind the camera in this photo.

Steam & Ash From Kilauea

Through the lush flora of Hawaii, we glimpse a vision of the eruption of Kilauea. This photo was taken in 2009 before the recent uptick in activity and major rises and descents of the lava lake. The volcanic fumes are hazardous and blocked many routes around the crater as they billowed over the road.

Green Sand Beach

It’s quite difficult to capture in a photo, but Papakōlea Beach in Hawaii is made of a green sand consisting of small grains of olivine, a green mineral that emerged from an old cinder cone volcano at this location. (See the photo below for more detail)


Basaltic lava usually takes one of two forms on the surface: cooler, chunky a’a flows, or hotter, smoother  pahoehoe flows. Pahoehoe forms this distinctive ropy surface which is a lot less destructive on one’s shoes than the sharp a’a deposits.


When olivine, like that which speckles the sands of Papakōlea Beach, is of sufficient size and purity, we call it peridot. Shown here is a cut peridot gem stone next to the largest known peridot crystal. If you wish to see them yourself, you can visit the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, CA.

Three Fingered Jack

Glaciation was a bitch to this old Pleistocene shield volcano. It’s craggy summit is just over 7,800 feet, and stands in stark relief to the rolling volcanic hills at its flanks. Though less than half a million years old, the massively eroded peak is a testament to the power & speed of the forces working to level the Earth’s surface.

Prunus emarginata

An Oregon cherry tree in bloom is the surest sign of spring. We’re now a few weeks past the blooming season for these beauties, but I look forward to them every year. They break the visual blandness of our overcast winters and remind me that sunnier days are ahead… eventually.

Geiger Counter

I don’t really have anything to say about Geiger counters, but this is the only photo I’m allowed to share from my recent trip to the Reed College Research Reactor in Portland, OR. Cameras are not allowed in the facility for security reasons, so I could not photograph the awesomeness that is Cherenkov radiation.

Chelonia mydas

This beautiful green sea turtle was lounging on the sands at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. These are an endangered species. I felt very privileged to meet this individual while on my trip. I wanted to hug him and love him and name him George.

Scyphocrinites elegans

This fossilized Crinoid (commonly known as a Sea Lily) may have a flower-like appearance, but it is, in fact, a member of Kingdom Animalia. This one drifted through Silurian seas about 418 million years ago, eventually depositing in marine deposits in what is now Morocco.


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