Happy birthday to Vera Rubin! The pioneering astronomer turns 86 today.
The opening of the Akeley Hall of African Mammals in 1936 marked the birth of the golden age of the diorama. Named for Carl Akeley—the naturalist, explorer, and Museum taxidermist—the hall showcases large mammals of Africa.
At the center is a freestanding group of eight elephants, poised as if to charge, surrounded by 28 vivid habitat dioramas. These provide a glimpse of the diverse topography of Africa and its wildlife, from the Serengeti Plain to the waters of the Upper Nile to the volcanic mountains of what was once the Belgian Congo.
In June, Museum Curator John Sparks was trained in the Exosuit, a next-generation atmospheric diving system, at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
Weighing more than 500 pounds (227 kg), the Exosuit offers divers protection from the ocean’s pressure while allowing them to maintain the dexterity and maneuverability to perform delicate tasks. The diving system allows a trained pilot to work at depths of up to 1,000 feet (305 meters) for hours.
The Patricia Emerald is a large and superbly colored specimen. At 632 carats, the dihexagonal, or twelve-sided, crystal is considered one of the great emeralds in the world. Found in Colombia in 1920, it was named after the mine owner’s daughter.
The flaws in this emerald are normal but compromise the hard gem’s durability. This specimen is one of the very few large emeralds that have been preserved uncut. Today, Colombia is still the world’s major source of emeralds.
See other superb specimens in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems.
Considered the most social of cats, lions live in prides that consist of one or more males, several females, and cubs. While a male lion consumes an average of 5,500 pounds of meat a year—mostly wildebeest, zebra, and antelopes—females do most of the actual hunting.
African lions breed at 3½ years old, and the cubs are born spotted at birth. Male lions weigh about 375 pounds while females average 265 pounds. In captivity, lions have lived up to 25 years, but in the wild they usually survive only half as long.
Find this diorama in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals.
Pictured is the view from inside the Museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space, at sunset.
On July 20, 1969, with 600 million people watching on TV, an American crew landed on the Moon—the first people ever to walk on another world. The Apollo 11 mission had three crew members: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, who piloted the craft that would return them to Earth, while the others became the first two men ever to walk its surface.
Venomous animals have evolved a variety of mechanisms that deliver toxins to would-be predators and prey. In this video, Museum Curator Mark Siddall discusses some of the anatomical features you’ll want to avoid!
The exhibition The Power of Poison closes August 10, plan your visit now!
Astronomers have long pondered the origins of enormous elliptical galaxies in the young Universe. An object 11 billion light-years away spotted by the Herschel mission may help unravel the mystery.
Two massive spiral galaxies merged to create a giant elliptical galaxy, which were previously believed to form through the absorption of dwarf galaxies over time.
This image from Giuseppe Poli’s Testacea utriusque Siciliae…(1791-1827) depicts the internal and external structures of a Mediterranean scallop (Pecten jacobaeus), with a degree of detail that had not previously been seen in a published work.
This illustration is on view now at the Museum in the exhibition, Natural Histories: 400 Years of Scientific Illustration from the Museum’s Library.
Huge asteroids and comets don’t collide with our planet very often, so scientists can’t easily observe the effects of a major impact.
But 20 years ago this month, in July of 1994, researchers got a glimpse of what can happen when a sizeable comet crashes into a planet—in this case, Jupiter. The fiery results offered clues to how devastating the ancient impact on Earth might have been.
The comet named Shoemaker-Levy 9, already shattered into many pieces, slammed into Jupiter in a series of impacts. Many of the fragments were between one and three kilometers (0.6 and 1.9 miles) across in size. The multiple impacts sent fireballs high above Jupiter’s atmosphere and left dark scars so large our own planet would have fit inside.
Learn more about planetary impacts in the Cullman Hall of the Universe.
Spending the weekend in the great outdoors? Here are some tips for identifying poison ivy:
POISON IVY (Toxicodendron radicans)
- Compound leaves with three leaflets (leading to the saying “leaves of three, let it be”)
- The stalk of the middle leaflet is much longer than the stalks of the two side leaflets
- The edges can be smooth or coarsely toothed
- Surface can be glossy or dull
- Climbing or straggling vine (poison ivy)
- Sprawling shrub (western poison ivy)
Anyone that thinks they might have touched poison ivy should wash thoroughly with soap and water. Any clothes that have been in direct contact with poison ivy should be carefully removed and laundered. The unpleasant itching of poison ivy can be relieved by applying calamine lotion or a paste made of baking soda.
#FossilFriday returns with mene rhombeus, also known as a “moonfish.” This beautiful, deep-bodied fossil may be related to modern carangids, which first appeared in the Eocene, along with many other reef fishes that have survived to the present. Collected in Italy, this mene rhombeus fish lived 40 million years ago.
You can find this and a whole collection of beautiful fossil fishes in the Museum’s Hall of Vertebrate Origins.