1) Some amazing pictures from the Boston Globes “Big Picture” photo blog of a sulfur mine in East Java.  There are 30 pictures in all.


“Photographer Olivier Grunewald has recently made several trips into the sulfur mine in the crater of the Kawah Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia, bringing with him equipment to capture surreal images lit by moonlight, torches, and the blue flames of burning molten sulfur.”

a.A sulfur miner stands inside the crater of the Kawah Ijen volcano at night, holding a torch, looking towards a flow of liquid sulfur which has caught fire and burns with an eerie blue flame.


b. Flaming molten sulfur flows inside the volcanic crater. Sulfur will melt at just above 100 C (212 F), but the temperatures in the crater do not get high enough for spontaneous combustion – the fires are lit by the miner’s dripping torches.

c. A formation caused by liquid sulfur flow inside the crater of Kawah Ijen. When molten, sulfur appears nearly blood red, as it cools, it becomes more and more yellow.

My great-grandfather, on my father’s side, was a coal miner from Wales.  I can’t imagine what it is like to work in one.  The only job I can see being worse would be anything that involves dealing with cats. 🙂

He moved to America and settle in Stamford, CT, working in the railroad yard.  While coupling two cars together his leg got caught between them.  The injury became infected and he died from gangrene.  A reminder of how much safer jobs and medical care is today.

Has anyone in your family worked at a dangerous job?

2) Astronomy

a. From Nature News.  For the first time, astronomers have watched the spiralling dance performed by two stars merging into a single star, a rare “Red Nova”.  http://tinyurl.com/26zm3m2

“Most novae are blue and occur when material on a white dwarf star explodes. But what causes red novae has been a mystery.”

“In September 2008, the red nova V1309 Scorpii appeared in the Milky Way. Fortunately, it was positioned in a part of the sky being watched by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE), a Polish-run programme using data from a telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to search for signs of dark matter and planets. As a result, the team had inadvertently captured the process that sparked the red nova.”

“Because they are so close together, the two stars continually eclipse each other, causing the brightness we see to vary. This allowed Tylenda and his team to deduce the nature of V1309 Scorpii, which is roughly 10,000 light years (3,000 parsecs) from Earth.

Before the explosion, the two stars danced around each other every 1.4 days. As they spiralled together, this period shortened until the stars merged and exploded, upping their brightness by 10,000 times. Tylenda and his colleagues estimate that the larger star had about as much mass as the Sun. Current observations indicate that the system is now single.”

b. From NASA – http://tinyurl.com/236bprp

“Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have found a stunning burst of star formation that beams out as much infrared light as an entire galaxy. The collision of two spiral galaxies has triggered this explosion, which is cloaked by dust that renders its stars nearly invisible in other wavelengths of light.

The starburst newly revealed by Spitzer stands as the most luminous ever seen taking place away from the centers, or nuclei, of merging parent galaxies. It blazes ten times brighter than the nearby Universe’s previous most famous “off-nuclear starburst” that gleams in another galactic smashup known as the Antennae Galaxy.

The new findings show that galaxy mergers can pack a real star-making wallop far from the respective galactic centers, where star-forming dust and gases typically pool.

“This discovery proves that merging galaxies can generate powerful starbursts outside of the centers of the parent galaxies,” says Hanae Inami, first author of a paper detailing the results in the July issue of The Astronomical Journal. Inami is a graduate student at The Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Japan and the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology. She adds: “The infrared light emission of the starburst dominates its host galaxy and rivals that of the most luminous galaxies we see that are relatively close to our home, the Milky Way.”

“No matter how you slice it, this starburst is one of the most luminous objects in the local Universe,” agrees Lee Armus, second author of the paper and a senior research astronomer also at the Spitzer Science Center.”