Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Luminescence Dating! Thursday May 20!

Don't miss our last "Born to Do Science" program of the season, this Thursday, May 20, 6:00 PM at the Stillwater Public Library.

No, it's not about amorous fireflies.

Luminescence dating is a way of finding out the age of a geological structure (such as a sand dune or river bed) or an archeological site. It works because grains of minerals in the soil accumulate radiation damage at a steady rate over time. If we hit them with a bit of energy, the damage is repaired, and the grains glow, or luminesce. The amount of light they give off indicates the amount of damage accumulated, which tells us how long they've been buried.

ImageOur guest scientist, Dr. Regina DeWitt, is working on a device that dates sediment in this way, and will be small enough to fit in a shoe box. Why does it need to fit in a shoe box? Because NASA is funding the development of this instrument so that one day it might become part of a Mars Rover! Instruments on the Mars Rovers need to be small so that they can be launched into space and carted around on the surface of Mars.

This is going to be a really cool program! We'll get to play with a geiger counter, see an example of luminescence, talk about Mars, and as always, hear a brand new song.

I hope to see you there!

P. S. If you want to get a head start, here is Dr. Dewitt's webpage on the General Principals of Luminescence Dating.

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