Tellus' Mineral Symposium highlights fluorescent minerals
by Marie Nesmith
Aug 17, 2011 | 3786 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tellus Curator Julian Gray studies fluorescent minerals with an ultraviolet light. On Saturday, Tellus will be the site of a fluorescent mineral symposium.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Fluorescent minerals -- a visual delight and a scientific wonder -- will be the topic of conversation at the Tellus Science Museum's Mineral Symposium on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"[We are] very excited," said Tellus' Curator Julian Gray, referring to the program's theme. "These are things that people look at [and] they're dull, gray rocks in white light. And when you put fluorescent lights on them, they turn all kinds of bright colors that you would not expect. So it's pretty shocking and very cool.

"It's a cool phenomenon. Fluorescent light is so intense. It has so much energy, it causes changes in the chemical structure of the mineral and it gives off these wild colors. It's totally unexpected. Even though it's scientifically technical, it's one of those things that just about anybody can really appreciate because of the vibrant colors that are produced."

During his 2 p.m. lecture titled "Behind the Scenes at Tellus: Building a Successful Fluorescent Mineral Display," Gray will discuss the construction of the museum's fluorescent minerals case as well as the exhibit's recent improvements.

"The fluorescent mineral exhibit ... it's one of the more popular exhibits in the mineral gallery," Gray said, adding one of the most colorful specimens contains calcite and willemite, which turns orange and green in ultraviolet light. "Recently [it has been redone] because we've gotten a lot of minerals that are a lot more colorful. So we recently redid the exhibit with the help of several dedicated volunteers who came in specifically for this project. We've had a lot of great donations in the last year or two and we've also done a couple of things to improve the exhibit -- put in brighter lights, lowered the lights and done a lot of technical tweaking on the case design to make the effect more noticeable to the public.

"And people are noticing it. We've been hanging out near the case doing some other work and people will stop in there and gasp when they turn the exhibit on. It's on a timer, so you press a button and as it runs through the cycle it shows different wavelengths of fluorescent light and you get different colors -- minerals will produce different colors in different wavelengths. So they're just very impressed with that, I think. The response has been very good."

In addition to Gray, there will be three other featured speakers at the Mineral Symposium: Dr. John Rakovan, Miami University of Ohio, Oxford, Ohio, "Luminescence: A Phenomenon of Beauty and Illumination" at 11 a.m.; Dr. Earl Verbeek, Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg, N.J., "Why do Scientists study Fluorescence" at 1 p.m.; and Mark Cole of the Miner Shop, Dowelltown, Tenn., "History of Fluorescent Mineral Collecting in South Greenland" at 3 p.m. Along with the lectures, the event also will feature Xploration Stations for patrons to examine fluorescent minerals and delve more into their science.

"[These are] more in-depth type of talks on minerals, so we like to focus on one subject," said Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria. "We like for people to leave here with a better understanding of minerals and mineralogy.

"[This year] we wanted to get [a theme] that will be very popular. Fluorescent minerals -- people don't quite understand much about them. But they know they're cool -- these rocks that glow under ultraviolet light. So we thought that the fact that it was a very spectacular visual topic would attract people and then that they would stay around to learn a little bit about the science behind [fluorescent minerals]."

Encompassing 120,000 square feet at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville, Tellus is comprised of four main galleries -- The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science In Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard -- a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory. Since it opened January 2009, the museum has attracted more than 500,000 visitors.

The Mineral Symposium will be included in regular admission to Tellus -- $12 for adults, $10 for individuals 65 and older, and $8 for children ages 3 to 17 and students with ID -- and free for museum members and active duty military personnel with ID. For more information about the museum and its upcoming events and programs, call 770-606-5700 or visit