Amgueddfa Blog

The Spring Bulbs for Schools investigation started in 2005 and has been engaging KS2 pupils with science, climate change and the natural environment for sixteen years. The 2020-21 project met with many challenges that inspired us all to work in new and inventive ways.

Schools across the UK have shown determination and versatility in meeting challenges caused by the pandemic and resulting restrictions. We are grateful to all schools who continued to collect and share weather data. In many cases this was achieved by asking pupils who lived near the school to take the weather equipment home. These pupils were responsible for recording and uploading the data on behalf of their school during lockdown.

We will be meeting a few of these Spring Bulbs for Schools Champions through Blog posts. Our first Champion is Riley, who has been taking weather readings for Stanford in the Vale Primary School.

Q. What sort of year have you had with lockdown?
A. I’ve had a mixed year, I have been glad to go back to school as I didn’t really like homeschooling. I was glad to see all my friends!!

Q. Why do you think the project is important?
A. I think that the project is very important. As well as helping with your maths skills, it also makes you get out into the garden and have fun.

Q. How did you help to continue the project?
A. This year I have been helping with the project by doing the weather measurements from home. I think that it is important to keep the project going even during lockdown!

Q. What do you enjoy about taking the measurements?
A. I enjoy seeing the differences in the weather each day, I like it how you can get really varied days in the temperature and rainfall. No day is the same!

Q. What have you noticed about your weather and flower measurements this year?
A. I have noticed this year that we have had some very hot days this year with some temperatures reaching up to 25 degrees in March!!

Q. What are you most looking forward to doing after lockdown?
A. The thing I am most looking forward to is seeing all my family and friends again!! It seems like so long since I last saw them!!

Thank you Riley.

Thank you for all of your hard work Bulb Buddies,

Professor Plant

 

Hello again Bulb Buddies!

Lots of you have been in touch recently to let me know your Baby Bulbs have flowered which is wonderful news!  There’s not long left to enter your flower data into the Spring Bulbs website if you haven’t already – the deadline is Friday April 2nd, which also happens to be Good Friday so you can enjoy a well-earned hot cross bun after entering your data!  Please make sure your flower data is uploaded by this date for Bulb Buddies to receive their Super Scientist certificate!

Did you know you can leave me a comment when entering your flower and weather data into the website?  I really enjoy hearing about your experiences caring for your Baby Bulbs so do keep them coming in via the comments section of the Spring Bulbs website or even on Twitter.  Here are some of your comments over the past few weeks:

  • “ When we have a sunny day the crocus flowers are open like stars” – Class 2, Coastlands Primary.
  • It’s been lovely to witness during our observations how the flower closes when it has been cold and then see the flower open when the sun has been out!” – Amy, Stanford in the Vale Primary.

Well spotted Bulb Buddies!  Some flowers are quite delicate and will curl up to protect themselves from cold weather which could damage them. When temperatures rise they feel safe to “open like stars”!

Henllys CIW Primary have certainly had a mixed bag of daffodil results:

  • “Mine was really tall” – Aneurin
  • “Mine was really thin” – Emily
  • “Mine was really good until the wind broke it” - Oliver

Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that Oliver! We certainly had some strong winds earlier this month which can be dangerous for tall daffodils.  It’s not your fault and you all did very well.

  • “My bulb opened today, but something has been eating the petals. Quite a few of our bulbs were taken by squirrels in the autumn because we captured some of them doing it on our night vision camera!” – Alexandra, Livingston Village Primary School.

Sadly this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of bushy tailed bandits stealing bulbs and there are more comment from LVPS about animals stealing bulbs for a free meal.  It’s easy to forget that plants are food for lots of creepy crawlies and other animals and at least you were able to provide a hungry animal with a meal.  I can’t believe you caught them red handed!  Do you have a photo you could share?

  • “It appears our bulbs in the ground opened first during February and are a much bigger plants than those in the pots. We have thoroughly enjoyed this project and a special mention must go to Riley (an ex-student of the school) for helping Mrs Finney with the weather and rainfall observations during lockdown.” – Mrs. Finney, Stanford in the Vale Primary School.

How interesting - bulbs in the ground have more nutrients and space to grow than potted bulbs so they often flower sooner and can grow taller if sheltered from the wind.  I’m thrilled to hear you’ve all enjoyed working on the project and what a fantastic effort from Riley!  I read all your wonderful comments about the weather and gardening and thank you so much for helping Mrs. Finney with the project over lockdown, what an amazing Bulb Buddy you are!

This year has been tough for everyone but you’ve all done fantastically well and seeing so many beautiful blossoms is a testament to your hard work and dedication.  Thank you so much again Bulb Buddies, teachers and parents!  We’re hoping to open applications for the 2021 – 22 academic year soon after the Easter holidays so if you’ve enjoyed being Bulb Buddies this year you can have the chance to look after some new Baby Bulbs next year!

Happy Gardening!

Professor Plant.

 

This weekend our Curators open online doors to our fascinating meteorite and space rock collections. Join them on Saturday and Sunday for free behind the scenes tours, streamed on our National Museums Wales website, as part of our Amazing Astronomy Weekend. Then on Sunday, our museum curators will be joined by expert astronomers to take your questions in a live, bookable event. See Amazing Astronomy for full details.

Here, Andrew Haycock, Curator Mineralogy & Petrology, Natural Sciences shares a little of his thoughts on one of our space treasures, a rock from Mars. 

There are 77 meteorites in the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales collection, which have been found in localities the World over. Some of these are permanently on display in our Evolution of Wales Gallery. They include a 260kg iron meteorite, which fell in Namibia, Africa; and a slice of a stony meteorite which fell in Beddgelert in 1949. This meteorite is one of only two known meteorites from Wales.

The vast majority of meteorites in the collection are held in climate-controlled storage, so they do not decay, but are often used for our Space-themed outreach events and teaching. Every specimen, however small or big, visually stunning or insignificant looking, has an interesting story to tell. One such unremarkable looking specimen is a stony shergottite meteorite collected in Libya in 1998.

The Mars meteorite is a shergottie (NMW 2010.17G.R.26). The surface of Mars may be red but the rocks that we have are grey, it is only the surface dust of the planet that gives the distinct orange colour.

Around 95% of meteorite finds are classified as ‘stony’, mainly made-up of minerals commonly found on Earth, and most (99.8%) are about 4,560 million years old, and originated in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. That is impressively old, but a casual observer may be forgiven to think that this shergottite meteorite was ‘just another stony meteorite’, but it is actually rather special, it is a part of Mars.

Of the 65,000 or so meteorites, which have been collected, examined and named, just 292 are considered to originate from Mars. They can be classified as 3 different rock types, all igneous in origin (formed from magma or lava). They are much younger than the meteorites from the Asteroid belt, and were formed by volcanic activity on Mars between 165 and 1,340 million years ago.  Only one known meteorite, found in the Allen Hills of Antarctica, is thought to be around 4,500 million years old, and was part of the initial Martian crust when the planet formed.

Mars has been in the news a lot recently (February 2021), with the landing of the NASA Perseverance rover. The rover’s main job is to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.

Launch of Mars Perserverance rover, 30 July 2020

Prior to the landing of the Perseverance Rover, four other rovers have successfully been sent to Mars sending valuable data back to scientists on Earth; Sojourner (1997), Spirit and Opportunity (2004); and Curiosity (2012). The first space craft to successfully land on the planet was part of the Viking 1 and Viking 2 missions (Obiter and Lander) which reached Mars in 1976.

So, how do scientists know that these meteorites are from Mars?  By studying the composition of meteorites similar to this one, and comparing it to data sent back by spacecraft on Mars. The meteorites were found to have elemental and isotopic compositions very similar to some Martian rocks. The Shergottite group of Martian meteorites are very similar to basalt rocks found on Earth, but the oxygen isotopes are different to those of Earth rocks.

Conclusive evidence for a Martian origin was provided in 1983, when tiny bubbles of gas trapped in inside the glassy fragments of a shergottite meteorite from Antarctica were analysed. The trapped gasses matched perfectly with the signature of the Martian atmosphere as reported by NASA’s Viking 1 and 2 landers in 1976.

No astronauts have been to Mars, and no material from Mars has been sent back to Earth. So how did a rock from Mars get to Earth? The only known mechanism to eject a rock from Mars is a massive meteorite impact event. The impact would have smashed into Mars with enough force to eject debris out into Space, away from the gravitational pull of the planet, which is much less than that of Earth. At some point the meteorites were deflected from their orbit and pulled into the Earth’s gravitational field. Some of this debris then fell to Earth as meteorites.

The 3-million-year-old crater Mojave, is 58.5 km in diameter and the youngest crater of its size on the planet, has been identified as a potential source of most Mars meteorites.

Unlike the Moon, when it comes to Mars, scientists don't have rocks collected by astronauts to study. But they do have the next best thing, and they are Martian meteorites.

 

Have you seen the footage of a meteorite fire ball passing through our atmosphere on 28 February? Our team have been working to help scientists find where it made landfall in Gloucester: on a suburban driveway! Since 2019, Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales has been part of the SCAMP (System of Asteroid and Meteorite Paths) UK network, part of UK Fireball Alliance which spots, tracks and helps to locate meteorite falls. Jana Horak our Head of Mineralogy & Petrology explains how and invites you to join her and some of her curatorial colleagues for a behind the scenes, online tour of our meteorite collection during our Amazing Astrology weekend 20-21 March.

Every year curators in the Museum examine, numerous samples of possible meteorites, found by the public. Scientists estimate that around 44,000 kilograms of rock fall from space and land on Earth every day, this may sound a lot, but this equates to a cube just 2.3 meters across. Within the UK alone, it is estimated that 10-20 meteorites a year reach the ground, although the last one to be found was in Cambridgeshire in 1991. In Wales, just two meteorites have been collected to date, as both fell close (or through!) human habitation, both in North Wales. Look at our Mineralogy of Wales pages for more information.

But if we don’t see a meteorite fall, how do we know where to look for them? In arid regions, such as the Sahara Desert, the dark outer layer of a meteorite contrasts with the paler stony desert surface, making the meteorite relatively easy to spot. In Wales, however, our temperate climate produces a well-developed soil and vegetation cover, so a falling stone is easily lost.

The SCAMP camera on the Museum Roof in Cardiff, which records fireball activity, It recorded the Gloucester fireball (28th February 2021) and has contributed to helping to find samples.

When a space rock hurtles towards Earth, pulled by Earth’s gravity, the glow of the fireball or ‘shooting star’ alerts us to this intruder. If we can record the direction (or path) of the fireball, we may be able to pin-point where the meteorite falls. Since 2019, Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales has been part of the SCAMP (System of Asteroid and Meteorite Paths) UK network, part of UK Fireball Alliance (https://www.ukfall.org.uk/) which does just that. A special camera on the roof at National Museum Cardiff, records the motion of any passing fireball. From this data the rate and direction of travel can be determined, and by combining information from other UK cameras, can calculate the location where the meteorite hits the ground.

Since we have had the camera installed, we have recorded several fireballs, but only two are calculated to have resulted in a meteorite fall. The first, near Salisbury in November 2020, was considered too small to attempt to recover, but the recent larger one near Gloucester (28th February 2021) will be a test of the system, as it is estimated to include a piece about the size of an orange.  Should you encounter a recently fallen meteorite it is best to wrap it in some clean aluminium foil or place it in a bag without handling it. It is really important not to test it with a magnet as this may destroy valuable information. You can make contact with us here at the Museum to confirm anything you find.

A sample of the Chelyabinsk meteorite which fell in the Russian Federation in February 2013.

So how might you know if you have found a meteorite, if you don’t see it fall? Although the internal texture of meteorites may vary, the most characteristic feature of them is a fusion crust. This is the dark outer layer, a few millimetres thick, produced by friction melting as the rock as it sped through the atmosphere. When hot and travelling fast, the melt layer is stripped away, reducing the size of the rock, and smoothing its outline. As it slows down, cools and stops glowing the melt layer cools and solidifies, to produce a typically dark and smooth outer surface, which may be crossed by a series of small cracks. The Chelyabinsk meteorite which fell in western Siberia, in February 2013, has a very fresh and well-developed fusion crust .

The most common specimens we see which might be confused with a meteorite are; hematite, particularly where it has a smooth bulbous form, marcasite nodules from the Chalk of the southern England, and samples of slag, a product of Wales’ industrial past. Slag commonly has rounded gas bubble cavities on the surface, something that is uncommon or absent from meteorite fusion crusts.

If you think you have found a meteorite contact the Department of Natural Sciences 

Amazing Astronomy, 20 - 21 March 2021

Full information about our AMAZING ASTRONOMY weekend here

 

Richard Burton had many loves in his life but one of his less-known and lifelong was his love of books.

‘...my ‘first love’...is not the stage. It is a lovely book with words in it.’
Richard’s Diary, 20 March 1969

This ‘love’ started to take hold of the then Richie Jenkins during his school days in Taibach, Port Talbot. At the Eastern Boys School his teacher, Meredith Jones, taught him to appreciate the beauty of words and language, in both English and Welsh. Around the age of twelve Richard started collecting books, in particular Everyman’s Library pocket editions of classics. Years later, Richard notes in his diary that he had around 300 Everyman’s by the time he was in his twenties and it had been his childhood ambition to own the entire collection.

Even as a teenager, Richard had an appetite for books which he recorded in the diary he wrote from 1939-40 when he was fourteen. Richard mentions ‘staying in’ to read a book and claimed he was reading on average three books in two days. He would also frequent the town’s library conveniently located in Commercial Road, Taibach - his ‘favourite retreat’ according to his younger brother. Among the books Richard read as a teenager were works by Dickens and Shakespeare. But it was from 1942 onwards, under the influence of his English teacher and mentor, Philip Burton, that books and in particular, Shakespeare left a lifelong mark on Richard.

‘No other writer hit me with quite the same impact as William S. What a stupendous God he was, he is.’
Richard’s Diary, 14 July 1970

Another writer who had a profound influence on Richard was Dylan Thomas. Richard had admired his work from a young age and after playing First Voice in Under Milk Wood in 1954 his voice became forever associated with the poet. Thomas’ influence also appears in the few poems that Richard wrote and especially his 1964 book, A Christmas Story, which drew on his own childhood memories.

From 1965-72, when Richard was at the height of his film career, he kept a series of diaries which reveal the extent of his reading habit. The first entry in the 1965 diary refers to him reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica with his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. He was often given books as presents by family and friends who knew exactly what would please him. On his 46th birthday, Elizabeth bought him ‘the present of presents’, the Complete Oxford Dictionary in microprint with a magnifying glass:

‘To a bibliomaniac it is a thrilling present.’
Richard’s Diary, 11 November 1971

Elizabeth also bought him the entire Everyman Library in the pocket format and had them bound in coloured calf leather. In September 1969, Richard had the time and space to unpack the books in his library at Chalet Arial, Gstaad:

‘It is a fantastic reference library with the index in my head. I shall browse in that place for the rest of my life.’
Richard’s Diary, 29 September 1969

Years later, when Richard was married to Susan Hunt, she presented her husband with ‘a life-saving present’ on their fourth-wedding anniversary – a bespoke portable book-case painted red, his favourite colour:

‘...immensely durably strong which, at a rough calculation will hold a hundred or so really thick tomes and I suppose twice that number of paperbacks...I can’t stop musing at it.’
Richard’s Diary, 22 August 1980

There was no wonder that Richard needed storage for his books as the amount and rate of his reading was immense. When he had time on his hands, he would often read several books in a day and when he was working he would look forward to the next opportunity to buy more books.

‘[...] I am reading anything and everything. Most days I read at least 3 books and one day recently I read 5!’
Richard’s Diary, 24 April 1969

‘I can’t wait for my next day off to augment my library.’
Richard’s Diary, 5 November 1971

Richard had libraries in his various homes across the world in Switzerland, Mexico and on his yacht, the Kalizma. When he travelled he would carry a selection of books with him in his ‘book bag’, like a travelling library. Among the more lightweight paperbacks the book bag always contained The Complete Works of Shakespeare, The Oxford Book of English Verse and various dictionaries, depending on which language he would be learning at the time. He also kept a copy of David Jones’ In Parenthesis at his bedside. Richard’s daughter, Kate Burton, recalled one occasion when he had lost In Parenthesis and while looking for it in his library in Céligny, Switzerland, it miraculously fell out of the shelf behind him.

Although only a small part of Richard’s once vast library is on display in the Becoming Richard Burton exhibition, it reveals the range of his reading. Richard’s greatest passion was for literature but he also enjoyed biographies, history, politics and detective novels. Many of the books have dedications inside from family, friends and writers who knew they would be appreciated and treasured by Richard in his library, his favourite retreat, in his words: ‘the best cell ever for a literary man’.

Richard Burton's library at Villa Le Pays de Galles, Céligny, Switzerland.

Richard Burton's library at Villa Le Pays de Galles, Céligny, Switzerland.
© Richard Burton Archive