Previously at the Canadian Museum of Nature, the UNESCO Natural Heritage Site at Miguasha, Quebec and other venues, the exhibit has proven to be a successful combination of science and art, geology and astronomy, text and imagery. Through photography, plain text and maps, the exhibit brings to life the wonderful colours and patterns of rocks and tells the story of the origin of the elements, the solar system and life on Earth - in other words, our cosmic origins.
Rental (3 months): $3,000
Purchase, exclusive rights: $200,000
For details please see tour.html
2. PETRA 3. ASTRA
4. SOLA 5. COSMA
TERRA 7. FINA
What do you think?
click to enlarge
Some are of rock cuts beside a parkway while others are of lichen and rocks little changed since glaciers scoured the land 10,000 years ago.
Also on display are images from the National Air Photo Library and the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, both part of the Department of Natural Resources Canada.
For complete details, a step-by-step installation guide, rental and purchase information, or to receive an exhibit prospectus please contact
Histories of vanished mountains are written in the rocks. Some of the oldest known rocks in the world are found along the Acasta River, in the Northwest Territories.
Rocks of the Precambrian were folded and uplifted several times, but the final episode 600 million years ago was one of relaxation.
Now, after millions of years of erosion, only the roots of these mountains remain, and the hills seem to follow undulating curves, as if time itself had stopped to carve its name. An inland sea of rock in an ocean of air where only the wind swells against the hills.
Here are forms and colours that would have been a part of windswept rocky landscapes, long before plants or animals had evolved. This inanimate world will remain long after the passing of life on this planet.
The word 'rock' seems solid and lifeless compared to words such as 'air' or 'water'.
immobile / untouched / ancient /
Over a huge expanse of time the earliest elements from the Big bang (hydrogen and helium) drew together to form galaxies and stars.
In these stars hydrogen burns into helium and gives off light and heat.
How are other elements made?
Under increasing temperature from the pressure of gravity at the centre of a star, nuclear fusion produces elements such as carbon, oxygen and silicon.
Some of these elements are blown off the surface of stars by stellar winds or ripped away by gravitational forces. Stars like our sun also shed their atmospheres at the end of their life.
When larger stars run out of their hydrogen and helium fuel, the balance between outward-pushing pressure and gravity is lost: the star collapses to an iron core and throws off a shell of material in a supernova explosion. High-energy particles launch outwards and smash through the expanding shell, creating copper, silver, gold, mercury, lead and other exotic elements.
Then elements mingle as they form dust clouds adrift in space, and cosmic rays break up some elements to form new ones not found in stars. Others may recombine in different ways to form crystals, hydrocarbons and organic molecules.
"A carbon atom, forged from helium in an early supernova, might have wandered for hundreds of millions of years between the stars. It might then have found itself in an interstellar cloud, which collapsed under its own gravity to form stars. The atom might have entered the core of some new bright star, and been processed farther up the periodic table (into silicon or iron), and then been flung back in another supernova.
Or it might have joined a less massive star,
surrounded by a spinning gaseous disk that condensed into a retinue of
planets. One such star could have been our Sun. This carbon
atom might have found itself in the newly forming Earth, to play its part
in the geological processes that molded and weathered the Earth's surface;
and in the chemistry whereby species emerged and evolved
© Martin Rees, Before the Beginning,
Heavier elements tended to collect, like sediments, in the inner orbits of the future 'rocky planets': Mercury, Venus Earth and Mars. Ices, gases and organic molecules collected further out where Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would later form.
At some moment under the stars when our solar system was just beginning, hydrogen fusion started in the red-glowing sun and released the first rays of sunlight. A stellar wind blew away the cocoon of dust in which planets had formed.
Stars like our sun and dust like the dust from which we are made, the Pleiades cluster floats against the background of the Milky Way. For thousands of years hunters, farmers, villagers and priests have recognized this constellation.
"Just as our life is embedded in the ecological cycles of the biosphere, our whole planet exists as part of a much older cycle of material and energy that forms the galaxy."
© Lee Smolin, The Life of the Cosmos,
What if stars did not make any new elements and there was only hydrogen and helium?
Or what if all elements were fixed like a crystal lattice - or kept recombining and breaking apart?
Then living things probably could not have evolved. So we can only find ourselves in a world something like this one.
The properties of our Universe seem to be very finely tuned to allow stars and planets (and the chemistry and time scales) needed for living things to evolve. This may have come about because:
(A) in the very beginning some principle made it inevitable that particle masses, forces, expansion speed etc., had the necessary values;All the stars and galaxies we see may be only a small part of a universe which includes 'dark matter'.
" Great galaxies could be just a puddle of sediment in a cloud of invisible matter ten times more massive and extensive."
© Martin Rees, New Perspectives
in Astrophysical Cosmology , p39
Yet all this is still about 75% hydrogen and 23% helium. All other elements are present in extremely small amounts . .
like foam on an ocean wave,
Earth would provide a stable environment long enough for this mix of elements to evolve into living things.
About 3.8 billion years ago bacteria first emerged and through photosynthesis gradually converted the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to oxygen.
This opened the way for larger-than-microscopic organisms such as jellyfish, but not until 800 million years ago. About 400 million years later living things spread from the oceans onto the land.
there were only single-celled bacteria
in the sea.
© Hubert Reeves, astrophysicist, Université de Montréal & CNRS, Paris
Water, pebbles and sand would etch away the surface,
forever following the pull of gravity. .