Virtual Microscope features at NHM Natures Treasures

Members of the OUs virtual microscope team were invited to exhibit at the event and took the opportunity to showcase their latest work – an Apollo moon rock virtual microscope. This was prepared in partnership with NASA and is now freely available via the VM website. The team have previously worked on terrestrial rocks and have produced two virtual microscopes for new Earth Science courses S276 Geology and S339 Understanding the Continents. Next on the agenda is a Voyage of the Beagle virtual microscope using samples collected by Charles Darwin – a project partnered with the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge.

KMi have been involved in the Virtual Microscope project for some years; in recent years we moved from Flash-based animation to web-based system using the Google Maps API and HTML5, and devised the routines for making mosaics and rotations. The team have also produced a virtual microscope for the iPhone, freely available from the Apple App. Store and are now working on virtual microscopes for other mobile devices such as the Apple iPad.

Nature’s Treasures is one-day meeting, co-organized by Gem-A the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, the Russell Society, the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain, and this year for the first time, Rockwatch, in association with the Natural History Museum, London. The event brings together amateur and professional mineralogists for a series of talks on diverse geological and mineralogical topics.

Between 1969 and 1972 six Apollo missions brought back 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust from the lunar surface. The six space flights returned 2200 separate samples from six different exploration sites on the Moon. The lunar sample building at Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas is the chief repository for the Apollo samples and is where pristine lunar samples are prepared for shipment to scientists and educators. Nearly 400 samples are distributed each year for research and teaching projects. The VM team are fortunate to have been allowed access to this fine collection.

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