Lava rocks at Hamilton College

Geologists at Hamilton College are helping perform lava analysis.

Posted: May 14, 2018 5:53 PM

In lieu of recent events in Hawaii, it can be surprising to hear that some of the newly formed rock has made its way to Central New York. The rocks were collected from lava that erupted from fissure six on the night of May 5th.

Here at Hamilton College, geologists are taking these rocks and are grinding them down to a powder. The sample itself is less than a week old. Making it a baby rock, one of the youngest rocks at the present moment on earth.

David Bailey a geoscientist at Hamilton College says, “We’re simply providing a service. That we are doing a full chemical analysis of these lavas and then we are sending that back to the geologists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory for them to monitor and track the changing chemistry in the lavas during the eruption. So they can use that and are looking for changes over time and with space within the eruption and that helps them understand what's going on beneath the surface of the volcano."

Upon receiving their sample the geologists put their sample into a grinder. This results in a smooth powder. That powder is then put into molds and is heated to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The end result is a glass that is then put into an x ray spectrometer.

"We can look at the energy coming off each different element that way. That's how we can tell elements apart plus we can tell how intense the signal is for each one so we can get an idea of how much of that element is in the sample," says Richard Conrey, the XRF technician.

Once those results are in. They send all that information back to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to help them figure out what they are dealing with.

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