The Signs as Breathtaking, Natural Phenomena

Aries: A Blue Volcano (in Ethiopia). The glow comes from the combustion of sulfuric gases that are pushed through the cracks of the volcano at high temperatures.

Taurus: Wave Rock (located in Australia). That’s right, this is a 46 inch wave cemented entirely in rock! This geological phenomenon is known as flared slope and it usually occurs when erosion is concentrated in lower areas of the rock. Surf’s up! This rock is strong, deep, and carefully made- reminiscent of a Taurus.

Gemini: Nacreous Clouds. These are clouds that give a very futuristic, holographic look to the sky. These incredible clouds are extremely rare, because normally, the stratosphere is quite dry and clouds cannot form. But in extreme polar winters, there’s just enough moisture for these strange clouds to take form about 12 miles above Earth. Intriguing, Gorgeous, and new- just like all of you Gems!

Cancer: Glowing Ocean (Vaadhoo Island). These patches of ocean literally reflect the starry night sky. It’s gorgeous. According to marine biologists, the glowing is caused by a massive red tide of bioluminescent phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedrum.The microorganisms emit light in response to stress, such as when a wave crashes into the shore. The result is a wickedly cool glowing ocean. Romantic and dreamy, like the Cancer zodiac’s nature.

Leo: “Fire Rainbow”, or circumhorizontal arc. This appears when the sun is high in the sky (higher than 58° above the horizon), and its light passes through diaphanous, high-altitude cirrus clouds made up of hexagonal plate crystals. Sunlight entering the crystals’ vertical side faces and leaving through their bottom faces is refracted (as through a prism) and separated into an array of visible colors. Beautiful and bold, just like you Leo!

Virgo: Lake Hillier (located in Australia). This lake is flamingo pink for no definite reason. It’s just… a pink lake. The cause of this phenomenon’s color is assumed to be the reaction between its natural salts, sodium bicarbonate and red halophilic bacteria. It’s kind of cute, actually. It looks so simple in it’s entirety, it makes me wish more lakes were pink for no reason. It’s cuteness, humbleness, and simplicity definitely reminded me of all the Virgos.

Libra: Desert roses. These beauties are made in the desert from formations of the minerals gypsum  and barite with sand inclusions. The ‘petals’ are crystals flattened,  fanning open along characteristic gypsum cleavage planes. This phenomenon has a stunning beauty, it could almost be a real rose! All you Libras are adorable little flowers too, don’t worry.

Scorpio: The Black Sun (Denmark) During spring in Denmark, flocks of more than a million European starlings gather into a single group to form incredibly large and intricate shapes in the sky. The amazing scenes are only possible because of the flock’s amazing communication and coordination. They’re complex, focused, dark, and beautiful- much like the Scorpio persona.

Sagittarius: Auroras. An aurora is a natural light display in the sky predominantly seen in the high latitude regions. Aurorae are caused by cosmic wind, solar rays, and magnetospheric plasma interacting with the upper atmosphere. Lots of light, lots of beauty, and lots of pow- kind of like when Sagittarius walks into the room. ;)

Capricorn: Frozen methane bubbles. Methane bubbles form in water when dead organic matter falls to the bottom, much to the delight of bacteria. When methane gets trapped in frozen water, viola! Just don’t light a match to these- since it’s methane gas, that could get very bad very quickly. That’s kind of why I associated these with Capricorn folk- they’re elegant looking and cool, but also cold (ha- literally and in character). They’re also prone to combust. Jk about that last part. Humans don’t combust. What I meant by that was that Capricorn can be very dangerous, despite their calm and collected ways.

Aquarius: Danxia Landform (located in China). It is a unique type of petrographic geomorphology found in China. Danxia landform is formed from red-coloured sandstonesand conglomerates of largely Cretaceous age. The landforms look very much like karst topography that forms in areas underlain by limestones, but since the rocks that form danxia are sandstones and conglomerates, they have been called “pseudo-karst” landforms. Lots of vibrant, beautiful colors here! No pale pastel today! This phenomenon reminds me of Aquarius’ unique, artistic nature. This landform breathes the life into me. Simply breathtaking.

Pisces: A Brinicle. When the surface of the sea freezes—such as around the north and south poles—it does so in a way that forces pockets of especially cold and salty seawater to gather on the underside of the ice. This mixture of brine is denser than the seawater below it, and as a result it tends to slowly sink to the bottom. Now, because it’s so cold, the fresher water below the brine actually freezes around it as it falls, which results in a giant icicle under the surface. That’s what a Brinicle is. It’s like a pretty, still underwater tornado. :) This reminds me of Pisces because it has that slow motion, under the sea vibe. It’s relaxing, perplexing, but also has this really languid dreamy feeling to it. It’s fit for all of you adorable fish!


Hillier Lake, Western Australia on Middle Island is the only vividly pink lake you will find in the world. The coolest thing about this pink lake is that the color is permanent. You can remove the water and place it in another container, and the color will still be pink. From bird’s eye view it appears to be more of a bubble-gum pink, but its a lighter pink  from shore. The color remains unexplained, but it is known that it’s not from the algae, much like the kind that is found on the islands down under. The color could be from nacholite deposits as well as red halophilic bacteria in the salt crusts. No verdict on that yet, so we can still say it’s unexplained.

more really useful prefixes + suffixes, esp. for bio + med students

haemo- Gr., blood

e.g. haemophiliac (a person whose body has trouble forming blood clots), haemorrhage (bleeding)

halo- Gr., salt

e.g. halotolerance (adaptation of living organisms to conditions of high salinity) , halophile (a type of extremophile organisms that thrive in high salt concentrations

hepa- Gr., liver

e.g. hepatitis (inflamation of the liver), hepatic (circulation to liver)

histo- Gr., tissue

e.g. histology (study of tissue structure), histogenesis (formation of tissue)

hyalo- Gr., glassy, clear

e.g. hyalomere (clear periphery of a blood platelet), hyaloplasm (clear fluid of cytoplasm)

hypo- Gr., under

e.g. hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyposensitivity (undersensitivity) 

-itis L., inflammation

e.g. peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum), arthritis (inflammation of joints)

leio- L., smooth

e.g. leioderma (nonspecific term for smooth, shiny skin), leiomyofibroma (a benign tumor from smooth muscle)


Lake Hillier is a lake on Middle Island, the largest of the islands and islets that make up the Recherche ArchipelagoWestern Australia. The most notable feature of the lake is its pink colour.

The length of the lake is about 600 metres (2,000 ft). The lake is surrounded by a rim of sand and a dense woodland of paperbark and eucalyptus trees with a narrow strip of sand dunes covered by vegetation separating it to the north from the Southern Ocean.

The most notable feature of the lake is its pink colour. It is such a significant distinguishing feature of the archipelago that air passengers often take note of it. The colour is permanent, and does not alter when the water is taken in a container.

Although the source of the pink colour has not been definitively proven in the case of Lake Hillier, the pink colour of other salt lakes (e.g., Pink Lake) in the region arises from a dye created by the organisms Dunaliella salina and Halobacteria. Another hypothesis is that the pink colour is due to red halophilic bacteria in the salt crusts. Despite the unusual hue, the lake exhibits no known adverse effects upon humans. From above, the lake appears a solid bubble gum pink, but from the shoreline it appears more of a clear pink hue. The shoreline is also covered in salt crust deposits.

Why is this crystal pink? It’s got microbes inside. This salt crystal is from Searles Lake, California, where salt levels are so high that few animals can live there. But halophilic (“salt-loving”) microbes called archaea breed in such abundance they can turn the saltwater—and the dried salt crystals—pink!

Some microbes can remain alive inside salt crystals for months or even years, in tiny drops of liquid called fluid inclusions. In one extreme case, scientists revived 34,000-year-old archaea found in a salt crystal. Fluid inclusions have been found in meteorites and Mars rocks—raising questions about whether similar microbes could survive underground on other planets.

Find more extraordinary stories in the exhibition, Life at the Limits, open now. 

Image: AMNH/R.Mickens


Les microbes extrêmophiles sont des micro-organismes parfaitement adaptés à des conditions extrêmes pour l’homme. Certains sont dits thermophiles (hautes températures), d’autres psychrophiles (basses températures), halophiles (forte concentration en sel), acidophiles (pH faible), etc. Ils vivent dans des milieux particuliers, comme les abysses, les geysers, les calottes glacières… Voici donc sulfolobus, pyrolobus fumarii et thermoplasma !

(prière de ne pas les nourrir, même s’ils ont l’air gentils)


Lake Owens, California: The Dustiest Place in the U.S

After being diverted in 1913 to provide water to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Lake Owens has become the largest source of dust pollution in the United States. Now a massive salt flat, the lake hosts a strangle new ecology: during “wet” years, for example, a briny chemical soup of bright pink halophilic (salt-loving) archaea spread across the lake bed. The lake provides half of all of L.A.’s water and is infamous as the scene of one of the fiercest and most prolonged episodes of the California Water Wars. Indeed, these events inspired parts of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. In the late 1990s, the city of L.A. agreed to a cleanup plan which has become one of the largest dust-control projects in the U.S. To date, it has spent more than a billion dollars on dust-control measures such as shallow flooding, managed vegetation, and gravel blanketing.