Weekend Diversion: Looking down instead of up

“And all your future lies beneath your hat.” –John Oldham

Yes, with all the space, astronomy and astrophysics I do here, I can still recognize that there are things of great beauty and importance happening here on the lower 50% of our gaze. For this weekend, I’ve got a sweet song by Railroad Earth:

Neath The Stars.
(Railroad Earth is great live, by the way. Don’t miss your chance to see them if you get one!)

Well, beneath the ground, in many places across the world, lie a series of underground caves. The most spectacular one I’ve ever been to is Kartchner Caverns in Arizona, spectacular because of how pristine (i.e., not yet ruined by humans) it still is. But this past week, I learned about one that might be even better.

(All images, as far as I can tell, are credited to SPL / Barcroft Media, with many taken by Javier Trueba.)

With giant gypsum crystals — some up to 35 feet (!) long — Naica Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico is definitely a place I need to go someday.

The first step in making sure proper care gets taken of this system of caves is getting it designated as a World Heritage Site, otherwise it will likely end up ruined due by human influence.

Juan Manuel Garcia-Ruiz, a geologist who has studied at the mine, had this to say:

They’re really one of the Wonders of the World. The crystals need to be preserved much better. They really are something amazing and I think there is still people in Mexico who don’t know how important it is to preserve them as much as possible. I’m trying to convince the people of Mexico to claim Naica for Unesco World Heritage site. Naica is very unique and the chance of having another one on the planet is very low.

And it is, without a doubt, stunning. Enjoy this picture gallery courtesy of the UK’s Telegraph.

Wonder how these formed? There are hot springs very, very close by. Gypsum deposits saturated the hot water and, over thousands of years, crystals condensed and grew as the water flowing into the cave cooled.

Does it remind you of anything you’ve seen before? Because I can’t help but think of the crystal caverns from Superman II.

So enjoy whatever wonders you encounter this weekend, and I’ll see you back here for more on the Universe next week!