Exploring Splendor in Stone

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What do rocks tell us?

Every rock has a story to tell. Geologists study the microscopic world of rocks in order to better understand the earth's history. This type of rock exploration follows a logical sequence.

Identification The first step is to identify the minerals that compose the rock. Minerals can be difficult to identify with the naked eye, but they have characteristic optical properties that are easily distinguished under the microscope. Some of these properties are color, cleavage and twinning.

Process The next step is to describe the architecture of the rock. The arrangement of grains, the abundance of different minerals, the structures within those minerals all aid in determining which processes were important in the formation of a particular rock. Sedimentation, crystallization, deformation, and metamorphism are processes that leave their signatures in rocks. Certain signatures can be read only with the microscope.

Interpretation Finally, geologists use the clues they gather to solve the puzzle and make an interpretation of the rock's history. The facts may support more than one interpretation, but geologists narrow the possibilities with each advance in their understanding of rock processes.

Make your own interpretation of a rocks history.


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