Butterflies, Dinosaurs and “Rare Earth” Minerals

By Robert Bernstein

You may know that Butterflies Alive has returned to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. But did you know there is also a Prehistoric Forest and a “Rare Earth” mineral exhibit?

Here are all of my photos from our recent visit!

This giant Blue Morpho butterfly is a bit tattered, but it is still the star attraction for its sheer size.

With wings folded, it looks very different.

You might confuse it for this Giant Owl butterfly. Can you spot the difference? Pun intended.

I think this Malachite butterfly was my favorite!

Here are the rest of my butterfly photos.

On to the Prehistoric Forest!
Merlie feigned terror at the T rex.

But she relaxed when I told her this one is an herbivore. Note the sign asking visitors not to feed the dinosaurs.

Here are the rest of my Prehistoric Forest photos.

But the most memorable exhibit for us this time was the “Rare Earth” minerals exhibit. Much of the exhibit is a traveling show by a company called The Arkenstone. But it was supplemented by other wonderful specimens.

Many of these pieces seem crafted by a superhuman crafts person. Yet these are all formed by the forces of chemistry and physics. Here are just a few of my many photos.

The Museum has a temporary store for the Rare Earth exhibit where you can purchase some of these amazing specimens. Including these fossilized Ammonites, which are mollusks that lived tens of millions of years ago.

Here are the rest of my “Rare Earth” mineral exhibit photos.

For more information, visit the website of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.


Written by sbrobert

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  1. It’s a fantastic display. There’s only one meteorite (that I saw), a Nantan. It has an interesting history that isn’t shown in the display:
    Name: Nantan
    Classification: Iron, Medium Octahedrite (IIICD)
    Composition:92% Iron, 7% Nickel
    Fall: 1516
    Find: 1958
    Location: Between Lihu and Yaozhai in Nandan County, Guangxi Province, China.
    (25° 06′ North, 107° 42′ East)
    This was actually a witnessed fall, chronicled in the Nandan County annals: “Zhengde (emperor in the Ming Dynasty, 1516 A.D.) 11th year, summertime in May, (Chinese lunar calendar; sometime in June for the Western calendar) stars fell down from a northwest direction, five or six-fold long (about 16-20 meters or 18-22 yards), waving like snakes and dragons, bright like lightning; then they disappeared in seconds.”
    In 1958, China needed large quantities of steel for construction. Small smelters were set up in rural areas and residential back yards. Everyone was told to look for iron ore, and even cooking pots were melted to produce steel. The populace in Nantan felt lucky, because they found many heavy rocks with a large iron content. When they tried to melt them in their backyard furnaces, they found the rocks would not melt at the temperatures used for normal iron ores. Local officials sent a report to the Chinese central government, which sent geologists who discovered that the rocks were iron meteorites. An estimated 9500 kilograms (about 10.5 tons) of the original meteorite survived.

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