Science and Earth Science Focus: Mineral formations (Stalagmites and Stalactites)
Have you ever been in a cave where there are either these pointy things hanging from the ceiling or standing our from the ground?
No? Well today I am going to show you some pictures and explain to you what they are.
Mineral Formations in caves.
Around the world and nature we are fortunate to have the wonderful natural formation of caves. But just like a lot of things, most of us are either to scared to step foot into a cave, or we just look quickly and then walk out. Look a little deeper and then you will see a whole different world evolving around you.
What are these formations?
We find a lot of different types of mineral formations in caves, but today I am going to focus on two types that are mainly found in limestone caves.:
Stalagmites point upward. These are formed from water that dripped on the floor of the cave. Most of the stalagmites have rounded or flat tips.
Stalactites are shaped like icicles. They hang from the ceiling of the cave. The stalactites are produced from the precipitation of the minerals from the water that drips through the ceiling of the cave. Most of the stalactites have pointy tips.
How are they formed?
Stalagmites and stalactites are usually found in pairs, with the stalactites hanging from the top and the stalagmite growing from the bottom up towards the stalactite. This occurs when water flows through the ground into the cave. A mineral, calcite, is carried through the cracks in the ceiling. This dripping of the water then leaves behind traces of calcite. It slowly builds up on the ceiling until a stalactite starts to form, they hang down like an icicle.
For the stalagmite to form water from the end of the stalactite leaves more calcite in a pile on the cave floor, soon a cone-like stalagmite begins to form. Some of them can grow together in such a way that a pillar or column begins to form.
Some interesting formations:
Science Experiment: Grow your own stalactite
You will need the following:
- Epsom salts
- 2 identical glasses
- string or paper towel
- 2 paperclips or weights
- Bowl or pot
- Fill up the glass right to the top with water and dump it in the bowl or pot.
- Start adding the Epsom salts and stir until it is dissolved.
- Keep adding the Epsom salts and stir until the Epsom salt doesn't want to dissolve anymore.
- Divide the solution into the two glasses.
- Place the two glasses in a spot where they won't be disturbed for a few days.
- Cut a string long enough to cover the distance between the glasses and hang the string to the bottom of both glasses.
- Put the paperclip on each end of the string. This will allow the string to hang at a slight dip between the two glasses.
- Watch for the few days how your mineral formations start to form.
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