Oak Marble Gall


Oak Marble Gall - Genus: Quercus

Oak Marble Gall – Genus: Quercus

Oak marble galls develop as a chemically induced distortion of leaf buds on oaks belonging to the genus: Quercus. They are round and hard, and are created when a female Gall Wasp lays an egg (along with some chemicals) in a leaf bud. The chemicals alter the interior of the gall making it an ideal source of nourishment for the developing wasp. Sometimes a small hole can be seen on the gall where the newly emerged wasp exited.

Female Gall Wasp (Andricus kollari) - Source: Wikipedia

Female Gall Wasp (Andricus kollari) – Source: Wikipedia

Diatom Not Under Attack

Diatom Pinnularia with other organisms attached

Diatom Pinnularia with other organisms attached

From time to time I encounter micro-organisms that are under attack by other critters, usually for nourishment. This diatom has quite a group of other creatures attached to it. They appear to be a type of small protozoa similar to Volticella. As such, their purpose is not to get nourishment from the diatom but to merely use it as a place to attach while they feed on other tiny organisms in the surrounding water.

Paramecium Genus

Thanks to popular literature, when we hear “Paramecium” we picture a graceful slipper-shaped protozoan. But Paramecium is not a specific creature, it is a genus of creatures (perhaps two dozen or more). The classic Paramecium is Paramecium caudatum.

Paramecium caudatum - Credit: Microbus

Paramecium caudatum – Credit: Microbus

On the other hand, this is a Paramecium multimicronucleatum that I found in a local vernal pond. If P. caudatum is “graceful” P. multimicronucleatum is a “brute”. More robust than P. caudatum, it is an excellent swimmer and difficult to photograph.

Paramecium multimicronucleatum

Paramecium multimicronucleatum

Testate Amoebas

Testate amoebas are among the most numerous micro-organisms in clumps of moss. When trying to identify them, do not be misled by the colored (usually brown) internal features. Protozoans have organelles, which perform the same functions as organs in more complex organisms. Organelles, however, are not made of differentiated tissues and have no permanent shape. What you see within a testate amoeba is basically what the critter has eaten recently. Your identification will have to rely on the structure of the test (the container in which the amoeba resides.

Here are two amoebas that were very close together in a clump of moss. The initial impression is that they are quite different; but looking more closely at the tests it is apparent that they are of the same genera, and probably even the same species.


Dwarf Planets

Dwarf planets are asteroids that are large enough that their gravity pulls them into a sphere, but not so large that they can clear out their orbital path. There are currently five celestial bodies that are officially classified as dwarf planets:

Ceres – Pluto – Haumea – Eris – Makemake

Ceres resides in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter; all of the others are in the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt (often referred to simply as the Kuiper belt) beyond the planet Neptune.

Interestingly, there are about 50 known asteroids that might be upgraded to dwarf planets with more accurate measurements.

Free-swimming Vorticella


Vorticellas spend much of their time with their stalks anchored to whatever is available. After all, that is the only way that they can feed. If the food supply is not very good, or something has sufficiently startled them, they will break away and swim to another location.

The image below is of a free-swimming Vorticella. Obviously (note the difference in size), this is not the same individual as the one in the upper image.

Modified by CombineZP


Planet Jupiter - Elton Moonshine Observatory

Planet Jupiter – Elton Moonshine Observatory

Jupiter, with a diameter of 89,000 miles (compared to 8,000 miles for Earth), is by far the largest planet in our Solar System. Because of the eccentricity of their orbits, the distance between the Earth and Jupiter varies from 365 million miles to 600 million miles. A very small distance on an astronomical scale. Jupiter is sometimes referred to as the amateur’s planet because of the ease with which it can be observed with moderate sized telescopes.

The most prominent features of the planet’s atmosphere (it has no solid surface) are the dark belts and the lighter colored zones. They are well seen with a 6 inch reflector. The larger the telescope the more bands can be seen, as well as the detail between them. The above image was taken with a 9.25 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

Globular Clusters

Globular clusters are, as their name implies, round aggregations of stars. There are about 100 known and they all orbit about the central bulge of the Milky Way galaxy. (Other galaxies have them as well.) They vary considerably in size with the largest being comprised of hundreds of thousands of stars. Interestingly, all of the stars are approximately the same age.

M13 The Great Cluster of Hercules - Elton Moonshine Observatory

M13 The Great Cluster of Hercules – Elton Moonshine Observatory

Messier 13 in the constellation Hercules is probably the largest globular cluster visible from the northern hemisphere and contains about 300,00 stars crowded into a space only 150 light years in diameter. The stars near the center of the cluster are packed so closely together that even through a telescope they appear to be a solid ball of light.


Asteroids are the rubble left over from the formation of the Solar System. They range in size from bits of dust to bodies several hundred miles in diameter. Most of them orbit in the “Main Asteroid Belt” between Mars and Jupiter – and, to a lesser extent, the “Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt” beyond the orbit of Neptune.

2015-0327aBecause so many of the asteroids as quite small, their true numbers can never be known. After all, how does one detect a 2 ft. rock that is 200 million miles away? As for the more sizeable asteroids, there are approximately 440,000 known asteroids that are larger than 1 km; with the total number that size estimated to be between 1 & 2 million.

Contrary to popular belief, the main belt is not a dangerously crowded region where one would have to be dodging asteroids at every turn. Within the main belt the average distance between asteroids is at least 1 million km or 600,000 miles – about 2-1/2 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.