Fluorescent minerals on display at planetarium

By: For the Record

A new fluorescent mineral dark room was recently added inside the Lab Activities Room of the local Rotary Planetarium & Science Center.

The exhibit was contributed by T. D. Burns, formerly from Wadesboro, and his late wife Jean, and contains their almost lifelong collection of around 150 rare fluorescent minerals from around the world.

When the mineral specimens become exposed to powerful short and long-wave ultraviolet lamps, their atoms become energized and emit brilliant visible light in almost every range of the color spectrum.

In the 1970s, Burns created, patented and began marketing a model atom teaching device and one of these is featured in the exhibit along with the fluorescent minerals. This model atom was also designed to be illustrated in a dark room and illuminated with ultraviolet light. The fluorescent particles of the model can be attached or removed from the orbiting electron wires or nucleus plate to represent the particle structure of any of the first 12 elements of the periodic table and in a typical elliptical pattern of motion. It can also be used to visually demonstrate what occurs within the atoms of the minerals that results with their emission of visible light in many colors.

For this exhibit Burns also hand-constructed a scale model of an area on the moon known as Mare Imbrium. It features many craters, individual mountains and mountain ranges. It is housed in a special-designed cabinet and also illuminated with black light. The moon is surrounded by a dark sky filled with the glowing fluorescent winter constellations of stars.

In the 1970s, Burns photographed 36 of the major crystallized mineral specimens from their collection with which he designed and produced a large minerals poster. Sometime later, he produced a “Rocks & Minerals Coloring Book” featuring the same mineral specimens photographed for the poster. He made 36 individual watercolor paintings of those minerals that were reproduced by the publisher and printed on the covers of the book for coloring reference. Both the poster and the coloring book were published by Dover Publishing Company of New York and sold nationwide for years. The coloring book is still available over the Internet and in museum stores.

This collection of mineral specimens was also contributed to the Science Center in a large glass display cabinet positioned behind the dark room, along with one of the mineral posters and a framed copy of the coloring book. All of the 36-framed watercolor paintings are also displayed on the outer-sides of the darkroom with a large sign designating the name of the exhibit as “Art From Nature.”

The mineral collection room will be open to the public during the Christmas holiday shows as well as the animal room. There will be two shows offered this year. “Season of Light” is a depiction of the various holiday seasons around the world and a celebration of Christmas music. “The Star of Bethlehem” is a religious story representing the astronomical and biblical aspect of the star in the east. Both are videos projected on the 24-foot planetarium dome. Planetarium Director Wendy Efird will also present the winter sky constellations and visible planets during this time.

Since seating is limited, reservations are necessary by calling 704-694-4417 ext. 01005 and leaving your name, date of show and number of seats to reserve. There is no charge but donations are welcome to help fund science activities at the planetarium for students.

For the Record


Star of Bethlehem

Sunday, Dec. 3 at 4 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 18 at 1 p.m.

Season of Light

Monday, Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 18 at 10 a.m.