среда, 8 августа 2018 г.

Chemistry research ‘rocks’ new data about ancient life

Early Earth was a hot, gaseous, dusty and dynamic planet with an atmosphere and an ocean. Then its surface cooled and stabilized enough for clouds, landmasses and early life to form about four billion years ago, during what’s called the isotopic age of rocks, or the Archean Period. Atmospheric chemical byproducts from that time traveled through the air and deposited inside the planet’s oldest rock, recording life’s earliest activities like photosynthesis and oxygen production.

Chemistry research ‘rocks’ new data about ancient life
Artistic depiction of early Earth blasted by solar system debris
[Credit: NASA/Goddard Image Lab]

Sulfur isotopes can serve as tracers of atmospheric oxygen, and new data collected from the present-day atmosphere in China by an international team of researchers, led by the University of California San Diego, indicate remarkable similarity to the isotopic footprint found in ancient rocks. This opens up new interpretations of the Archean Period’s sulfur isotope sedimentary signature—a proxy for the origins and evolution of atmospheric oxygen and early life on Earth.

The study led by Mark Thiemens, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Mang Lin, a recent Ph.D. graduate from UC San Diego and Yanan Shen, a professor at the University of Science and Technology of China, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their research involved taking current sulfate aerosol measurements of five sulfur isotopes from samples of atmospheric aerosols collected at Mount Wuyi, a remote site in China, and Guangzhou, a megacity. The isotope measurements, performed at UC San Diego and the University of Science and Technology of China resolved the chemical mechanisms and transport of atmospheric aerosols at a new scientific level.

“By using the stable and radioactive isotopes, we were able to zero in on new sources of the isotope effect today and better define the early atmosphere and evolution of life,” Thiemens said.

Thiemens explained that in the Archean atmosphere the oxygen and ozone levels were low enough that ultraviolet (UV) light penetrated the Earth’s surface and dissociated sulfur dioxide, forensically producing a specific isotopic pattern. The study reveals that stable sulfur isotope compositions are anomalous and mimic measurements of ancient sulfur isotopes.

Chemistry research ‘rocks’ new data about ancient life
Figures depict similarity of signatures in modern atmospheric sulfates and geological records.
Top figure: Sulfates from modern aerosols (including the data in this study), ice cores and snow pits,
Archean sediments (barites), and volcanic ash; Bottom figure: Pyrites (FeS2) and sulfides (S2-)
from different eras in Archean. The red dotted line represents the Archean Reference Array
(with slopes of -0.9 and -1.5) [Credit: Mang Lin]

Additionally, Thiemens explained that the photo destruction of sulfur dioxide by UV light in the early Earth’s atmosphere provides a measure of oxygen levels. He said that the levels of oxygen and ozone levels of early Earth were sufficiently low so that UV light reached the Earth’s surface, dissociating the sulfur dioxide and producing the anomalies.

Measurement of sulfur anomalies in the oldest rocks as a measure of oxygen levels was discovered at the Thiemens Research Group laboratory at UC San Diego with James Farquhar and Huiming Bao. The method is widely used to track oxygen levels before around 2.2 billion years ago, when oxygen and ozone levels rose to such levels that UV light was filtered out and the anomaly disappeared from the rock record.

“A surprise from Mang Lin’s measurements was that with combined stratospheric tracer Sulfur-35 (a radioactive sulfur isotope), and another stable isotope of stable sulfur, there is no correlation,” said Thiemens. “It was demonstrated by correlation with known combustion products that the processes of biomass burning and combustion produce this specific isotope anomaly, which had not been known before, providing new interpretation of early Earth chemistry and suggesting there are other processes that occur in the early Earth, such as volcanoes, that could produce the anomalies along with UV light photolysis.”

According to Thiemens, this study provides “yet another quiver in the arrow” of parsing out processes that occur in the early Earth and defining both life’s origin and change.

Source: University of California – San Diego [August 07, 2018]




World’s oldest fishing net sinkers found in S. Korea

Archaeologists excavating a cave in South Korea have found evidence that suggests human beings were using sophisticated techniques to catch fish as far back as 29,000 years ago, much earlier than experts previously thought.

World's oldest fishing net sinkers found in S. Korea
The limestone sinkers, each weighing between 14 to 52 grammes, would have been tied to the bottom
of nets and used to catch small fish such as minnows in shallow streams [Credit: AFP]

Carbon dating procedures on the fourteen limestone sinkers, unearthed in the eastern county of Jeongseon in June, have pushed back “the history of fishing by nets by some 19,000 years”, Yonsei University Museum director Han Chang-gyun told AFP.

Previously, researchers had excavated sinkers — stones used to weigh down nets for catching fish — in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture and South Korea’s Cheongju city, but those discoveries were all dated back to the Neolithic Era and believed to be around 10,000 years old, Han said.

“This discovery suggests humans in the Upper Paleolithic era were actively catching fish for their diet”, he added.

The limestone sinkers, each weighing between 14 to 52 grammes and with a diameter of 37 to 56 millimetres, had grooves carved into them so they could be tied to the bottom of nets and used to catch small fish such as minnows in shallow streams, he said.

Researchers also found fossilized bones belonging to fish and other animals, as well as stone tools and flakes, inside the Maedun cave, he said.

Prior to the South Korean find, the oldest fishing implements were believed to be fishing hooks, made from the shells of sea snails, that were found on a southern Japanese island and said to date back some 23,000 years.

Source: AFP [August 07, 2018]




Rediscovering the sources of Egyptian metals

Two new studies, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, offer the first comprehensive analytical datasets of Protodynastic to Old Kingdom Egyptian copper-based artifacts (c. 3rd millennium BC), analyzing the provenance of Egyptian copper. As elaborated in a methodological comment, the studies constitute an important step forward in current knowledge on copper provenance and the subsequent economic, social and cultural insights into ancient Egypt.

Rediscovering the sources of Egyptian metals
Scientists traced the origins of ancient Egyptian copper artifacts through chemical and lead isotope analysis
[Credit: Frederik W.Rademakers, et al./Journal of Archaeological Science]

Advancements in scientific analyses have allowed archaeologists to reconstruct the prehistoric trade of metals around the Mediterranean in remarkable detail. However, there was a notable gap in Egypt, one of the most important ancient civilizations, due to the difficulties in accessing Egyptian metal artifacts for analysis. Two teams of researchers have overcome this challenge by using collections of Egyptian objects held in Europe, providing the first glimpse of how Egyptians sourced their metals, encouraging further research in the field.

The first study by Frederik W. Rademakers, Georges Verly, Luc Delvaux and Patrick Degryse, based on artifacts from the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH) in Brussels, suggests predominant reliance on relatively local ore, from the Eastern Desert and Sinai Peninsula. The study carried out lead isotope and chemical analyses on a total of 40 metal samples and seven ore samples dating from the Predynastic, Protodynastic and Old Kingdom Periods. The results suggest signi?cant developments in smelting technology that may have been adapted to di?erent ore types.

“These findings are based on a very particular segment of the ancient Egyptian metal economy (namely funerary consumption) and thus only reveal the tip of the iceberg,” said Frederik W. Rademakers, PhD, Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven in Belgium. “The underlying organization of early supply networks, clearly reliant on a variety of mining and production zones, and the development of copper production technology are only slowly revealed through ongoing research.”

Archaeometallurgist Georges Verly, Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, added, “We integrated field excavation with technology and provenance studies of these museum artifacts. We aim to understand how these objects were made and used within their particular ancient contexts, with arsenical copper alloys being a specific point of interest for these earliest periods.”

The second study from four Czech institutions, led by PhD candidates Jiří Kmošek (University of Pardubice) and Martin Odler (Charles University, Prague), investigates Egyptian copper-based artifacts from the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig University in Germany, found at the sites of Abusir, Abydos and Giza. The 22 artifacts show similar production technology, but diverse origins of the metal, including an Early Dynastic Egyptian object from Abusir, high nickel metal in which is consistent with ores and artifacts from Early Bronze Age Anatolia, in present-day Turkey.

“Lead isotopes showed us where the ore was most probably coming from,” said archaeometallurgist Jiří Kmošek. “The results were quite unexpected,” added Egyptologist Martin Odler. The study confirms that special metals had circulated around the Ancient Near East earlier than previously thought.

Finally, in a methodological comment responding to the two studies, Prof. Erez Ben-Yosef, PhD, based at the J. M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University, Israel, indicates that despite the similar context of the artifacts, all from funerary sites, these new studies exemplify the great potential of analytical data to shed new light on various topics related to ancient Egyptian society, and encourage future research. The commentary highlights the importance of maintaining curated, shared, and constantly updated databases to the progress of provenance research.

“These studies constitute important steps forward in our understanding of early Egyptian metallurgy and raw materials procurement strategies. These and future studies can benefit from a modular presentation of interpretational insights that takes into account differences in the insights’ robustness and susceptibility to change as more data become available,” Prof. Ben-Yosef concluded.

Source: Elsevier [August 07, 2018]




New discoveries at Despotiko island’s Apollo sanctuary

Important finds were made during this year’s excavations in the sanctuary of Apollo at the site of Mandra on the uninhabited island of Despotiko, west of Antiparos.

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary
Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

A new two room building was found in which many metal objects and painted pottery of the 6th c. BC as well as many more movable artefacts were located, such as fragments of the head of an archaic kouros, the ankle of a kouros’ leg and two storage jars (pithoi) with relief decoration, one depicting a warrior and the other a dance performance. These are just some of the artefacts.

The excavations were conducted from May 28 to July 6, 2018 and were headed this year also by archaeologist Yannis Kouragios of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades.

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary
Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

“This year’s excavation focused on the areas round the shrine and buildings Z and P. Its results were particularly enlightening regarding the topography and organization of the archaic sanctuary”, stated the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports which, among other things announced the following:

“Research continued in the so-called Eastern Complex, in the area south of the archaic shrine, where the sanctuary’s auxiliary buildings are located. By 2017, twelve spaces of a total area of 180 sq. m had come to light. This year, another large space measuring 12x3m was partially unearthed with a floor made of large pieces of slate.It is probably a courtyard. The excavation yielded plenty of pottery from archaic and classical times from various types of vessels (basins/lekanes, phialai, skyphoi, oil lamps and amphorae)”.

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary
Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

There were significant results from exploring the different construction phases of the complex. Under its more western rooms an earlier rectangular, two room building came to light, its visible dimensions being 8×3.20 m which based on the finds dates back to the first half of the 6th c. BC. Found in its interior—in their original places—were a four-sided grill and a cooking vessel. In addition, earlier floors were uncovered in many places and the thresholds of the original entrances were located which had been sealed up. It became clear that buildings had functioned in this part of the sanctuary as well, before the archaic temple was erected in the mid-6th c. BC.

There was also an unexpected development of the research in the area north of the Northern Stoa and of Building E, since at a distance of just 2m from them a new building was unearthed; Building T (measuring 7.80×7.45m). It consists of two rooms with separate entrances and two open air spaces in front (north) of each room. During the building’s excavation many metal objects came to light as well as painted pottery dating from the first half /mid-6th c. BC.

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary
Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

The excavation’s movable finds were also varied. “Mentioned indicatively are more than 15 black-glazed oil lamps and 15 fragments of vessels with incised inscriptions (ΑΠ, ΑΠΟΛ), fragments of “Melian” amphorae and black-glazed kylikes, fragments of red-figure kraters, vessels for everyday use such as filters/sieves, basins, salt bowls, jugs, bottles etc. and many metal objects (a bronze spear, nails, bolts, fish hooks et al)”, mentions the announcement, while referring to the restoration works that lasted 4 weeks, it is noted that “they were entirely successful, since after putting the temple’s third column in place and the architrave on top of that, the monument has once more acquired its third dimension and the visitor can understand its scale and grandeur even from the opposite shore of Antiparos”.

“At the same time as the restoration works, conservation work was being carried out on the masonry in buildings M and N” ends the announcement by the Ministry of Culture.

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary

New discoveries at Despotiko island's Apollo sanctuary
Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

Apart from the members of the scientific team many students and archaeologists participated in the research, from Greek Universities and abroad.

The excavations at the site of Mandra on Despotiko that began about 20 years ago have brought to light an extensive complex dedicated to the worship of Apollo, its heyday being in the Late Archaic period, with evidence of activities related to worship at the same site since the Geometric period.

Source: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports / Transl. Archaeology Arts and Archaeology [August 08, 2018]




Burial mound in Kazakhstan yields remains of ‘golden man’ dating back to 8th century...

Archaeologists working in the remote Tarbagatai Mountains in East Kazakhstan have discovered a ‘golden man’ mummy dating back to the 8th-7th centuries B.C. in the Yeleke Sazy burial mound.

Burial mound in Kazakhstan yields remains of ‘golden man’ dating back to 8th century BC
Credit: akimat of the East Kazakhstan region

“Anthropologists say the mound is a burial place of a young man aged from 17 to 18 who was some 165-170 centimeters tall. All the burial items are well-preserved making it possible to visualize his garments and appearance. When buried, the young man was dressed in gold, with all of his clothes being embroidered with gold beads. The man was buried with a massive gold torc around his neck (suggesting his noble origin) and a dagger in a golden quiver beside him,” Kazakhstan’s ministry of information and communications said in a press release on Tuesday.

Burial mound in Kazakhstan yields remains of ‘golden man’ dating back to 8th century BC
Credit: akimat of the East Kazakhstan region

According to archaeologist Zeinolla Samashev, who led the research team, much is to be done to study the burial. “We will do facial reconstruction from the skull of this young man, extract DNA from the bones to find out the environment people lived in back then, to learn about their everyday life and habits,” he said.

Burial mound in Kazakhstan yields remains of ‘golden man’ dating back to 8th century BC
Credit: Kazinform

Meanwhile, Yegor Kitov, an invited anthropologist from Moscow’s Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, surmised that the body had been mummified. “The finds and the size of the mound suggest that the young man buried inside had a high social status. The body was mummified to allow time for those coming from far away to say farewell to the man,” he said.

Burial mound in Kazakhstan yields remains of ‘golden man’ dating back to 8th century BC
Credit: Kazinform

The local authorities plan to display the unique artefacts unearthed over the past three year in East Kazakhstan at a new museum. “The finds indicate the high level of technological development in gold jewelry production in the 8th century B.C., which, in turn, suggests the high level of civilization at that time,” said Danial Akhmentov, head of the East Kazakhstan regional administration.

Source: TASS [August 08, 2018]




Farmer discovers Late Minoan III larnax burials in southern Crete

A farmer in Kentri Ierapetra on the Greek island of Crete attempted to park his vehicle in the shade of an olive tree and by pure chance, the over-irrigated dirt under his vehicle revealed a carved tombstone of the Late Minoan III period.

Farmer discovers Late Minoan III larnax burials in southern Crete
Credit: Nikos Petassis/Facebook

“It is a great day for Ierapetra,” said the deputy mayor of Local Communities, Agrarian and Tourism of Ierapetra, Argyris Pantazis.

In the grave, that had not been ransacked, archaeologists discovered two large Larnakes Late Minoan period embossed depictions that are in excellent condition.

Farmer discovers Late Minoan III larnax burials in southern Crete
Credit: Nikos Petassis/Facebook

In addition, there were two skeletons found in the graves and about 24 vases with coloured embossings and depictions.

“Soil retreat was a result of the watering of the olive trees in the area as well as a broken irrigation tube. The ground had partially receded, and when the farmer tried to park in the shade of the olive tree, he then completely retreated the soil below. Archaeologists were immediately called up and…it was discovered that this is a serious archaeological find,” Pantazis said.

Farmer discovers Late Minoan III larnax burials in southern Crete
Credit: Nikos Petassis/Facebook

A team made up of 15 students from various archaeology schools along with the head of the Lassithi Ephorate of Commerce, Chrysa Sofianou, and the Professor of Archaeology at the University of Athens, Mr. Yannis Papadatos, have launched an excavation at the site.

This tomb is a rare find, as Sofianou explained to neakriti.gr. Archaeologists hope to find new evidence of the Late Minoan period in the area.

Farmer discovers Late Minoan III larnax burials in southern Crete
Credit: cretapost.gr

“[It] is a unique vaulted tomb, four metres long, which does not belong to the burial of a lord of that period, but of the Late Minoan III period (1500-1400 BC) to a common mortal.”

Author: Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi | Source: Greek Reporter [August 08, 2018]




HiPOD (8 August 2018): An Impact Crater on the Floor of Kasei…

HiPOD (8 August 2018): An Impact Crater on the Floor of Kasei Valles

    – This impact crater is on platy-ridged material on the floor of Kasei Valles. We might be able to distinguish between lava and mud in the area. (310 km above the surface. Black and white is less than 5 km across; enhanced color is less than 1 km).

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


Those fragrances you enjoy? Dinosaurs liked them first…

Those fragrances you enjoy? Dinosaurs liked them first http://www.geologypage.com/2018/08/those-fragrances-you-enjoy-dinosaurs-liked-them-first.html


Chemical footprint in present-day atmosphere mimics that…

Chemical footprint in present-day atmosphere mimics that observed in ancient rock http://www.geologypage.com/2018/08/chemical-footprint-in-present-day-atmosphere-mimics-that-observed-in-ancient-rock.html


Iron-silica particles unlock part of the mystery of Earth’s…

Iron-silica particles unlock part of the mystery of Earth’s oxygenation http://www.geologypage.com/2018/08/iron-silica-particles-unlock-part-of-the-mystery-of-earths-oxygenation.html


Size matters: If you are a bubble of volcanic gas…

Size matters: If you are a bubble of volcanic gas http://www.geologypage.com/2018/08/size-matters-if-you-are-a-bubble-of-volcanic-gas.html


Elliptical Elegance

Annotated view of the sky surrounding NGC 5018

PR Image eso1827c

Wide-field view of the surroundings of NGC 5018

NGC 5018 in the constellation of Virgo 

PR Image eso1827e

Digitized Sky Survey image around the galaxy NGC 5018 in the constellation of Virgo


ESOcast 174 Light: Elliptical Elegance (4K UHD)

ESOcast 174 Light: Elliptical Elegance (4K UHD)

Zooming into NGC 5018

Zooming into NGC 5018

Panning across NGC 5018 and its surroundings

Panning across NGC 5018 and its surroundings

A glittering host of galaxies populate this rich image taken with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope, a state-of-the-art 2.6-m telescope designed for surveying the sky in visible light. The features of the multitude of galaxies strewn across the image allow astronomers to uncover the most delicate details of galactic structure.

Whereas ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) can observe very faint astronomical objects in great detail, when astronomers want to understand how the huge variety of galaxies come into being they must turn to a different sort of telescope with a much bigger field of view. The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) is such a telescope. It was designed to explore vast swathes of the pristine Chilean night skies, offering astronomers detailed astronomical surveys of the southern hemisphere.

The powerful surveying properties of the VST led an international team of astronomers to conduct the VST Early-type GAlaxy Survey (VEGAS) [1] to examine a collection of elliptical galaxies in the southern hemisphere [2]. Using the sensitive OmegaCAM detector at the heart of the VST [3], a team led by Marilena Spavone from INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte in Naples, Italy, captured images of a wide variety of such galaxies in different environments.

One of these galaxies is NGC 5018, the milky-white galaxy near the centre of this image. It lies in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) and may at first resemble nothing but a diffuse blob. But, on closer inspection, a tenuous stream of stars and gas — a tidal tail — can be seen stretching outwards from this elliptical galaxy. Delicate galactic features such as tidal tails and stellar streams are hallmarks of galactic interactions, and provide vital clues to the structure and dynamics of galaxies.

As well as the many elliptical (and a few spiral) galaxies in this remarkable 400-megapixel image, a colourful variety of bright foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy also pepper the image. These stellar interlopers, such as the vividly blue HD 114746 near the centre of the image, are not the intended subjects of this astronomical portrait, but happen to lie between the Earth and the distant galaxies under study. Less prominent, but no less fascinating, are the faint tracks left by asteroids in our own Solar System. Just below NGC 5018, the faint streak left by the asteroid 2001 TJ21 (110423) — captured over several successive observations — can be seen stretching across the image. Further to the right, another asteroid  — 2000 WU69 (98603) — left its trace in this spectacular image.

While astronomers set out to investigate the delicate features of distant galaxies millions of light-years from Earth, in the process they also captured images of nearby stars hundreds of light-years away, and even the faint trails of asteroids only light-minutes away in our own Solar System. Even when studying the furthest reaches of the cosmos, the sensitivity of ESO telescopes and dark Chilean skies can offer entrancing observations much closer to home.


[1] VEGAS is a deep multi-band imaging survey of early-type galaxies carried out with the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), led by Enrichetta Iodice from INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte in Naples, Italy.

[2] Elliptical galaxies are also known as early-type galaxies, not because of their age, but because they were once thought to evolve into the more familiar spiral galaxies, an idea now known to be false. Early-type galaxies are characterised by a smooth ellipsoidal shape and usually a lack of gas and active star formation. The bewildering diversity of shapes and types of galaxy is classified into the Hubble Sequence.

[3] OmegaCAM is an exquisitely sensitive detector formed of 32 individual charge coupled devices, and it creates images with 256 million pixels, 16 times greater than the ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). OmegaCAM was designed and built by a consortium including institutes in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy with major contributions from ESO.

More Information

This research was presented in the paper “VEGAS: A VST Early-type GAlaxy Survey. III. Mapping the galaxy structure, interactions and intragroup light in the NGC 5018 group” by Marilena Spavone et al., to appear in the Astrophysical Journal.

The team is composed of Marilena Spavone (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy), Enrichetta Iodice (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy), Massimo Capaccioli (University of Naples, Naples, Italy), Daniela Bettoni (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padova, Italy), Roberto Rampazzo (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padova, Italy), Noah Brosch (The Wise Observatory and School of Physics and Astronomy Tel Aviv University, Israel), Michele Cantiello (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Teramo, Italy), Nicola R. Napolitano (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy), Luca Limatola (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy), Aniello Grado (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy), Pietro Schipani (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy).

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It has 15 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and with Australia as a strategic partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.



Marilena Spavone
INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte
Napoli, Italy
Tel: +39 081 5575602

Email: marilena.spavone@oacn.inaf.it

Mariya Lyubenova
ESO Outreach Astronomer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6188

Calum Turner
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6670

Source: ESO/News

Archive link


The staging point, obviously

The quotes below refer to a couple of individuals buried in the Yampil Barrow Complex, in the forest-steppes of western Ukraine, who were featured recently in the Juras et al. paper on the maternal ancestry of the Corded Ware people (see here). In that paper they were labeled Late Eneolithic poz090 and Yamnaya poz224, respectively. Emphasis is mine:

The central burial of the oldest barrow, feature 1B was accompanied by a spill of yellow loess (on the east side) and the remains of wooden roofing located at the original ground level. The pit was rather irregular in shape, subrectangular, and was narrower than the neighbouring excavation of grave 1a. The adult male buried in it had been laid supine with the upper limbs slightly bent at the elbows and extended along the trunk and the lower limbs crouched with the knees turned upwards. Neither the skeleton nor the pit bottom were sprinkled with ochre (only trace amounts of a red colourant were found in the remains of a mat). This ritual is on the one hand close to the YC (Yamnaya Culture) rite and on the other to the Eneolithic burials of the ‘post-Stog’ type [Ivanova 2015: 282, 283].

Only in grave IV/8 was an intentional item of furnishing discovered: a regular blade knife insert made of good quality Dniester lint. Such tools are not a typical component of YC inventories [razumov 2011: 146, 147]. They are, however, a frequent element of grave goods offered to males in Corded Ware Culture (CWC) graves, a large number of which is known from Małopolska [Włodarczak 2006:30-32].
The radiocarbon measurements and funerary rite traits indicate that the graves from Prydnistryanske were dug in the older and middle phases of YC development, while the age of the youngest ones still stays in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC.

The source is a report from 2015 authored by many of the co-authors of Juras et al., titled Podolia as a cultural contact area in the 4th/3rd-2nd millennium BC (see here).
Until the Late Eneolithic this part of the North Pontic region was occupied by the Trypillia people, who were the quintessential “Old European” farmers (scroll down to the last abstract here). So judging by the burial characteristics and eastern mitochondrial haplotypes of poz090 and poz224, it’s clear that they weren’t indigenous to the region, but rather migrants, or the recent descendants of migrants, from the steppes. And, in all likelihood, people like them gave rise to the Corded Ware Culture of Northern Europe.
Obviously, I’m not arguing anything that wasn’t already argued well enough in the Juras et al. paper, but I thought I’d emphasize it with some juicy archaeological details that many of you might not be aware of.
See also…
Late PIE ground zero now obvious; location of PIE homeland still uncertain, but…



NASA’s Planet-Hunting TESS Catches a Comet Before Starting Science

NASA – TESS Mission logo.

Aug. 7, 2018

Before NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) started science operations on July 25, 2018, the planet hunter sent back a stunning sequence of serendipitous images showing the motion of a comet. Taken over the course of 17 hours on July 25, these TESS images helped demonstrate the satellite’s ability to collect a prolonged set of stable periodic images covering a broad region of the sky — all critical factors in finding transiting planets orbiting nearby stars.

Over the course of these tests, TESS took images of C/2018 N1, a comet discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite on June 29. The comet, located about 29 million miles (48 million kilometers) from Earth in the southern constellation Piscis Austrinus, is seen to move across the frame from right to left as it orbits the Sun. The comet’s tail, which consists of gases carried away from the comet by an outflow from the Sun called the solar wind, extends to the top of the frame and gradually pivots as the comet glides across the field of view.

NASA’s TESS Catches a Comet

Video above: This video is compiled from a series of images taken on July 25 by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. The angular extent of the widest field of view is six degrees. Visible in the images are the comet C/2018 N1, asteroids, variable stars, asteroids and reflected light from Mars. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets around other nearby stars. Video Credits: Massachusetts Institute of Technology/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

In addition to the comet, the images reveal a treasure trove of other astronomical activity. The stars appear to shift between white and black as a result of image processing. The shift also highlights variable stars — which change brightness either as a result of pulsation, rapid rotation, or by eclipsing binary neighbors. Asteroids in our solar system appear as small white dots moving across the field of view. Towards the end of the video, one can see a faint broad arc of light moving across the middle section of the frame from left to right. This is stray light from Mars, which is located outside the frame. The images were taken when Mars was at its brightest near opposition, or its closest distance, to Earth.

Animation above: This sequence is compiled from a series of images taken on July 25 by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. The angular extent of the widest field of view is six degrees. Visible in the images are the comet C/2018 N1, asteroids, variable stars, asteroids and reflected light from Mars. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets around other nearby stars. Animation Credits: Massachusetts Institute of Technology/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

These images were taken during a short period near the end of the mission’s commissioning phase, prior to the start of science operations. The movie presents just a small fraction of TESS’s active field of view. The team continues to fine-tune the spacecraft’s performance as it searches for distant worlds.

Image above: An artist’s illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite): http://www.nasa.gov/tess

Comets: http://www.nasa.gov/comets

Exoplanets: https://www.nasa.gov/content/the-search-for-life

Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center/Claire Saravia.

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