пятница, 15 февраля 2019 г.

Project Pextex: materials for lunar spacesuits

ESA – European Space Agency logo.

15 February 2019

On 17 January 2019 ESA signed a study contract with Comex and its partners DITF and OeWF. Pextex is a two-year project to identify materials and textiles that could be used for future lunar mission space suits.

 Moon dust on Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan

The project aims to develop solutions that could be based on existing space suit materials, but also identify novel types of textiles with self-healing functions or repulsing lunar dust and smart textiles for example.

The identification and test of such materials could serve the development of future European space suits for spacewalks on the Moon and is in line with ESA’s exploration strategy to return to the Moon in the coming decades, including proposed missions such as Heracles.

Future missions will aim to establish a permanent presence on the Moon and new space suits need to be made that can be used for longer and more frequently than in previous mission to the Moon.

Destination: Moon

A new era of human space exploration is about to begin: 50 years after the first landing of astronauts on the Moon, ESA and its international partners are working on a return of humans to the Moon with the development of the next space station Gateway in a lunar orbit. This station will serve as base camp for robotic and human missions to the surface.

The materials that will be identified in the frame of the Pextex project will be tested in test facilities with the partner organizations in France, Germany and Austria.

The project starts with a workshop in May for partners to discuss potential materials.

Future Moon base

Harsh requirements for lunar spacesuits

The screened materials for a lunar suit need to meet at least the following preliminary requirements:

– Withstand lunar temperature range (+120 °C in sunlight, –170 °C in darkness) and lunar vacuum  for at least 2500 hours.

– Provide thermal insulation (targeted maximum temperature inside the suit is 25° C inside with a minimum temperature of 17°C).

– Resist lunar radiation (annual exposure of around 380 mSv at solar minimum and 110 mSv at solar maximum).

– Resistance to wear by abrasive lunar soil; should last for at least 2500 hours of use.

– Compatible with vacuum and pressure cycles (maximum pressure up to 420 hPa over 312 pressurisation cycles).

– Electrical discharge and electromagnetic protection (targeted for at least 8 hours).

– Material must be non-toxic and non-flammable (targeted compliance with standards ECSS-Q-ST-70-29C and ECSS-Q-ST-70-21C).

– Impermeable to water and fluids.

– Must be able to bend 180°.

Contact the project coordinator at Comex if you are interested in proposing materials that could be of interest for this study.

Related links:

Comex: http://comex.fr%20/

DITF: http://www.ditf.de/

OeWF: http://oewf.org%20/

Heracles: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Exploration/Landing_on_the_Moon_and_returning_home_Heracles

European vision for space exploration: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/A_new_European_vision_for_space_exploration

Exploration of the Moon: http://exploration.esa.int/moon/

Lunar exploration interactive guide: http://lunarexploration.esa.int/#/intro

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/RegoLight, visualisation: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

2019 February 15 Opportunity at Perseverance Valley Image…

2019 February 15

Opportunity at Perseverance Valley
Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Kenneth Kremer, Marco Di Lorenzo

Explanation: Opportunity had already reached Perseverance Valley by June of 2018. Its view is reconstructed in a colorized mosaic of images taken by the Mars Exploration Rover’s Navcam. In fact, Perseverance Valley is an appropriate name for the destination. Designed for a 90 day mission, Opportunity had traveled across Mars for over 5,000 sols (martian solar days) following a January 2004 landing in Eagle crater. Covering a total distance of over 45 kilometers (28 miles), its intrepid journey of exploration across the Martian landscape has come to a close here. On June 10, 2018, the last transmission from the solar-powered rover was received as a dust storm engulfed the Red Planet. Though the storm has subsided, eight months of attempts to contact Opportunity have not been successful and its trailblazing mission ended after almost 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190215.html

Airbus announces the end of production of the A380

Airbus logo.

February 14, 2019

Lacking sufficient orders, Airbus will stop producing its flagship aircraft, the A380, whose deliveries will cease in 2021.

Airbus A380-800

Airbus announced Thursday the end of production of the A380, its flagship whose deliveries will cease in 2021, after the company Emirates decided to reduce orders for 39 A380s.

“The consequence of this decision is that our backlog is no longer sufficient to allow us to maintain production of the A380,” said Executive Chairman Tom Enders in a statement. “This will put an end to A380 deliveries in 2021”.

Emirates replaces this order with another for 40 A330neo and 30 A350. Airbus does not communicate the amount of this order. But in a separate statement, Emirates said the value of this order is $ 21.4 billion at list price. It states that it will receive an additional 14 A380s between 2019 and 2020, bringing its total orders for the aircraft to 123, up from 178 previously ordered, taking all options into account, making it first customer company of the “Super Jumbo”, of which more than a hundred has already been delivered.

The aircraft manufacturer says it will “engage in discussions with its social partners in the coming weeks regarding the 3,000 to 3,500 positions likely to be affected by this decision in the next three years”.

Decision expected

But according to the manufacturer, “the current ramp-up (production) of the A320 and the new Emirates large-capacity order will offer many opportunities for internal mobility.”

This decision was expected: the fate of the A380 was linked to last year’s decision by the Gulf Company to acquire 36 additional A380s, giving Airbus “visibility for at least the next ten years”, Tom Enders had assured at the time.

But Airbus did not hide that in the absence of this command, the program was doomed to stop. “Frankly, if we do not reach an agreement with Emirates, there will be no choice but to stop the program,” said former Airbus sales director John Leahy.

In total, the A380 has been ordered 321 copies, and 232 are in use now, according to the Airbus website.

The decision to stop production of the A380 affected Airbus’ financial results for 2018, which were also published on Thursday, with a negative impact of 463 million euros on operating profit.

Last year, Airbus nonetheless saw its net profit increase by 29% to 3 billion euros, and its consolidated sales in 2018 rose 8% to 63.7 billion euros. It plans to deliver between 880 and 890 commercial aircraft in 2019, compared to 800 in 2018.

“Even though 2018 was a challenging year, we met our commitments with record profitability thanks to excellent operational performance, especially in the fourth quarter,” said Tom Enders, Executive Chairman.

Airbus A400M

Airbus will also spend a new provision of 436 million euros on the A400M military transport aircraft program. It had spent a charge of 1.3 billion euros in 2017 and 2.2 billion in 2016 on this program.

Despite this, “Airbus is on a solid growth trajectory,” said Tom Enders, who will hand over to Guillaume Faury, who heads Airbus’ commercial aviation business, in April on the occasion of the group’s general meeting.

Related articles:

Cracks in the wing: all the Airbus A380 will be examined

10 years in the skies: the A380’s numbers add up

Airbus: https://www.airbus.com/

Images, Text, Credits: AFP/Airbus/Armée de l’Air (France)/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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2,200-year-old turquoise mining site unearthed in Xinjiang

Chinese archaeologists said they have discovered the largest ancient turquoise mining site so far in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

2,200-year-old turquoise mining site unearthed in Xinjiang
Ruins of ancient village in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
[Credit: TripAdvisor]

The Heishanling turquoise mining relic site, which covers an area of 8 sq km, is in an uninhabited area at the junction of Yizhou District, Hami City and Ruoqiang County in the Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture of Bayingolin in eastern Xinjiang.

More than 1,200 turquoise items have been unearthed in the area during the excavation work from September to November last year, according to the Xinjiang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute.

Archaeologists found the ancient site was comprised of separate function zones for processing of tools, mining, mineral separation and living. A large amount of pottery and bronze items, stone and bone implements, textile and animal skin products were excavated.

The relic site, also close to the ancient Silk Road route, was discovered in 1981. Its first archaeological survey began in 2016. Archaeologists from the regional archaeology institute, Northwest University in Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province and Beijing Science and Technology University, participated in the excavation work.

Based on the dating studies of the relic items, archaeologists believe mining activity took place here between the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C) and the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.).

The discovery of the turquoise mining relic cluster gave clues to the ancient industrial exchange between Xinjiang and other parts of China, said Xian Yiheng from Northwest University.

The mining and living relics showcased the ancient industrial process and enriched the sources of China’s turquoise production, he added.

The excavation of the mining relic will continue this year.

Source: Xinhua [February 09, 2019]



Decoding Vangchhia’s ancient art of holding water in rock amid Mizoram’s hills

As climate change and extreme weather events push the world towards growing conflicts over water, a lost civilisation in Mizoram that turned rocks into hidden reservoirs, could hold the key to water conservation in extreme conditions.

Decoding Vangchhia’s ancient art of holding water in rock amid Mizoram’s hills
Holes in hill slopes were to channel water into rock fissures, researchers surmise
[Credit: The Hindu]

In January 2016, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) announced the discovery of a “living history museum” at Vangchhia, a village in Mizoram’s Champhai district bordering Myanmar.

The site, measuring about 45 sq km and located 260 km from Aizawl, has yielded pictographs etched on large stone slabs, menhirs — large standing stones — and a necropolis — a large cemetery — among other artefacts. The area is part of the Lower Himalayas, and has rows of steep hills largely made up of various kinds of sandstone shading from light grey to blackish. The ancient people of Vangchhia carved terraces on these rocks for their settlement — the main excavated site consists of 15 such terraces.

But what fascinated the archaeologists the most was a water pavilion and strategically drilled holes — between one feet and one metre across — spread over several sandstone slopes. The grey sandstone is softer and home to the holes while the harder black rock is used for menhirs, ASI researchers said.

In two years of study since the discovery of the Vangchhia site, researchers have arrived at some theories behind the “seemingly simple science” of water harvesting, perfected several centuries ago, which could sustain local populations for at least a year.

“It is remarkable how they trapped rainwater flowing down the slopes by making holes to let the water flow in and be stored in the fissures and veins of the rocks. When we began excavating in 2015-2016, we wondered why the people who lived in and around Vangchhia did not make water tanks which they appeared capable of,” Sujeet Nayan, who heads ASI’s Aizawl Circle, told The Hindu.

Decoding Vangchhia’s ancient art of holding water in rock amid Mizoram’s hills
Neolithic celt recently found at the site [Credit: Ct. Khiangte]

Denying enemies easy access to water storage areas is believed to have been one of the reasons behind the holes. “Most of the ethnic groups that inhabited these areas were at war, and the possibility of raiders poisoning water reservoirs or stealing water could have made locals devise this strategy to dissuade those not familiar with the topography,” Mr. Nayan said.

Water harvesting, however, seems to be at the heart of the activity with the nearest river, the Tlau, 12 km away as the crow flies beyond several hills.

But the archaeologists have not been able to accurately date the Vangchhia settlement. “When we excavated the place three years ago, we thought the ruins were of the 15th century. However, the Birbal Sahni Institute later said the place dates back to the 6th century,” Mr. Nayan said.

Adding to the unanswered questions, less than a week ago, an ASI team discovered neolithic caves near Vangchhia, indicating that the lost civilisation could be much older.

“These archaeological relics are not confined to Vangchhia and are found all over Champhai district. There are at least four more major sites — Farkawn, Dungtlang, Lianpui and Lunghunlian — that are yet to be excavated extensively with hundreds of menhirs and pictographs that tell stories of a forgotten past,” P. Rohmingthanga, convener of the Mizoram Chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), said.

Author: Rahul Karmakar | Source: The Hindu [February 10, 2019]



Pentagonite With Calcite | #Geology #GeologyPage…

Pentagonite With Calcite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Wagholi Quarry, Pune (Poonah), Maharashtra, India

Size: 0.7 × 1 × 0.7 cm

Photo Copyright © Ashwini Minerals / e-rocks. com

Geology Page



Gypsum | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Cavnic,…

Gypsum | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Cavnic, Maramures Co, Romania, Europe

Dimensions: 7.4 × 7.2 × 5.8 cm

Photo Copyright © Crystal Classics

Geology Page



Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan | #Geology #GeologyPage #Taiwan Yehliu…

Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan | #Geology #GeologyPage #Taiwan

Yehliu is a cape in Wanli District, New Taipei, Taiwan.

The cape, known by geologists as the Yehliu Promontory, forms part of the Daliao Miocene Formation. It stretches approximately 1,700 metres into the ocean and was formed as geological forces pushed Datun Mountain out of the sea.

Read more & More Photos: http://www.geologypage.com/2016/05/yehliu-geopark-taiwan.html

Geology Page



Research into How Space Impacts Humans and Physics Continues

ISS – Expedition 58 Mission patch.

February 14, 2019

The three residents onboard the International Space Station today worked with a diverse array of science hardware. The trio continues to explore what living in space is doing to their bodies and helped scientists promote healthier humans in space and on Earth.

Astronauts have reported increased head and eye pressure during long-duration space missions. The Expedition 58 crew is researching that phenomenon today to help doctors reverse the upward fluid shifts that affect space residents.

Image above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain works inside the Kibo laboratory module designed and built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Image Credits: NASA.

One solution being studied is a special suit that draws fluids such as blood and water toward the lower body to prevent swelling in the face and elevated head and eye pressure. Astronaut Anne McClain tried that suit on today and Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques used an ultrasound device to scan the activity. Commander Oleg Kononenko assisted the duo inside Russia’s Zvezda service module.

Afterward, McClain glided to the opposite end of the station in Japan’s Kibo lab module to work on the Two-Phase Flow fluid physics experiment. She set up and installed the research hardware inside Kibo’s Multi-purpose Small Research Rack. The experiment may enable engineers to design advanced thermal management systems for use on Earth and in space.

Image above: Flying over St. Pierre-et-Miquelon (Canada), seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27’615 Km/h, altitude: 411,81 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam’s from ISS on February 14, 2019 at 17:58 UTC. Image Credits: Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Saint-Jacques returned to biomedical studies today collecting and stowing more breath, blood and urine samples for later analysis. The ongoing research is helping scientists understand the long-term space impacts to bone marrow, red blood cells and the overall human physiology.

Saint-Jacques finally reviewed instructions to install a docking station on Friday for new cube-shaped, free-flying robots that will arrive at the station later this year. The Astrobee autonomous assistants may free up more science time for astronauts and allow mission controllers better monitoring capabilities.

Related links:

Expedition 58: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition58/index.html

Fluid shifts: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1126

Special suit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/ISS_Science_Blog/2015/06/02/rubber-vacuum-pants-that-suck/

Zvezda service module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/zvezda-service-module.html

Kibo lab module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/japan-kibo-laboratory

Multi-purpose Small Research Rack: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1203.html

Two-Phase Flow: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1034

Multi-purpose Small Research Rack: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1203.html

Bone marrow: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1673

Red blood cells: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/MARROW

Human physiology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=954

Astrobee: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=1891

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

NASA/Mark Garcia/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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Hubble Reveals Dynamic Atmospheres of Uranus, Neptune

NASA – Hubble Space Telescope patch.

February 14, 2019

During its routine yearly monitoring of the weather on our solar system’s outer planets, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a new mysterious dark storm on Neptune (right) and provided a fresh look at a long-lived storm circling around the north polar region on Uranus (left).

Image above: Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley).

Like Earth, Uranus and Neptune have seasons, which likely drive some of the features in their atmospheres. But their seasons are much longer than on Earth, spanning decades rather than months.

The new Hubble view of Neptune shows the dark storm, seen at top center. Appearing during the planet’s southern summer, the feature is the fourth and latest mysterious dark vortex captured by Hubble since 1993. Two other dark storms were discovered by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989 as it flew by the remote planet. Since then, only Hubble has had the sensitivity in blue light to track these elusive features, which have appeared and faded quickly. A study led by University of California, Berkeley, undergraduate student Andrew Hsu estimated that the dark spots appear every four to six years at different latitudes and disappear after about two years.

Hubble uncovered the latest storm in September 2018 in Neptune’s northern hemisphere. The feature is roughly 6,800 miles across.

Image above: This Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 image of Neptune, taken in September and November 2018, shows a new dark storm (top center). Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley).

To the right of the dark feature are bright white “companion clouds.” Hubble has observed similar clouds accompanying previous vortices. The bright clouds form when the flow of ambient air is perturbed and diverted upward over the dark vortex, causing gases to freeze into methane ice crystals. These clouds are similar to clouds that appear as pancake-shaped features when air is pushed over mountains on Earth (though Neptune has no solid surface). The long, thin cloud to the left of the dark spot is a transient feature that is not part of the storm system.

It’s unclear how these storms form. But like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the dark vortices swirl in an anti-cyclonic direction and seem to dredge up material from deeper levels in the ice giant’s atmosphere.

The Hubble observations show that as early as 2016, increased cloud activity in the region preceded the vortex’s appearance. The images indicate that the vortices probably develop deeper in Neptune’s atmosphere, becoming visible only when the top of the storm reaches higher altitudes.

The snapshot of Uranus, like the image of Neptune, reveals a dominant feature: a vast bright stormy cloud cap across the north pole.

Scientists believe this new feature is a result of Uranus’ unique rotation. Unlike every other planet in the solar system, Uranus is tipped over almost onto its side. Because of this extreme tilt, during the planet’s summer the Sun shines almost directly onto the north pole and never sets. Uranus is now approaching the middle of its summer season, and the polar-cap region is becoming more prominent. This polar hood may have formed by seasonal changes in atmospheric flow.

Image above: This Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 image of Uranus, taken in November 2018, reveals a vast, bright stormy cloud cap across the planet’s north pole. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley).

Near the edge of the polar storm is a large, compact methane-ice cloud, which is sometimes bright enough to be photographed by amateur astronomers. A narrow cloud band encircles the planet north of the equator. It is a mystery how bands like these are confined to such narrow widths, because Uranus and Neptune have very broad westward-blowing wind jets.

Both planets are classified as ice giant planets. They have no solid surface but rather mantles of hydrogen and helium surrounding a water-rich interior, itself perhaps wrapped around a rocky core. Atmospheric methane absorbs red light but allows blue-green light to be scattered back into space, giving each planet a cyan hue.

The new Neptune and Uranus images are from the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program, a long-term Hubble project, led by Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that annually captures global maps of our solar system’s outer planets when they are closest to Earth in their orbits. OPAL’s key goals are to study long-term seasonal changes, as well as capture comparatively transitory events, such as the appearance of Neptune’s dark spot. These dark storms may be so fleeting that in the past some of them may have appeared and faded during multi-year gaps in Hubble’s observations of Neptune. The OPAL program ensures that astronomers won’t miss another one.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

These images are part of a scrapbook of Hubble snapshots of Neptune and Uranus that track the weather patterns over time on these distant, cold planets. Just as meteorologists cannot predict the weather on Earth by studying a few snapshots, astronomers cannot track atmospheric trends on solar system planets without regularly repeated observations. Astronomers hope that Hubble’s long-term monitoring of the outer planets will help them unravel the mysteries that still persist about these faraway worlds.

Analyzing the weather on these worlds also will help scientists better understand the diversity and similarities of the atmospheres of solar-system planets, including Earth.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/GSFC/Claire Saravia/Space Telescope Science Institute/Ray Villard.

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Discoveries prove Kuwait’s Failaka Island inhabited in Abbasid period

The Kuwaiti-Italian archaeological mission to Failaka Island has uncovered several proofs, mainly at the village of Al Qurainiyah, referring that it was inhabited in the early Abbasid Caliphate period.

Discoveries prove Kuwait's Failaka Island inhabited in Abbasid period
Excavations in progress at Al Qurainiyah [Credit: KUNA]

The team is continuing its efforts in making new discoveries in the Island in a serious attempt to trace its history.

The mission is exploring for monuments and artifacts that could provide information about the life of the first people who settled in Al Qurainiyah.

Speaking to KUNA in a statement, head of the mission Andrea Di Miceli said that digging and searching operations in the village had unveiled important evidence of the human settlement of the island that dates back to the early Islamic history.

This confirms that the village was inhabited during that period, he added, noting that the archaeological discoveries in the village date back to two different eras.

He said that the excavation journey offered rich scientific evidence on populating the villages and the living conditions as well as the activities of the residents.

He referred to the latest discoveries dating back to the beginning of Abbasid Caliphate in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.

The discoveries included some houses built of bricks and stones, and rooms, most of which overlook the courtyard, he revealed.

These buildings involved multipurpose warehouses and mud oven with traces of tar believed to have been used in painting ships at that time, he said, explaining that this means that there was a workshop for repairing ships there.

The place might have been the ancient port of the village of Al Qusour, 1.5 km from Al Qurainiyah, he said.

He added that the findings indicated that Al Qurainiyah was an active port.

The coastal village was the only link to outside world in the early Islamic period.

The mission could find oysters in large quantities in a house, he made clear, saying that it refers that people were searching for pearls.

Bones of fish and cattle were also found by the mission that give an evidence of the existence of cattle and animals at that time.

He also pointed to several discoveries in the village that refer to tools used by people who were living there.

Discoveries prove Kuwait's Failaka Island inhabited in Abbasid period
Excavations in progress at Al Qurainiyah [Credit: KUNA]

He spoke about evidence on commercial activities of the village’s residents in the late Islamic era that reflects the volume of trade at the time.

The mission also unearthed porcelain brought from China for domestic purposes, glass bracelets from India for decoration as well as Indian pottery, ceramics from Amman and others, he said.

He referred to the discovery of two types of tobacco pipes as evidence of the existence of smokers on the village in that period.

Meanwhile, Hamed Al-Mutairi, an archeological official at National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, said the village was previously mentioned in some foreign archaeological reports that date back to the beginning of the 19th century.

These reports claimed that the village was deserted because of an epidemic, according to Al-Mutairi.

The village was early deserted for unknown reasons and it was re-inhabited at the end of 18th century until the beginning of the 20th century, he confirmed.

The archaeological excavations in Kuwait have begun since 1957, before the country’s independence, when the Kuwaiti government assigned a Danish mission to search for archaeological sites at Failaka Island (20 km from the coast of Kuwait City), where there are several archaeological sites.

The Danish team worked in Bahrain in the 1950s and made significant results in the discovery of the Dilmun civilization and the Stone Age there.

The mission also worked in Qatar and so the Kuwaiti government was encouraged to ask it in 1957 for working inside Failaka.

In 1958, the actual excavation began in Kuwait and continued until 1963. During this period, the mission has accomplished great works.

The Danish team was able to bear the first fruit to change the history in Kuwait by discovering many monuments in Failaka, dating back to the Bronze Age and some ruins dating back to the Stone Age.

This refers that Kuwait has been existing since more than 300 years.

In the beginning of the 1970s, the US mission came to Kuwait and then the Italian mission in 1979. Both of them relied on aerial photography to discover archaeological sites and Kuwait has had first maps through aerial photography since that time.

In 1983, The French team came to Kuwait and uncovered a temple, which has been a key archaeological monument on the Island. Issuing the Antiquities Law in 1960, which is one of the first laws in the Gulf region, the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters was established. Since 2004, the council has been concerned with cultural heritage in the country. (end) shd.hm

Author: Shahad Kamal | Source: Kuwait News Agency [February 11, 2019]



Egyptian officials recover ancient limestone bust that was smuggled to Holland

Egypt’s embassy in Amsterdam has received a limestone statue from the First Intermediate Period which was stolen and smuggled out of the country in the 1990s.

Egyptian officials recover ancient limestone bust that was smuggled to Holland
The recovered statue [Credit: Egypt. Ministry of Antiquities]

Shaaban Abdel Gawad, supervisor general of the Antiquities Repatriation Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the statue was first noticed by the department in March 2018 when it was put on display at an art exhibition hall in Holland.

The department immediately reported the incident to Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who contacted the Dutch police and concerned authorities in Holland to confiscate the statue and inform the hall and the owner of the statue that it was a stolen artefact.

Abdel Gawad said that the Dutch authorities had handed the statue over to Egypt’s embassy in Amsterdam and it will return to its homeland soon.

The statue is carved of limestone, he continued, and was uncovered via illegal excavation carried out in 1990s at the Saqqara necropolis.

It depicts a top official named Nekaw-Ptah in a standing posture and wearing a short wig. It also bears hieroglyphic text showing the name of its owner and the date when he lived.

Author: Nevine El-Aref | Source: Ahram Online [February 11, 2019]



Tehran’s first fortification unearthed in Grand Bazaar

A number of ancient pieces from Safavid era, belonging to the first fortification of the Iranian capital, have been unearthed during an excavation in the Grand Bazaar of Tehran.

Tehran’s first fortification unearthed in Grand Bazaar
Credit: M. Mahdi Dorani

The pieces were discovered when construction workers were excavating an old store in Hazrati Bazaar.
“About two months ago, the owner of an old store in Hazrati Bazaar in Molavi Street found some pieces of earthenware while excavating his store,” a report said.

Tehran’s first fortification unearthed in Grand Bazaar
Credit: M. Mahdi Dorani

Tehran municipality never makes an inquiry from the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization of Iran to issue excavation permission. Now with the finding of the pieces as well as parts of human bones, the ICHTO has stepped into the fray to preserve the pieces.
Since then the archaeologists of the organization have been involved in unearthing and striding the historical pieces.

Tehran’s first fortification unearthed in Grand Bazaar
Credit: M. Mahdi Dorani

According to the Head of the Archeology Department of the ICHTO, based on studies conducted on numerous historical texts as well as reports left by the tourists from Qajar dynasty, it seems the fortofication unearthed in Hazrati Bazaar belongs to the Shāh Abdol-Azīm Shrine, located in Rey, Iran. A descendant of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he was entombed there after his death in the 9th century.
The ICHTO official also stressed this is the first time that some architecture pieces from the Safavid era are unearthed in Tehran.

Tehran’s first fortification unearthed in Grand Bazaar
Credit: M. Mahdi Dorani

In an interview with Fars news agency, he went on to say that the main findings include pieces of earthenware which are highly helpful in historical studies. The pieces have already been transferred to a research centre for further investigations.
Elaborating on Hazrati Bazaar excavation, he said there are also other historical pieces including some glass pieces and tiles from various historical eras.

Tehran’s first fortification unearthed in Grand Bazaar
Credit: M. Mahdi Dorani

The excavation was conducted in the basement of a 80-metre store. Efforts are underway, the official said, to turn the store into a museum to preserve the historical pieces and attract more tourists.

Author: Fatemeh Askarieh | Source: Iran Front Page [February 11, 2019]



Colonisation of the Americas at end of 15th century ‘disturbed Earth’s...

Colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th Century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate, according to a new study by UCL.

Colonisation of the Americas at end of 15th century 'disturbed Earth’s climate'
Christopher Columbus Arrives in America in 1492, by Gergio Deluci, 1893
[Credit: WikiCommons]

The research, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, reveals the scale of disruption that followed Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of the Americas in 1492.

Over the 100 years after European arrival, the indigenous population of the Americas dropped from 60 million to only 6 million, due to waves of epidemics, warfare and famine.

The new research, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council, suggests that this led to a regrowth of forests and a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, which in turn contributed to the Earth’s cooling.

“The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO2 and global surface air temperatures,” said lead study author PhD candidate Alexander Koch (UCL Geography).

The ‘Great Dying’ was triggered by the arrival of Europeans and the introduction of new pathogens to the continent. Together, with warfare and slavery, there was an epidemic of diseases such as smallpox, measles, influenza and cholera.

The scientists report that as the population plummeted, land was abandoned and farming ceased causing natural vegetation to grow back.

Scientists believe that the changes to land use led to a lowering of CO2 levels sufficient enough that the concentration of the gas in the atmosphere eventually fell by 7-10ppm.

This coincides with the ‘Little Ice Age’, a period between about 1300 and 1870 during which time many parts of the world dipped into cooler temperatures. In the 16th century global temperatures were at their lowest points.

“There is a marked cooling around the 1500s/1600s which is called the ‘Little Ice Age’, and what’s interesting is that we can see natural processes giving a little bit of cooling, but actually to get the full cooling you need to have this genocide-generated drop in CO2”, said co-author, Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography).

The team analysed existing evidence for indigenous populations using seven geographical regions across the Americas including the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Inca Territory. They investigated population size and land use evidence in both the 14th and 15th century and compared this with potential natural drivers of global carbon declines.

Dr Chris Brierley (UCL Geography), co-author of the study, said: “What we see from this study is the scale of what’s required to mitigate climate change. The Great Dying resulted in an area the size of France being reforested and that gave us only a few ppm. This shows reforestation can help tackle future climate change, but only up to a point.”

Source: University College London [February 11, 2019]



Study of Arctic fish reveals the birth of a gene – from ‘junk’

Though separated by a world of ocean, and unrelated to each other, two fish groups – one in the Arctic, the other in the Antarctic – share a surprising survival strategy: They both have evolved the ability to produce the same special brand of antifreeze protein in their tissues. A new study describes in molecular detail how the Arctic fishes built the gene for their antifreeze from tiny fragments of noncoding DNA, regions once considered “junk DNA.”

Study of Arctic fish reveals the birth of a gene - from 'junk'
Arctic cod have developed antifreeze to survive in cold waters, but they did it through a much more unusual path
than their counterparts in the southern hemisphere [Credit: Valentina Photo/Shutterstock]

“Years ago, we discovered how antifreeze glycoproteins evolved in Antarctic notothenioid fishes, and we knew that the Arctic cod evolved an identical version – but not in the same way,” said University of Illinois animal biology professor Christina Cheng, who led the new study with graduate student Xuan Zhuang. “But exactly how the codfish independently did it has remained a lasting puzzle.”

To solve that puzzle, Cheng and her colleagues scoured fish and other vertebrate genomes for a gene that might have been the ancestral precursor to the codfish antifreeze gene. They came up empty, so they decided to compare the genomes of codfish that did and did not produce antifreeze protein to see how the two lineages differed. The researchers found the ancestor of the antifreeze gene in a region of noncoding DNA, which, as its name implies, does not code for a viable protein.

“For many years after this discovery, I thought nobody was going to believe me, because the prevailing mindset at that time was that new genes have to evolve from pre-existing protein-coding gene ancestors,” Cheng said.

Eventually, the researchers pieced together the details of how the codfish antifreeze gene originated.

“Its development in these fishes that make their living in icy Arctic waters occurred as a result of a series of seemingly improbable, serendipitous events,” Cheng said.

Not just any random DNA sequence can produce a viable protein – let alone a lifesaving one like the antifreeze protein, Cheng said. Even if the original sequence contained the right order of building blocks that allow it to undergo transcription from DNA to RNA – the first step in building a protein – several hurdles remain. Specific sequences determine whether and how genes are transcribed into RNA, how they are edited and whether they are then translated from RNA into proteins.

In the case of a secreted protein like the antifreeze protein in codfish, a specific “signal sequence” also is required to process the final protein properly and maneuver it out of the cell and into the bloodstream.

The codfish antifreeze protein gene was assembled as a result of several molecular events, the study found. At its heart, a tiny segment of noncoding DNA, consisting of nine building blocks called nucleotides, underwent multiple duplications, creating a longer sequence of repeats. These code for a repeating series of three amino acids: threonine-alanine-alanine. These amino-acid repeats have just the right chemical properties to bind to ice crystals in the blood and prevent the crystals from growing.

Several other serendipitous events occurred in the evolving gene sequence, Zhuang said. One bit of DNA – when edited in just the right way after the gene is transcribed from DNA to RNA – included a sequence that tags the protein for export from the cell. A random one-nucleotide deletion shifted how the gene would be translated, linking the secretion signal to the region of antifreeze repeats, making them part of the same gene.

And, somehow, the gene also obtained the proper control sequence that would allow the new gene to be transcribed into RNA. This transcription signal may have been inserted from elsewhere in the genome. Or, Zhuang said, the rest of the gene may have wandered from its original location to one that contained a transcription signal. Such DNA “translocation” events are a common occurrence across the genome.

The findings offer fresh insights into how a cell can invent “a new, functional gene from scratch,” Cheng said.

“Evolution is not that efficient,” she said. “It’s a make-do kind of thing.”

The cellular machinery appears to be constantly cranking out transcripts of DNA sequences that may or may not code for functional proteins.

“This process seems wasteful, but the cell can recycle the RNA that doesn’t get used,” Cheng said.

Only if the RNA transcript also contains certain other sequences will it be translated into protein, she said. If that protein happens to give the organism an advantage – ensuring its survival in icy Arctic waters, for example – the corresponding DNA sequence becomes “fixed” in the genome. Only those individuals that have that sequence in their genomes will persist in the environment and pass on the new trait.

“After years of study, we finally understand the birth of the codfish antifreeze gene,” Cheng said. “This paper explains how the antifreeze protein in the northern codfish evolved. And it’s an even more fascinating mechanism than the Antarctic version, which involved a pre-existing gene.”

The findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper “Molecular mechanism and history of non-sense to sense evolution of antifreeze glycoprotein gene in northern gadids” is available from pnasnews@nas.edu.

Source: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign [February 12, 2019]



New dinosaur with heart-shaped tail provides evolutionary clues for African continent

A new dinosaur that wears its “heart” on its tail provides new clues to how ecosystems evolved on the African continent during the Cretaceous period according to researchers at Ohio University.

New dinosaur with heart-shaped tail provides evolutionary clues for African continent
Illustration depicting Mnyamawamtuka in its environmental setting
[Credit: Mark Witton]

The Ohio team identified and named the new species of dinosaur in an article published this week in PLOS ONE. The new dinosaur, the third now described from southwestern Tanzania by the NSF-funded team, is yet another member of the large, long-necked titanosaur sauropods. The partial skeleton was recovered from Cretaceous-age (~100 million years ago) rocks exposed in a cliff surface in the western branch of the great East African Rift System.

The new dinosaur is named Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, a name derived from Swahili for “animal of the Mtuka (with) a heart-shaped tail” in reference to the name of the riverbed (Mtuka) in which it was discovered and due to the unique shape of its tail bones.

The initial discovery of Mnyamawamtuka took place in 2004, when part of the skeleton was discovered high in a cliff wall overlooking the seasonally dry Mtuka riverbed, with annual excavations continuing through 2008. “Although titanosaurs became one of the most successful dinosaur groups before the infamous mass extinction capping the Age of Dinosaurs, their early evolutionary history remains obscure, and Mnyamawamtuka helps tell those beginnings, especially for their African-side of the story,” said lead author Dr. Eric Gorscak, a recent Ph.D. graduate of Ohio University, current research associate at the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago) and new assistant professor at the Midwestern University in Downers Grove, just outside of Chicago. “The wealth of information from the skeleton indicates it was distantly related to other known African titanosaurs, except for some interesting similarities with another dinosaur, Malawisaurus, from just across the Tanzania-Malawi border,” noted Dr. Gorscak.

New dinosaur with heart-shaped tail provides evolutionary clues for African continent
Illustration depicting the ‘heart tail’ from Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia and a selection
of the recovered bones from its skeleton [Credit: Mark Witton]

Titanosaurs are best known from Cretaceous-age rocks in South America, but other efforts by the team include new species discovered in Tanzania, Egypt, and other parts of the African continent that reveal a more complex picture of dinosaurian evolution on the planet. “The discovery of dinosaurs like Mnyamawamtuka and others we have recently discovered is like doing a four-dimensional connect the dots,” said Dr. Patrick O’Connor, professor of anatomy at Ohio University and Gorscak’s advisor during his Ph.D. research. “Each new discovery adds a bit more detail to the picture of what ecosystems on continental Africa were like during the Cretaceous, allowing us to assemble a more holistic view of biotic change in the past.”
The excavation process spanned multiple years, and included field teams suspended by ropes and large-scale mechanical excavators to recover one of the more complete specimens from this part of the sauropod dinosaur family tree. “Without the dedication of several field teams, including some whose members donned climbing gear for the early excavations, the skeleton would have eroded away into the river during quite intense wet seasons in this part of the East African Rift System,” added O’Connor.

“This latest discovery is yet another fine example of how Ohio University researchers work the world over in their pursuit of scientific research,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “This team has turned out a number of notable discoveries which collectively contribute significantly to our understanding of the natural world.”

New dinosaur with heart-shaped tail provides evolutionary clues for African continent
Ohio University graduate student Tobin Hieronymus excavates part of the Mnyamawamtuka skeleton
while scaling the cliff surface in 2007 [Credit: Patrick O’Connor]

Mnyamawamtuka and the other Tanzanian titanosaurs are not the only animals discovered by the research team. Remains of bizarre relatives of early crocodiles, the oldest evidence for “insect farming,” and tantalizing clues about the early evolution of monkeys and apes have been discovered in recent years. Such findings from the East African Rift provide a crucial glimpse into ancient ecosystems of Africa and provide the impetus for future work elsewhere on the continent.
“This new dinosaur gives us important information about African fauna during a time of evolutionary change,” said Judy Skog, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research. “The discovery offers insights into paleogeography during the Cretaceous. It’s also timely information about an animal with heart-shaped tail bones during this week of Valentine’s Day.”

Recent findings by the research team in the Rukwa Rift Basin include:

· Shingopana songwensis — titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur, Rukwa Rift Basin

· Rukwatitan bisepultus — titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur, Rukwa Rift Basin

· Pakasuchus kapilimai — mammal-like crocodile, Rukwa Rift Basin

· Early evidence for monkey-ape split, Rukwa Rift Basin Project

· Early evidence of insect farming — Fossil Termite Nests, Rukwa Rift Basin

“The Tanzanian story is far from over but we know enough to start asking what paleontological and geological similarities and dissimilarities there are with nearby rock units. Revisiting Malawi is my top priority to address these broader, regional questions,” said Gorscak, who also participates in ongoing projects in Egypt and Kenya. “With Mnyamawamtuka and other discoveries, I’m not sure to view it as writing or reading the next chapters in the paleontological book of Africa. I’m just excited to see where this story is going to take us.”

Source: Ohio University [February 13, 2019]



Our Favorite Valentines Throughout the Universe

Today is Valentine’s Day. What better way to express that

you love someone than with an intergalactic love gram? Check out some of our

favorites and send them to all of your cosmic companions:

Your love is galactic


The Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized nearly all areas

of astronomical research — and captured some truly lovely

. Here, a pair of intersecting galaxies swirl into the shape of a rose as a

result of gravitational tidal pull. What type of roses are you getting for your

love — red or galactic?

I think you’re n{ice}


IceBridge is the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar

ice ever flown. It captures 3-D views of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves

and sea ice. This lovely heart-shaped glacier feature was discovered in

northwest Greenland during an IceBridge flight in 2017. Which of your lover’s

features would you say are the coolest?

You’re absolutely



Even though we can’t see them, magnetic fields are all

around us. One of the solar system’s largest magnetospheres belongs to Jupiter.

Right now, our Juno spacecraft is providing scientists with their first

glimpses of this unseen force. Is your attraction to your loved one magnetic?

You’re MARS-velous


This heart-shaped feature on the Martian landscape was

captured by our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It was created by a small impact

crater that blew darker material on the surface away. What impact has your

loved one had on you?

I <3 you


From three billion miles away, Pluto sent a “love note” back

to Earth, via our New Horizons spacecraft. This stunning image of Pluto’s

shows one of the world’s most dominant features, estimated to

be 1,000 miles (1,600 km) across at its widest point. Will you pass this love

note on to someone special in your life?

Light of my life


Our Solar Dynamics Observatory keeps an eye on our closest star

that brings energy to you and your love. The observatory helps us understand

where the Sun’s energy comes from, how the inside of the Sun works, how energy

is stored and released in the Sun’s atmosphere and much more. Who would you say

is your ray of sunshine?

Do any of these cosmic phenomena remind you of someone in

your universe? Download these cards here to

send to all the stars in your sky.

Want something from the Red Planet to match your bouquet of

red roses? Here

is our collection of Martian Valentines.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your

regular dose of space: 

Where is the Universe Hiding its Missing Mass?


 Credit  Illustration: Springel et al. (2005); Spectrum: NASA/CXC/CfA/Kovács et al. 

New results from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped solve the Universe’s “missing mass” problem, as reported in our latest press release. Astronomers cannot account for about a third of the normal matter — that is, hydrogen, helium, and other elements — that were created in the first billion years or so after the Big Bang.

Scientists have proposed that the missing mass could be hidden in gigantic strands or filaments of warm (temperature less than 100,000 Kelvin) and hot (temperature greater than 100,000 K) gas in intergalactic space. These filaments are known by astronomers as the “warm-hot intergalactic medium” or WHIM. They are invisible to optical light telescopes, but some of the warm gas in filaments has been detected in ultraviolet light. The main part of this graphic is from the Millenium simulation, which uses supercomputers to formulate how the key components of the Universe, including the WHIM, would have evolved over cosmic time.

If these filaments exist, they could absorb certain types of light such as X-rays that pass through them. The inset in this graphic represents some of the X-ray data collected by Chandra from a distant, rapidly-growing supermassive black hole known as a quasar. The plot is a spectrum — the amount of X-rays over a range of wavelengths — from a new study of the quasar H1821+643 that is located about 3.4 billion light years from Earth. 

The latest result uses a new technique that both hones the search for the WHIM carefully and boosts the relatively weak absorption signature by combining different parts of the spectrum to find a valid signal. With this technique, researchers identified 17 possible filaments lying between the quasar and Earth, and obtained their distances.

Light Path 

Credit: NASA/CXC/K. Williamson, Springel et al.

For each filament the spectrum was shifted in wavelength to remove the effects of cosmic expansion, and then the spectra of all the filaments were added together so that the resulting spectrum has a much stronger signal from absorption by the WHIM than in the individual spectra.

Indeed, the team did not find absorption in the individual spectra. But by adding them together, they turned a 5.5-day-long observation into the equivalent of almost 100 days’ worth (about 8 million seconds) of data. This revealed an absorption line from oxygen expected to be present in a gas with a temperature of about one million Kelvin.

By extrapolating from these observations of oxygen to the full set of elements, and from the observed region to the local Universe, the researchers report they can account for the complete amount of missing matter. 

A paper describing these results was published in The Astrophysical Journal on February 13, 2019, and is available online at https://arxiv.org/abs/1812.04625. The authors of the paper are Orsolya Kovács, Akos Bogdan, Randall Smith, Ralph Kraft, and William Forman all from the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian in Cambridge, Mass.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

Fast Facts for WHIM: H1821+643:

Category: Quasars & Active Galaxies, Cosmology/Deep Fields/X-ray Background
Constellation: Draco
Observation Date: 4 observations during Jan 17-24, 2001
Observation Time: 130 hours 33 minutes (5 days 10 hours 33 minutes )
Obs. ID: 2186, 2310, 2311, 2418
Instrument: ACIS
References: Kovács O. et al., 2019, ApJ (in press); arXiv:1812.04625
Distance Estimate: About 3.4 billion light years

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https://t.co/hvL60wwELQ — XissUFOtoday Space (@xufospace) August 3, 2021 Жаждущий ежик наслаждается пресной водой после нескольких дней в о...