пятница, 8 марта 2019 г.

Captioned Image (7 March 2019): Colorful Impact Ejecta in Ladon…

Captioned Image (7 March 2019): Colorful Impact Ejecta in Ladon Valles

This image covers the western portion of a well-preserved (recent) impact crater in Ladon Basin.  Ladon is filled by diverse materials including chemically-altered sediments and unaltered lava, so the impact event ejected and deposited a wide range of elements.  

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

2019 March 8 Stardust and Starlight in M78 Image Credit &…

2019 March 8

Stardust and Starlight in M78
Image Credit & Copyright: Richard S. Wright Jr.

Explanation: Interstellar dust clouds and bright nebulae abound in the fertile constellation of Orion. One of the brightest, M78, is near the center in this colorful telescopic view, covering an area north of Orion’s belt. At a distance of about 1,500 light-years, the bluish nebula itself is about 5 light-years across. Its blue tint is due to dust preferentially reflecting the blue light of hot, young stars in the region. Dark dust lanes and other nebulae can easily be traced through the gorgeous skyscape that includes many Herbig- Haro objects, energetic jets from stars in the process of formation. But missing from this image is McNeil’s nebula. A major discovery only recognized in 2004, the enigmatic, variable nebula was found along the dark lane of dust above and right of larger M78. McNeil’s nebula is associated with a protostar and seen to be sometimes present and sometimes absent in photos of the well-imaged region. McNeil’s nebula faded from view late last year and is still absent in this deep image recorded in February 2019.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190308.html

Alien species are primary cause of recent global extinctions

Alien species are the main driver of recent extinctions in both animals and plants, according to a new study by UCL researchers.

Alien species are primary cause of recent global extinctions
Alien species are the main driver of recent extinctions in both animals and plants, according to a new study by
UCL researchers. They found that since 1500, alien species have been solely responsible for 126 extinctions,
13 percent of the total number studied [Credit: P Krillow]

They found that since 1500, alien species have been solely responsible for 126 extinctions, 13% of the total number studied.

Of 953 global extinctions, 300 happened in some part because of alien species, and of those 300, 42% had alien species alone listed as the cause of their demise.

The study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, used data from the 2017 IUCN Red List on the total numbers of species that are considered to have gone extinct globally since 1500.

In total, 261 out of 782 animal species (33.4%) and 39 out of 153 plant species (25.5%) listed aliens as one of their extinction drivers. In contrast, native species impacts were associated with only 2.7% of animal extinctions and 4.6% of plant extinctions.

“Some people have suggested that aliens are no more likely than native species to cause species to disappear in the current global extinction crisis, but our analysis shows that aliens are much more of a problem in this regard,” said lead researcher Professor Tim Blackburn (UCL Biosciences).

“Our study provides a new line of evidence showing that the biogeographical origin of a species matters for its impacts. The invasion of an alien species is often enough to cause native species to go extinct, whereas we found no evidence for native species being the sole driver of extinction of other natives in any case.”

The IUCN Red List identifies 12 broad categories of extinction drivers, including alien species, native species, biological resource use (hunting and harvesting) and agriculture. Alien species ranked first as a driver of animal extinctions, well ahead of the second place driver, biological resource use, which affected 18.8% of those lost.

Overall, the number of animal extinctions caused in some part by alien species is more than 12 times greater than those caused in part by native species.

Some of the worst offenders are mammalian predators, such as black, brown and Pacific rats and feral cats, with island habitats hit the hardest. Some of these animals first invaded by stowing away on boats, though some, like cats and foxes, have been introduced deliberately.

Many plants were also intentionally introduced, such as plantation tree species or ornamental plants for gardens. Once in place, they start to spread and threaten the native flora and fauna around them; alien plants are several times more likely than natives to achieve a maximum cover of at least 80%.

The origin of some species is unknown, so Professor Blackburn and his team assumed these were native for the study. “However,” he said, “it is more likely that they are alien. Our results are therefore conservative in terms of the extent to which we implicate alien species in extinction. Also, many regions of the world have not been well studied, and there are likely to be further extinctions that haven’t been captured in these data.”

The research team believes better biosecurity is needed to prevent future invasions, and in many cases measures to control or even eradicate alien species must be considered.

Source: University College London [March 03, 2019]



The case of the over-tilting exoplanets

For almost a decade, astronomers have tried to explain why so many pairs of planets outside our solar system have an odd configuration — their orbits seem to have been pushed apart by a powerful unknown mechanism. Yale researchers say they’ve found a possible answer, and it implies that the planets’ poles are majorly tilted.

The case of the over-tilting exoplanets
Yale researchers have discovered a surprising link between the tilting of exoplanets and their orbit in space.
The discovery may help explain a long-standing puzzle about exoplanetary orbital architectures
[Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Sarah Millholland]

The finding could have a big impact on how researchers estimate the structure, climate, and habitability of exoplanets as they try to identify planets that are similar to Earth.

NASA’s Kepler mission revealed that about 30% of stars similar to our Sun harbor “Super-Earths.” Their sizes are somewhere between that of Earth and Neptune; they have nearly circular and coplanar orbits; and it takes them fewer than 100 days to go around their star. Yet curiously, a great number of these planets exist in pairs with orbits that lie just outside natural points of stability.

That’s where obliquity — the amount of tilting between a planet’s axis and its orbit — comes in, according to Yale astronomers Sarah Millholland and Gregory Laughlin.

“When planets such as these have large axial tilts, as opposed to little or no tilt, their tides are exceedingly more efficient at draining orbital energy into heat in the planets,” said first author Millholland, a graduate student at Yale. “This vigorous tidal dissipation pries the orbits apart.”

A similar, but not identical, situation exists between Earth and its moon. The moon’s orbit is slowly growing due to dissipation from tides, but Earth’s day is gradually lengthening.

Laughlin, who is a professor of astronomy at Yale, said there is a direct connection between the over-tilting of these exoplanets and their physical characteristics. “It impacts several of their physical features, such as their climate, weather, and global circulations,” Laughlin said. “The seasons on a planet with a large axial tilt are much more extreme than those on a well-aligned planet, and their weather patterns are probably non-trivial.”

Millholland said she and Laughlin already have started work on a follow-up study that will examine how these exoplanets’ structures respond to large obliquities over time.

The research appears in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Source: Yale University [March 04, 2019]



Human ‘footprint’ on Antarctica measured for first time

Buildings alone cover more than 390 000 square metres of land while the visual footprint – the areas from which human activity can be seen – extends to more than 93 000 square kilometres.

Human 'footprint' on Antarctica measured for first time
Aerial view of Australia’s Davis research station, Antarctica [Credit: Shaun Brooks]

The lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Sustainability, IMAS PhD student Shaun Brooks, said measuring the area impacted by humans was important for Antarctic conservation and environmental management.

“Although the 53 countries that have signed the Antarctic Treaty agreed to protect the Antarctic environment, until now there has been only limited data on the spatial extent of human activity on the continent,” Mr Brooks said.

“Our research shows that human impacts are the greatest on land that is also the most environmentally sensitive – ice free areas within a few kilometres of the coast.

“Ice-free land supports the continent’s greatest diversity of flora and fauna, including iconic species such as Adelie penguins, and provides the most accessible areas for marine animals that breed on land.

“We found that 81 per cent of the buildings in the Antarctic are located within just 0.44 per cent of the land that is free of ice.”

Mr Brooks said future increases in research activity and tourism were expected to put further human pressure on the continent in coming years.

“The data we have collected can be used to inform decision-making on Antarctic conservation and environmental management, as well as to track future impacts and changes.

“It may also serve to encourage greater coordination and sharing of facilities between nations and users accessing Antarctica, to help limit the human footprint.

“There is a growing tension between the increasing pressure for access to the continent and international commitments to protect the Antarctic environment.

“Hopefully our research can help to inform a sustainable balance between these competing imperatives,” Mr Brooks said.

Source: University of Tasmania [March 04, 2019]



New key players in the methane cycle

Methane is a very special molecule. It is the main component of natural gas and we heat our apartments with it, but when reaching the atmosphere it is a potent greenhouse gas. It is also central in microbiology: In the absence of oxygen, a special group of microorganisms, the so-called methanogenic archaea, can produce methane. Other microorganisms – archaea living in symbiosis with bacteria – can use methane as a food source.

New key players in the methane cycle
Hot springs such as the Tengchong Yunnan hot spring in China are a preferred habitat
of the investigated microorganisms [Credit: Prof. Wenjun Li]

Regardless of whether methane is produced or consumed, the same enzyme is the key: methyl coenzyme M-reductase (MCR). This enzyme produces methane, but it can also be used to break up this gas. This enzyme produces methane and can break this gas up again.
For a long time, scientists believed that only a few species of microbes could convert methane in one way or another. Recently, however, increasing evidence has sprung up that important key players in the methane cycle have been overlooked.

Searching for the genome needle in a sequence haystack

Scientists from Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China, and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen have now taken a closer look at this. They scoured global genome databases, in which innumerable information on the genes found in the environment so far is collected, for new methane organisms. Their trick: They did not look for specific organisms, but for the key enzyme.

In his search for gene sequences similar to the known MCR genes, first author Yinzhao Wang from Jiao Tong University soon found what he was looking for. He discovered a number of previously unknown genes that carry the necessary information for the production of MCR. “These MCRs can be roughly divided into three groups,” says Yinzhao Wang. “One group comprises the known gene sequences. The other two groups are completely new”.

The researchers used these new sequences as the first piece of the puzzle to bin complete genomes from the vast amount of data available. The results were stunning: The assembled genomes were completely different from those of known methane microbes.

“For example, we found MCR in Archaeoglobi and in archaea from the TACK superphylum. Such metabolic pathways have not previously been suspected in these organisms,” says Fengping Wang from Jiao Tong University, the initiator of the study.

The results now published show that different variants of the methane metabolism are widespread in archaea. This suggests a greater importance of these microorganisms in global carbon balancing than previously assumed.

New species and metabolic pathways

What the microbes do with these metabolic pathways in detail has not yet been clarified. Some organisms seem to produce methane. Others, on the other hand, seem to oxidize it. “Our results are very exciting! We presumably discovered the first archaea that can breathe methane with sulfate without partner bacteria,” says Gunter Wegener from the Max Planck Institute in Bremen.

“Others obviously don’t feed on methane, but on higher hydrocarbons.” The genomes alone only provide clues to the way of life of these archaea. “We often do not know in which direction the organisms use the apparently very flexible metabolic pathway of methane production,” Wegener continues.

From the database to the lab

In order to understand exactly what the discovered organisms are doing and to test the genome-based hypotheses, the researchers from Bremen and Shanghai will now jointly try to cultivate these organisms (i.e. grow them in the laboratory). It’s not that easy though – they seem to prefer life in hot springs and in deep subsurface habitats. With material from these places, the scientists will begin their cultivation experiments.

The research is published in Nature Microbiology.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology [March 04, 2018]



Due to humans, extinction risk for 1,700 animal species to increase by 2070

As humans continue to expand our use of land across the planet, we leave other species little ground to stand on. By 2070, increased human land-use is expected to put 1,700 species of amphibians, birds, and mammals at greater extinction risk by shrinking their natural habitats, according to a study by Yale ecologists published in Nature Climate Change.

Due to humans, extinction risk for 1,700 animal species to increase by 2070
The Nile lechwe is an already endangered antelope species in East Africa. This study predicts that under the most
plausible ecological future(s) it may lose 70% of its remaining habitat due to large-scale, human-driven
land conversions, such as those already underway to support agricultural exports to Asia
[Credit: Michael S. Helfenbein]

To make this prediction, the ecologists combined information on the current geographic distributions of about 19,400 species worldwide with changes to the land cover projected under four different trajectories for the world scientists have agreed on as likely. These potential paths represent reasonable expectations about future developments in global society, demographics, and economics.

“Our findings link these plausible futures with their implications for biodiversity,” said Walter Jetz, co-author and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and of forestry and environmental studies at Yale. “Our analyses allow us to track how political and economic decisions — through their associated changes to the global land cover — are expected to cause habitat range declines in species worldwide.”

The study shows that under a middle-of-the-road scenario of moderate changes in human land-use about 1,700 species will likely experience marked increases in their extinction risk over the next 50 years: They will lose roughly 30-50% of their present habitat ranges by 2070. These species of concern include 886 species of amphibians, 436 species of birds, and 376 species of mammals — all of which are predicted to have a high increase in their risk of extinction.

Among them are species whose fates will be particularly dire, such as the Lombok cross frog (Indonesia), the Nile lechwe (South Sudan), the pale-browed treehunter (Brazil) and the curve-billed reedhaunter (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay) which are all predicted to lose around half of their present day geographic range in the next five decades. These projections and all other analyzed species can be examined at the Map of Life website.

“The integration of our analyses with the Map of Life can support anyone keen to assess how species may suffer under specific future land-use scenarios and help prevent or mitigate these effects,” said Ryan P. Powers, co-author and former postdoctoral fellow in the Jetz Lab at Yale.

Species living in Central and East Africa, Mesoamerica, South America, and Southeast Asia will suffer the greatest habitat loss and increased extinction risk. But Jetz cautioned the global public against assuming that the losses are only the problem of the countries within whose borders they occur.

“Losses in species populations can irreversibly hamper the functioning of ecosystems and human quality of life,” said Jetz. “While biodiversity erosion in far-away parts of the planet may not seem to affect us directly, its consequences for human livelihood can reverberate globally. It is also often the far-away demand that drives these losses — think tropical hardwoods, palm oil, or soybeans — thus making us all co-responsible.”

Author: Kendall Teare | Source: Yale University [March 04, 2019]



Northeast India throws up Asia’s oldest bamboo fossils

Northeast India, a bamboo hotspot, has thrown up several bamboo fossils. One of them at around 28 million years old, is the oldest Asian bamboo fossil ever unearthed.

Northeast India throws up Asia’s oldest bamboo fossils
The scientists came across the fossils on their digs in north-east India
[Credit: Gaurav Srivastava]

Scientists from institutes including Lucknow’s Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences came across the fossils on their digs in northeast India. At Assam’s Makum Coalfield, they came across three culm (bamboo stem) fossils, one almost a metre long. At the Subansiri Formation of Doimara in Arunachal Pradesh, the team also came across two bamboo leaf fossils.

The team compared these culm and leaf fossils to extant bamboo species at the bamboo garden in China’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden and samples at the Botanical Survey of India (Kolkata). The leaf fossils belong to two different bamboos, Bambusium doimaraense and B. arunachalense (named after where they were unearthed from), approximately 10 million years old (dating to the age of the sandstone deposits, in the late Miocene-Pliocene).

The culm fossils have been named new species too: Bambusiculmus tirapensis and Bambusiculmus makumensis. These are around 28 million years old and date to the late Oligocene period. According to the scientists who published their work in the Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, the culm fossils are the earliest evidence of bamboos in Asia (so far, bamboo fossils from Asia date back only to the Neogene (3 to 23 million years ago)).

These fossil finds raise two important points, according to lead author Gaurav Srivastava (Birbal Sahni Institute). “The earliest bamboos in Asia probably originated in eastern Gondwana, which comprises India too,” he says. “Independent molecular studies also suggest this. This is not surprising because northeast is a centre of diversity for bamboos, as is nearby southern China.”

Secondly, based on vegetation reconstruction and climate prediction studies, ancient bamboos probably evolved during a warm and humid period, he adds. “However, they seem to have adapted over the years and modern bamboos are found in both warm and cold climates now,” he says.

Author: Aathira Perinchery | Source: The Hindu [March 04, 2019]



‘Elixir of immortality’ found in central China’s ancient tomb

Archaeologists in central China’s Henan Province said Friday that the liquid found in a bronze pot unearthed from a Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-8 AD) tomb is an “elixir of life” recorded in ancient Taoist literature.

'Elixir of immortality' found in central China's ancient tomb
Archaeologists in central China’s Henan province said have found a bronze pot which they believe contains
a sample of the legendary ‘Elixir of Life’ referred to in ancient Chinese text [Credit: VCG]

About 3.5 litres of the liquid was excavated from the tomb of a noble family in the city of Luoyang last October. It was initially judged by archaeologists to be liquor as it gave off an alcohol aroma.
However, further lab research found that the liquid is mainly made up of potassium nitrate and alunite, the main ingredients of an immortality medicine mentioned in an ancient Taoist text, according to Pan Fusheng, leading archaeologist of the excavation project.

'Elixir of immortality' found in central China's ancient tomb
Archaeologists unearth the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-8 AD) tomb in Luoyang,
  Central China’s Henan Province [Credit: VCG]

“It is the first time that mythical ‘immortality medicines’ have been found in China,” said Shi Jiazhen, head of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Luoyang.
“The liquid is of significant value for the study of ancient Chinese thoughts on achieving immortality and the evolution of Chinese civilization,” Shi added.

'Elixir of immortality' found in central China's ancient tomb
A pair of bronze pots are unearthed from the Western Han Dynasty tomb in Luoyang,
Central China’s Henan Province [Credit: VCG]

A large number of color-painted clay pots, jadeware and bronze artifacts were also unearthed from the tomb, which covers 210 square metres. The remains of the tomb occupant have also been preserved.

“The tomb provides valuable material for study of the life of Western Han nobles as well as the funeral rituals and customs of the period,” Pan said.

Source: Xinhua News Agency [March 03, 2019]



Ultima Thule in 3D

NASA – New Horizons Mission patch.

March 7, 2019

Cross your eyes and break out the 3D glasses! NASA’s New Horizons team has created new stereo views of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule – the target of the New Horizons spacecraft’s historic New Year’s 2019 flyby, four billion miles from Earth – and the images are as cool and captivating as they are scientifically valuable.

Animation above: Flicker: Just watch and enjoy! Animation Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

The 3D effects come from pairing or combining images taken at slightly different viewing angles, creating a “binocular” effect, just as the slight separation of our eyes allows us to see three-dimensionally. For the images on this page, the New Horizons team paired sets of processed images taken by the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 5:01 and 5:26 Universal Time on Jan. 1, from respective distances of 17,400 miles (28,000 kilometers) and 4,100 miles (6,600 kilometers), offering respective original scales of about 430 feet (130 meters) and 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel.

Image above: View with 3D Glasses: This image of Ultima Thule can be viewed with red-blue stereo glasses to reveal the Kuiper Belt object’s three-dimensional shape.
Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

The viewing direction for the earlier sequence was slightly different than the later set, which consists of the highest-resolution images obtained with LORRI. The closer view offers about four times higher resolution per pixel but, because of shorter exposure time, lower image quality. The combination, however, creates a stereo view of the object (officially named 2014 MU69) better than the team could previously create.

Artist’s view of New Horizons flyby Ultima Thule. Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL

“These views provide a clearer picture of Ultima Thule’s overall shape,” said mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, “including the flattened shape of the large lobe, as well as the shape of individual topographic features such as the “neck” connecting the two lobes, the large depression on the smaller lobe, and hills and valleys on the larger lobe.”

Image above: Parallel: For this view, change your focus from the image by looking “through” it (and the screen) and into the distance. This will create the effect of a third image in the middle; try setting your focus on that third image. Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

“We have been looking forward to this high-quality stereo view since long before the flyby,” added John Spencer, New Horizons deputy project scientist from SwRI. “Now we can use this rich, three-dimensional view to help us understand how Ultima Thule came to have its extraordinary shape.” 

Image above: Cross-Eyed: For this view, cross your eyes until the pair of images merges into one. It might help to place your finger or a pen just a couple of inches from your eyes, and focus on it. When the background image comes into focus, remove the closer object and concentrate on the image. Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The MSFC Planetary Management Office provides the NASA oversight for the New Horizons. Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, directs the mission via Principal Investigator Stern, and leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

New Horizons: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: MASA/Tricia Talbert.

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2,500-year-old crop seeds discovered in Bangladesh

Archaeologists have found crop seeds as old as 2,500 years in Bogura’s Mahasthangarh and which, they believe, will help them discover many aspects of ancient Bengal’s agricultural practices and environmental condition.

2,500-year-old crop seeds discovered in Bangladesh
The discovered crop seeds [Credit: The Daily Star]

This is the first time archaeologists are researching crop seeds to determine Bangladesh’s ancient civilisation, Mizanur Rahman Zami, assistant professor at Jahangirnagar University’s Archaeology department, told The Daily Star recently.

Zami led a team of archaeologists that found the seeds through an excavation carried out between February 3 and 23. The team included 30 students from the JU department and officials from the government’s archaeological department.

Digging 4.3 metres into the ground, the team collected nearly 10,000 crop seeds, including that of rice, corn, beans, chickpeas, lentil, muug daal and cotton, he said.

“Analysing those crops, it’s possible to know many crucial information, including the climatic condition of that period. It will also reveal information about human migration through Bangladesh and give a clear concept about ancient Bangladeshi civilisation,” he said.

The team also found artifact like pieces of earthen Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) which dates back to around 2,500 years.

“So we get a relative date of those crops that used to be cultivated in those areas at least 2500 years ago. We could get older evidence if we excavated further,” said Zami, who did his post graduation on Environmental Archaeology from London School of Archaeology.

2,500-year-old crop seeds discovered in Bangladesh
Digging trenches in Bogura’s Mahasthangarh, archaeologists have recently found around 10,000 crop seeds and
pieces of earthen northern black polished ware (below), which they think might be around 2,500 years old
[Credit: The Daily Star]

The archaeologist thinks the most significant discovery of the excavation was finding some samples of Oryza Sativa Aus rice, one of the three wild rice varieties of Asia, which researchers believe could have its origin in Bengal and Assam.

There are two other wild rice varieties – Oryza Sativa Japoica which originated in China nearly 12,000 years ago and Oryza Sativa Indica nearly 10,000 years ago in the Ganges plain of northern India. All the rice varieties available now came from those three wild varieties. But researchers are still not certain about the origin of ‘Aus’ wild rice variety.

“Analysing the morphology of the rice we got in Bogura, we can primarily say that it is ‘Aus’ rice variety,” Zami said, adding, “However, a lot of research — profiling of the DNA and isotope of samples — is needed to be absolutely sure about it.”

The research can prove that Pundru civilization (in Bogura) is older than what was thought earlier (around 2000 years). It may also prove that there was an agro-based village civilisation in that area before urban settlement replaced it.

Zami said he would soon take the samples to a laboratory in the UK for testing.

After analysis of the DNA and isotope of the samples, it would be possible to get an idea about the crop pattern, agriculture method, food habit and many other indicators of the civilisation of the ancient Bengal, he said.

2,500-year-old crop seeds discovered in Bangladesh
Pieces of earthen northern black polished ware [Credit: The Daily Star]

It will also give a clear idea about the environment and climatic condition of that period, he said, adding that analysis of the crop would also help reveal the route of human migration through Bengal.

“Because people stopped migration when they started living in a certain place and domesticated the wild crop. It helped civilisation to evolve,” he said.

Asked, eminent archaeologist Prof Sufi Mustafizur Rahman of Jahangirnagar University, said archaeological evidence like palace, temple and mosque usually gives a glimpse of the history relating to kings and emperors. It does not give any idea about the common people, their agricultural practices, culture and how their civilisation evolved.

“But research on crop seeds, pollens from the ancient period gives us that opportunity to know the history of environment. It helps us determine when and from where people came and also the climate of a particular period,” he said.

“This research is also important as it will help claim intellectual property right upon any certain crop if we could prove that that particular crop originated from our land,” added Sufi Mustafizur Rahman, who has long been working on the archaeological sites at Wari Bateshwar and Bikrampur.

Author: Pinaki Roy | Source: The Daily Star [March 04, 2019]



Biologists experimentally trigger adaptive radiation

When naturalist Charles Darwin stepped onto the Galapagos Islands in 1835, he encountered a bird that sparked a revolutionary theory on how new species originate. From island to island, finches had wildly varied beak designs that reflected their varied diets. The so-called Darwin’s finches are an emblem of adaptive radiation, which describes when organisms from a single lineage evolve different adaptations in response to competitors or predators.

Biologists experimentally trigger adaptive radiation
The changes in colour are as light as the lightest species and as dark as the darkest species
in the entire genus – and this genus has been evolving for millions of years
[Credit: Adapted from Bush et. al. 2019]

Scientists think that adaptive radiation generates much of the biodiversity on Earth, yet most studies focus on groups that have already diversified. A new study took the opposite approach.
University of Utah biologists experimentally triggered adaptive radiation; they used host-specific parasites isolated on individual pigeon “islands.” The scientists showed that descendants of a single population of feather lice adapted rapidly in response to preening, the pigeons’ main defense.

Biologists experimentally trigger adaptive radiation
The biologists painted the backs of feather lice, half with black paint, and half with white paint, and put them
on black, gray and white pigeons. Lice painted the ‘wrong’ colour – black lice on white feathers
and vice versa – were 40 percent more likely to be preened than cryptically coloured lice
[Credit: Adapted from Bush et. al. 2019]

They found that preening drives rapid and divergent camouflage in feather lice (Columbicola columbae) transferred to different coloured rock pigeons (Colombia livia). Over four years and 60 generations, the lice evolved heritable colour differences that spanned the full colour range of the lice genus found on 300 bird species worldwide.
“The changes in colour that we saw are as light as the lightest species and as dark as the darkest species in the entire genus–and this genus has been evolving for millions of years,” said Sarah Bush, associate professor in biology at the U and lead author of the paper. “The changes and selection that happens day to day are the same patterns that we see over millions of years.”

Biologists experimentally trigger adaptive radiation
Pigeons defend themselves against lice by preening. Conspicuous lice are more
likelyto be picked off by prying beaks [Credit: Sydney Stringham]

This is the first study to show that the evolutionary changes that occurred within a single species (microevolution) echoed changes in colour among different species that diverged millions of years ago (macroevolution).
“People have been trying to bridge micro- and macro- evolution for a long time,” said Dale Clayton, professor in biology at the U and co-author of the paper. “This study actually does it. That’s a big deal.”

The study has been published in the journal Evolution Letters.

Source: University of Utah [March 05, 2019]



Dingoes should remain a distinct species in Australia

Since the arrival of British settlers over 230 years ago, most Australians have assumed dingoes are a breed of wild dog. But 20 leading researchers have confirmed in a new study that the dingo is actually a unique, Australian species in its own right.

Dingoes should remain a distinct species in Australia
Dingo in Sturt National Park in NSW, Australia 
[Credit: Bob Tamayo/University of Sydney]

Following previous analyses of dingo skull and skin specimens to come to the same conclusion, these latest findings provide further evidence of specific characteristics that differentiate dingoes from domestic dogs, feral dogs, and other wild canids such as wolves.

The finding that a dingo is a dingo, and not a dog, offers an opposing view compared to a another recent study that the Government of Western Australia used to justify its attempt to declare the dingo as ‘non-fauna’, which would have given more freedom to landowners to kill them anywhere without a license.

Co-author Professor Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University in South Australia says the classification of dingoes has serious consequences for the fragile ecosystems they inhabit, and state governments are required to develop and implement management strategies for species considered native fauna.

“In fact, dingoes play a vital ecological role in Australia by outcompeting and displacing noxious introduced predators like feral cats and foxes. When dingoes are left alone, there are fewer feral predators eating native marsupials, birds and lizards”.

“Dingoes can also increase profits for cattle graziers, because they target and eat kangaroos that otherwise compete with cattle for grass in semi-arid pasture lands,”, says Professor Bradshaw.

Lead author, Dr Bradley Smith from Central Queensland University, says the scientific status of the dingo has remained contentious, resulting in inconsistency in government policy.

“The dingo has been geographically isolated from all other canids, and genetic mixing driven mainly by human interventions has only been occurring recently,” Dr Smith says.

“Further evidence in support of dingoes being considered a ‘wild type’ capable of surviving in the absence of human intervention and under natural selection is demonstrated by the consistent return of dog-dingo hybrids to a dingo-like canid throughout the Australian mainland and on several islands.”

“We have presented scientifically valid arguments to support the ongoing recognition of the dingo as a distinct species (Canis dingo), as was originally proposed by Meyer in 1793.”

Dr Smith says little evidence exists to support the notion that any canid species are interchangeable with dingoes, despite the fact that most canids can successfully interbreed.

“There is no historical evidence of domestication once the dingo arrived in Australia, and the degree of domestication prior to arrival is uncertain and likely to be low, certainly compared to modern domestic dogs.”

“We show that dingoes have survived in Australia for thousands of years, subject to the rigours of natural selection, thriving in all terrestrial habitats, and largely in the absence of human intervention or aid.

“The dingo is without doubt a native Australian species”, concludes Professor Bradshaw.

Source: Flinders University [March 05, 2019]



Scientists put ichthyosaurs in virtual water tanks

Using computer simulations and 3D models, palaeontologists from the University of Bristol have uncovered more detail on how Mesozoic sea dragons swam.

Scientists put ichthyosaurs in virtual water tanks
3D models of the nine ichthyosaurs analyzed by the researchers, shown in their evolutionary context
[Credit: Gutarra et al., 2019]

The research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, sheds new light on their energy demands while swimming, showing that even the first ichthyosaurs had body shapes well adapted to minimise resistance and maximise volume, in a similar way to modern dolphins.

Ichthyosaurs are an extinct group of sea-going reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic Era, around 248-93.9 million years ago.

During their evolution, they changed shape substantially, from having narrow, lizard-like bodies to more streamlined fish-shaped bodies.

It was assumed that the change in body shape made them more efficient swimmers, especially by reducing the drag of the body, in other words, the resistance to movement.

If they could produce less resistance for a given body mass, they would have more power for swimming, or swimming would take less effort. Then they could swim longer distances or reach faster speeds.

Susana Gutarra, a PhD student in palaeobiology at the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, said: “To test whether fish-shaped bodies helped ichthyosaurs reduce the energy demands of swimming, we made 3D models of several different ichthyosaurs.

“We also created a model of a bottlenose dolphin, a living species which can be observed in the wild, so we could test if the method worked.”

Dr Colin Palmer, a hydrodynamics expert and a collaborator, added: “Susana used classic methods from ship design to test these ancient reptiles.

“The software builds a “virtual water tank” where we can control variables like the temperature, density and speed or water, and that allow us to measure all resulting forces. The model ichthyosaurs were put into this “tank”, and fluid flow conditions modelled, in the same way ship designers test different hull shapes to minimize drag and improve performance.”

Scientists put ichthyosaurs in virtual water tanks
Computational simulation of flow over the 3D models of two ichthyosaurs and a bottlenose dolphin. Velocity
 plot (left) and pressure coefficient (right) for a primitive ichthyosaur (Chaohusaurus), a derived
fish-shaped ichthyosaur (Ophthalmosaurus) and a modern bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops)
[Credit: Susana Gutarra, University of Bristol]

Professor Mike Benton, also from Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences and a collaborator, said: “Much to our surprise, we found that the drastic changes to ichthyosaur body shape through millions of years did not really reduce drag very much.

“All of them had low-drag designs, and body shape must have changed from long and slender to dolphin-like for another reason. It seems that body size mattered as well.”

Susana Gutarra added: “The first ichthyosaurs were quite small, about the size of an otter, and later ones reached sizes of 5-20 metres in length.

“When we measured flow over different body shapes at different sizes, we found that large bodies reduced the mass-specific energy demands of steady swimming.”

Dr Benjamin Moon, another collaborator from Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, said: “There was a shift in swimming style during ichthyosaur evolution. The most primitive ichthyosaurs swam by body undulations and later on they acquired broad tails for swimming by beating their tails (more efficient for fast and sustained swimming).

However, we found that some very early ichthyosaurs, like Utatsusaurus, might have been well suited for endurance swimming thanks to their large size, in spite of swimming by body undulations. Our results provide a very interesting insight into the ecology of ichthyosaurs.”

Susana Gutarra concluded: “Swimming is a very complex phenomenon and there are some aspects of it that are particularly hard to test in fossil animals, like motion.

“In the future, we’ll probably see simulations of ichthyosaurs moving through water.

“At the moment, simulating the ichthyosaurs in a static gliding position, enables us to focus our study on the morphology, minimizing our assumptions about their motion and also allow us to compare a relatively large sample of models.”

Source: University of Bristol [March 05, 2019]



Oldest human bone tattooing kit found in Tonga

Researchers have uncovered the world’s oldest known tattooist’s kit – and among the most startling conclusions is that two of the four tattooing tools found are made from human bone. The intricate, multi-toothed tattooing tools were found on Tongatapu Island – Tonga’s main island. Radiocarbon dating found them to be around 2,700 years old, making them the oldest confirmed tattooing combs found in Oceania.

Oldest human bone tattooing kit found in Tonga
The tattoo tools from Tonga (left to right) made from bird, human, bird and human bone respectively 
[Credit: Geoffrey Clark & Michelle C. Langley, 2019]

The presence of a likely ink pot originally discovered with the tools in 1963, which was documented at the time but is now missing, also makes the find the oldest complete tattooing kit to be discovered anywhere in the world.

Associate Professor Geoffrey Clark of The Australian National University (ANU) School of Culture, History & Language said the discovery sheds further light on the long-running debate about where Polynesian style tattooing first developed.

“These bone tattoo combs are a very specific type of technology found across Oceania,” Associate Professor Clark said.

“The question has always been were these tools introduced to the Pacific through migration, or were they developed in Polynesia where we know tattooing has a very prominent role in society and spread from there. This discovery pushes back the date of Polynesian tattooing right back to the beginnings of Polynesian cultures around 2,700 years ago.”

Credit: Australian National University

The tools themselves have seen very little change in almost 3000 years, with traditional tattooing equipment still used in the Pacific near identical to the ancient examples.

Dr Michelle Langley, from Griffith’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, said the discovery of early tattooing implements is exceptionally rare. “To find an entire kit is phenomenal. We very rarely find a whole kit of any type of tools in the archaeological record,” Dr Langley said.

“These artefacts show that the modern tattooist toolkit – one-piece narrow combs, haft, mallet, carbon pigment, mortar, pestle, and ink-holding vessel – were in use 2,700 years ago in West Polynesia. The kit most likely belonged to one tattoo artist.”

“One tool was broken and it looks like it was being repaired, so perhaps the kit was accidentally left behind or was too broken to bother salvaging. Perhaps the tattooist was given a new set. The actual tool itself – the comb shape and the way it’s used – hasn’t changed much, and that’s why this find is so interesting. These ancient tools continue to be used today.”

Oldest human bone tattooing kit found in Tonga
Ink staining on one of the human bone combs [Credit: Geoffrey Clark & Michelle C. Langley, 2019]

The ancient tattooist’s kit was excavated on Tongatapu by Dr Jens Poulsen, then of ANU. The entire kit was feared to have been destroyed during the 2003 Canberra bushfires. While the tattooing combs were found safe and unharmed, the ink pot has not been recovered.

A/Prof. Clark and Dr Langley, who are the first researchers to minutely study and date the kit, said the four tattooing tools are made from bone – two from a large seabird and two from large mammals.

“As there were no other mammals of that size on the island at the time, and human bone is known to be a preferred material for making tattooing combs, we believe they are most likely made from human bone,” Dr Langley said.

“Tattooing combs like these are important for making the complex linear designs famous in Oceania. Tattooing is very important in the Pacific. When Christian missionaries came through and banned tattooing on certain islands, people would travel to other islands to get their tattoos as they represented important aspects of their beliefs and traditions.”

Credit: Griffith University 

The oldest evidence for tattooed skin goes back more than 5000 years to the age of mummies in Egypt and the Italian iceman Otzi, but the tattooing tools in these places are largely unknown.

The article has been published in the Journal of Island & Coastal Archaeology.

Source: The Australian National University [March 05, 2019]



Earliest animals developed later than assumed

Sponges belong to our earliest ancestors. However, fossils, molecules and genes disagree on the rise of these early animals. A large international team of researchers around Christian Hallmann and Benjamin Nettersheim from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry now found new molecular clues suggesting that sponges may have appeared much later than commonly assumed.

Earliest animals developed later than assumed
Rhizaria algae. Fossil fat molecules apparently originate from these unicellular organisms
and are no indication of the formation of animal organisms [Credit: Fabrice Not]

Animals, the most complex form of life on our planet, have only existed for the last few hundred million years, which accounts for less than one fifth of Earth history. Prior to that, the world’s oceans were inhabited solely by microorganisms such as bacteria and algae. Finding out exactly when animals first arose is a central, yet unresolved question in evolutionary research.
In 2009 researchers discovered fossil fat molecules, presumably originating from sea-sponges, in rocks 645 million years old. Sponges belong to the oldest and most simple animals that had evolved, and their discovery in such old rocks meant that they may have been the first animals. ‘But the first unambiguous sponge fossils ever found, shaped as needles or spicules, are 100 million years younger than these old sponge molecules’, says Benjamin Nettersheim, first author of a study. ‘That’s a huge gap, the molecules and spicules cannot both be right.’ summarizes Nettersheim who recently published this critique in a News article in the same journal.

Algae instead of sponges

A team around group leader Christian Hallmann and Nettersheim, both from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, now surprisingly found the same molecules formerly attributed to sponges, in Rhizaria: a group of unicellular organisms that include many predatory algae. Ancient forms of the Rhizaria family likely date back 770 million years, much older than the sponge fossils. Thus, in principle both sponges and Rhizaria could be the source of the fat molecules found in old rocks, but the authors argue that this would be rather unrealistic.

‘From an ecological perspective Rhizaria just make so much more sense. If sponges were the source, they would have needed to occur in massive abundances, thriving virtually everywhere, even in oxygen-depleted waters where sponges typically cannot survive’, according to Nettersheim. This consideration renders it much more likely that predatory Rhizaria, not sponges, were the main producers of the ancient molecules.

‘In general there had been three lines of evidence for the rise of early animals’, says Nettersheim, ‘they all gave different ages and we didn’t know which one to trust’. One way to estimate when an organism first emerged on Earth is by using molecular clocks, which compare the genetic differences in modern representatives and lead to a date of origin. ‘However, the calibration of such molecular clocks is problematic and this gives rise to a huge uncertainty in estimated dates for the last common ancestor of animals, ranging from 1300 to 615 million years ago’, says Hallmann. The second line of evidence had been the putative sponge molecules dating back to 645 million years; the third one the even younger sponge fossils, dating back to 560 million years.

Earliest animals 560 million years ago

With the new discovery that the ancient fat molecules most likely originate from Rhizaria rather than from sponges, the oldest scientifically confirmed sponges date back to only around 560 million years ago. At the same time in Earth history the large and complex fossils of the Ediacara Fauna appeared globally. In one of these Ediacara fossils, trace-remnants of cholesterol, which is a hallmark of animal life, were recently detected by international researchers, including members of the Hallmann group. Thus, the first confirmed appearance of both sponges and cholesterol suggest that earliest members of the animal kingdom appeared around 560 million years ago.

‘In geological terms, this is right before the onset of the Cambrian Explosion of complex lifeforms 540 to 550 million years ago, and the new timing now provides us with a coherent sequence of events. ‘ says Hallmann. Using the corrected timeline, scientists can proceed to decipher the environmental context of this most important evolutionary transition that stands at the root of all complex modern life.

The findings are published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Source: Max Planck Society [March 06, 2019]



Hubble & Gaia accurately weigh the Milky Way

ESA – Hubble Space Telescope logo.

7 March 2019

Globular clusters surrounding the Milky Way (artist’s impression)

In a striking example of multi-mission astronomy, measurements from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the ESA Gaia mission have been combined to improve the estimate of the mass of our home galaxy the Milky Way: 1.5 trillion solar masses.

The mass of the Milky Way is one of the most fundamental measurements astronomers can make about our galactic home. However, despite decades of intense effort, even the best available estimates of the Milky Way’s mass disagree wildly. Now, by combining new data from the European Space Agency (ESA) Gaia mission with observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have found that the Milky Way weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses within a radius of 129 000 light-years from the galactic centre.

Previous estimates of the mass of the Milky Way ranged from 500 billion to 3 trillion times the mass of the Sun. This huge uncertainty arose primarily from the different methods used for measuring the distribution of dark matter — which makes up about 90% of the mass of the galaxy.

ESA’s Gaia satellite

“We just can’t detect dark matter directly,” explains Laura Watkins (European Southern Observatory, Germany), who led the team performing the analysis. “That’s what leads to the present uncertainty in the Milky Way’s mass — you can’t measure accurately what you can’t see!”

Given the elusive nature of the dark matter, the team had to use a clever method to weigh the Milky Way, which relied on measuring the velocities of globular clusters — dense star clusters that orbit the spiral disc of the galaxy at great distances [1].

“The more massive a galaxy, the faster its clusters move under the pull of its gravity” explains N. Wyn Evans (University of Cambridge, UK). “Most previous measurements have found the speed at which a cluster is approaching or receding from Earth, that is the velocity along our line of sight. However, we were able to also measure the sideways motion of the clusters, from which the total velocity, and consequently the galactic mass, can be calculated.” [2]

Globular cluster NGC 4147

The group used Gaia’s second data release as a basis for their study. Gaia was designed to create a precise three-dimensional map of astronomical objects throughout the Milky Way and to track their motions. Its second data release includes measurements of globular clusters as far as 65 000 light-years from Earth.

“Global clusters extend out to a great distance, so they are considered the best tracers astronomers use to measure the mass of our galaxy” said Tony Sohn (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), who led the Hubble measurements.

The team combined these data with Hubble’s unparalleled sensitivity and observational legacy. Observations from Hubble allowed faint and distant globular clusters, as far as 130 000 light-years from Earth, to be added to the study. As Hubble has been observing some of these objects for a decade, it was possible to accurately track the velocities of these clusters as well.

Globular clusters surrounding the Milky Way (artist’s impression)

“We were lucky to have such a great combination of data,” explained Roeland P. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA). “By combining Gaia’s measurements of 34 globular clusters with measurements of 12 more distant clusters from Hubble, we could pin down the Milky Way’s mass in a way that would be impossible without these two space telescopes.”

Until now, not knowing the precise mass of the Milky Way has presented a problem for attempts to answer a lot of cosmological questions. The dark matter content of a galaxy and its distribution are intrinsically linked to the formation and growth of structures in the Universe. Accurately determining the mass for the Milky Way gives us a clearer understanding of where our galaxy sits in a cosmological context.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)


[1] Globular clusters formed prior to the construction of the Milky Way’s spiral disk, where our Sun and the Solar System later formed. Because of their great distances, globular star clusters allow astronomers to trace the mass of the vast envelope of dark matter surrounding our galaxy far beyond the spiral disk.

[2] The total velocity of an object is made up of three motions — a radial motion plus two defining the sideway motions. However, in astronomy most often only line-of-sight velocities are available. With only one component of the velocity available, the estimated masses depend very strongly on the assumptions for the sideway motions. Therefore measuring the sideway motions directly significantly reduces the size of the error bars for the mass.

More information

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

ESA’s Gaia satellite was launched in 2013 to create the most precise three-dimensional map of more than one billion stars in the Milky Way. The mission has release two lots of data thus far: Gaia Data Release 1 in 2016 and Gaia Data Release 2 in 2018. More releases will follow in the coming years.

The study was presented in the paper “Evidence for an Intermediate-Mass Milky Way from Gaia DR2 Halo Globular Cluster Motions”, which will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of Laura L. Watkins (European Southern Observatory, Germany), Roeland P. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Astrophysical Sciences, USA), Sangmo T. Sohn (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), and N. Wyn Evans (University of Cambridge, UK).

Related article:

Rethinking everything we thought we knew about star clusters

Related Links:

Hubblecast 117 Light: Hubble & Gaia weigh the Milky Way: https://www.spacetelescope.org/videos/heic1905a/

Gaia Data Release 1: http://sci.esa.int/gaia/58275-data-release-1/

Gaia Data Release 2: http://sci.esa.int/gaia/60243-data-release-2/

Hubblesite release: http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2019-16

Science paper: https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/2018arXiv180411348W

Gaia mission page: http://sci.esa.int/gaia/

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope: https://www.spacetelescope.org/

Images, Animations, Text, Credits: ESA/Hubble, L. Watkins, L. Calçada/ESA/Bethany Downer/Space Telescope Science Institute/Roeland P. van der Marel/University of Cambridge/N. Wyn Evans/ESO/Laura Watkins/ATG medialab/Hubble & NASA, T. Sohn et al./Video Credits:
ESA/Hubble, NASA, L. Calçada, M.Kormesser.

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The Slow Charm of Brain Terrain

NASA – Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

March 7, 2019

You are staring at one of the unsolved mysteries on Mars. This surface texture of interconnected ridges and troughs, referred to as “brain terrain” is found throughout the mid-latitude regions of Mars. (This image is in Protonilus Mensae.)

This bizarrely textured terrain may be directly related to the water ice that lies beneath the surface. One hypothesis is that when the buried water ice sublimates (changes from a solid to a gas), it forms the troughs in the ice. The formation of these features might be an active process that is slowly occurring since HiRISE has yet to detect significant changes in these terrains.

The map is projected here at a scale of 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) per pixel. (The original image scale is 29.6 centimeters [11.7 inches] per pixel [with 1 x 1 binning] to 59.3 centimeters [23.3 inches] per pixel [with 2 x 2 binning].) North is up.

The University of Arizona, in Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colorado. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/main/index.html

Image, Text, Credits:  NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

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Crew Dragon Set for Friday Splashdown Amid Space Physics Research

ISS – Expedition 58 Mission patch.

March 7, 2019

The SpaceX Crew Dragon’s hatch is closed and the stage is set for the Commercial Crew Program’s first undocking and return to Earth Friday. As NASA and SpaceX get ready for Friday’s splashdown, the Expedition 58 crew continued exploring a variety of space physics phenomena aboard the International Space Station.

The uncrewed SpaceX DM-1 mission has one final milestone and that is the safe return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean around 8:45 a.m. EST Friday. The Crew Dragon will undock Friday at 2:31 a.m. from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. NASA TV will broadcast the departure and return activities live.

Image above: The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is the first Commercial Crew vehicle to visit the International Space Station. Here it is pictured with its nose cone open revealing its docking mechanism while approaching the station’s Harmony module on March 3, 2019. Image Credit: NASA.

The first commercial crew vehicle from SpaceX will be bringing back over 330 pounds of science gear, crew supplies and station hardware. It delivered almost 450 pounds of materials to resupply the station crew on March 3.

Science took precedence as usual aboard the orbital lab today as SpaceX prepares to welcome its Crew Dragon back on Earth.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Anne McClain spent Thursday morning setting up hardware to explore ways to improve the production of higher-quality semiconductor crystals. Afterward, she relocated the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer laptop computer that researches cosmic rays and antimatter from the Columbus lab module to the Destiny lab module.

Commander Oleg Kononenko worked throughout the day on a Russian-European experiment researching plasma physics. The Plasma Krystal-4 study observes plasma crystal formation that could inform future research and spacecraft designs.

Related links:

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

SpaceX Crew Dragon: https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

Commercial Crew Program: https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial/crew/index.html

Harmony module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/harmony

Higher-quality semiconductor crystals: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=308

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=729

Columbus lab module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/europe-columbus-laboratory

Destiny lab module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/us-destiny-laboratory

Plasma Krystal-4: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1192

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

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Norah Moran.

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