среда, 13 марта 2019 г.

Sighs Matters From groans of anguish, to sighs of delight, we…


Sighs Matters


From groans of anguish, to sighs of delight, we use nonverbal sounds to communicate feelings, creating cheerful “ah-ha” moments across language barriers. This interactive map shows thousands of ‘vocal bursts’, grouped by listeners into 24 different regions of emotion, revealing a surprising range of feelings hidden in our grunts and groans. Running a mouse pointer over the screen, you might hear a supportive “ahh”, a confused “huh?” or a chuckle of embarrassment. Most interesting, perhaps, are the sounds which blur these boundaries – surprise can be positive or negative, its tell-tale gasps close to both fear and awe. Many of these sounds may be subjective, with different listeners hearing different emotions based on past experiences. Similar maps could help doctors and researchers to investigate emotional perception in people with conditions like dementia and autism.


Written by John Ankers



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2019 March 13 Highlights of the North Spring Sky Image Credit…


2019 March 13


Highlights of the North Spring Sky
Image Credit & Copyright: Universe2go.com


Explanation: What can you see in the night sky this season? The featured graphic gives a few highlights for Earth’s northern hemisphere. Viewed as a clock face centered at the bottom, early (northern) spring sky events fan out toward the left, while late spring events are projected toward the right. Objects relatively close to Earth are illustrated, in general, as nearer to the cartoon figure with the telescope at the bottom center – although almost everything pictured can be seen without a telescope. As happens during any season, constellations appear the same year to year, and, as usual, the Lyrids meteor shower will peak in mid-April. Also as usual, the International Space Station (ISS) can be seen, at times, as a bright spot drifting across the sky after sunset. After the Vernal Equinox next week, the length of daytime will be greater than the length of nighttime in Earth’s northern hemisphere, an inequality that will escalate as the spring season develops. Also as spring ages, Jupiter becomes visible increasingly earlier in the night. As spring draws to a close, the month of May will feature two full moons, the second of which is called a Blue Moon.


∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190313.html


Agate | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral #Agate Locality: Asni,…


Agate | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral #Agate


Locality: Asni, Al Haouz Province, Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz Region, Morocco


Size: 7.5 x 6.5 x 3.5 cm


Photo Copyright © Spirifer Minerals


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Azurite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Malbunka…


Azurite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral


Locality: Malbunka Copper Mine, Areyonga, Northern Territory, Australia


Size: 4.5 x 3.6 x 1.2 cm


Photo Copyright © Spirifer Minerals


Geology Page

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Cerussite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Tsumeb…


Cerussite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral


Locality: Tsumeb Mine, Tsumeb, Oshikoto Region (Otjikoto Region), Namibia


Dimensions: 6.4 × 5.5 × 3.2 cm


Photo Copyright © Crystal Classics


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Nitrogen dioxide pollution mapped


ESA – Sentinel-5P Mission logo.


12 March 2019


New maps that use information from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite reveal nitrogen dioxide emission being released into the atmosphere in cities and towns across the globe.



 Nitrogen dioxide worldwide

Air pollution is a global environmental health problem that is responsible for millions of people dying prematurely every year. With air quality a serious concern, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite was launched in October 2017 to map a multitude of air pollutants around the globe.


The satellite carries the most advanced sensor of its type to date: Tropomi. This state-of-the-art instrument detects the unique fingerprint of atmospheric gases to image air pollutants more accurately and at a higher spatial resolution than ever before.



Nitrogen dioxide over Europe

“The European Commission is extremely satisfied with the performance of its satellite,” says Mauro Facchini from the European Commission. “It is a major step forward for Copernicus and European Union’s capacity to monitor air quality.”


It has already delivered key information on sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, for example. Now measurements gathered between April and September 2018 have been averaged to show exactly where nitrogen dioxide is polluting the air.


This kind of pollution results from traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes. It can cause significant health issues by irritating the lungs and can contribute to respiratory problems.


Henk Eskes, from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), comments, “The map shows emissions from major cities, but also medium-size towns. With Copernicus Sentinel-5P’s Tropomi instrument, we can observe pollution from individual power plants and other industrial complexes, major highways, and we can identify many more ship tracks than we could before.



Nitrogen dioxide levels over the Middle East

“The Tropomi instrument has a spatial resolution of 3.5 x 7 km, compared to the resolution of 24 × 13 km we had from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s Aura mission. Tropomi is basically ten times better.


“This is very valuable in improving our knowledge on how different sectors contribute to the overall emission of nitrogen oxides.”



Sentinel-5P

Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, added, “Although we are not thrilled to see all this pollution, we are very happy to see that the satellite is delivering on its promise.


“The spatial resolution really sets the mission apart, which is exactly what is needed to monitor air pollution and understand where it is coming from.”



Nitrogen dioxide levels over China and Japan

Vincent–Henri Peuch from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) says, “The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, known as CAMS, and operated by ECMWF on behalf of the European Union, is monitoring these nitrogen dioxide data in its daily operations.


“Current data assimilation tests show a positive impact on the air-quality forecasts, and we expect to upgrade from monitoring to operational assimilation in the coming months.”


CAMS senior scientist, Antje Inness, added, “CAMS is indeed testing the use of the nitrogen dioxide data in its global forecasting system and hopes to operationally implement this later this year.”



Tropospheric column nitrogen dioxide over Europe

“The Tropomi data show amazing details, but the combination of forecast models and satellite observations within CAMS adds extra value.


“While Tropomi provides incredible views of pollution hot spots from above, the CAMS global and European forecast models translate this information into concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants at ground level. CAMs then forecasts the values for the next four to five days.”


Related links:


Sentinel-5P: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-5P


Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service: https://atmosphere.copernicus.eu/


ECMWF: https://www.ecmwf.int/


Netherlands Space Office: http://www.spaceoffice.nl/en/


DLR: http://www.dlr.de/dlr/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-10002/


NASA Aura–OMI: https://aura.gsfc.nasa.gov/omi.html


Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Contains modified Copernicus data (2018), processed by KNMI.


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Opportunity’s Parting Shot Was a Beautiful Panorama


NASA – Mars Exploration Rover B (MER-B) patch.


March 12, 2019


Over 29 days last spring, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity documented this 360-degree panorama from multiple images taken at what would become its final resting spot in Perseverance Valley. Located on the inner slope of the western rim of Endurance Crater, Perseverance Valley is a system of shallow troughs descending eastward about the length of two football fields from the crest of Endeavor’s rim to its floor.



Image above: This image is a cropped version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The view is presented in false color to make some differences between materials easier to see. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU.


“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”



Image above: This image is an edited version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The version of the scene is presented in approximate true color. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU.


The trailblazing mission ended after nearly 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars, but its legacy will live on. Opportunity’s scientific discoveries contributed to our unprecedented understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, laying the groundwork for future robotic and human missions to the Red Planet.


The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111. This view combines images taken through three different Pancam filters. The filters admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).



Image above: This image is a cropped version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The panorama appears in 3D when seen through blue-red glasses with the red lens on the left. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU.


A few frames (bottom left) remain black and white, as the solar-powered rover did not have the time to record those locations using the green and violet filters before a severe Mars-wide dust storm swept in on June 2018.



Image above: Taken on June 10, 2018 (the 5,111th Martian day, or sol, of the mission) this “noisy,” incomplete image was the last data NASA’s Opportunity rover sent back from Mars. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU.


The gallery includes the last images Opportunity obtained during its mission (black-and-white thumbnail images from the Pancam that were used to determine how opaque the sky was on its last day) and also the last piece of data the rover transmitted (a “noisy,” incomplete full-frame image of a darkened sky).



Image above: These two thumbnail images, with the ghostly dot of a faint Sun near the middle of each, are the last images NASA’s Opportunity rover took on Mars. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU.


After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019.


JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, managed the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. 


For more information about Opportunity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and https://mars.nasa.gov/mer/.


For more information about the agency’s Mars Exploration program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Dwayne Brown/JoAnna Wendel/JPL/DC Agle.


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Before Launch and Spacewalks, Science Reigns Supreme Aboard Orbiting Lab


ISS – Expedition 58 Mission patch.


March 12, 2019


As the Soyuz MS-12 that will carry the Expedition 59 crew to the International Space Station Thursday was erected on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 58 resumed research and routine maintenance after their off-duty day Monday.



Image above: On March 12, 2019, the Soyuz rocket is raised into vertical position on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA.


NASA astronaut Anne McClain conducted botany work with the VEG-03 experiment, which builds on what scientists have initially learned about harvesting vegetation in space with VEG-01. This time around, testing will demonstrate plant growth with a new batch of crops, including red romaine lettuce, extra dwarf Pak Choi, red Russian kale and wasabi mustard. McClain also spent time on life-support system upkeep in the Kibo lab module and maintenance in the U.S. lab on an EXPRESS rack—hardware integral to providing structural interfaces and support for science experiments with power, data, cooling, water and other items needed for successful operations.



Soyuz-FG with TPK Soyuz MS-12 installed at the launch-pad

In the Quest airlock, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques completed additional prep work for upcoming spacewalks slated for March 22, 29 and April 8 by scrubbing cooling loops and performing leak checks on the spacesuits. After resupplying the Human Research Facility-2 rack, Saint Jacques added input to a questionnaire for Behavioral Core Measures, an investigation that seeks to create a standardized toolkit to rapidly and reliably assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders that could occur with longer space missions.



International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Meanwhile, Commander Oleg Kononenko from Roscosmos ticked off additional maintenance tasks by cleaning panels in the Zvezda service module and performing fluid transfers to the Progress 71 resupply ship.


Related links:


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


Expedition 59: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition59/index.html


VEG-03: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=842


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


EXPRESS rack—hardware: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=598


Quest airlock: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/joint-quest-airlock


Human Research Facility-2: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=58


Behavioral Core Measures: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7537


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


Progress 71: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2018/11/16/russias-cargo-craft-blasts-off-to-station-for-sunday-delivery/


NASA TV: https://www.nasa.gov/live/


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


Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Catherine Williams/Roscosmos.


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NASA Selects Teams to Study Untouched Moon Samples



NASA – Apollo 17 Mission patch.


March 12, 2019


NASA has selected nine teams to continue the science legacy of the Apollo missions by studying pieces of the Moon that have been carefully stored and untouched for nearly 50 years. A total of $8 million has been awarded to the teams.



Image above: 11 December 1972 — Scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt collects lunar rake samples at Station 1 during the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. Schmitt is the lunar module pilot. The Lunar Rake, an Apollo Lunar Geology Hand Tool, is used to collect discrete samples of rocks and rock chips ranging in size from one-half inch (1.3 cm) to one inch (2.5 cm). Image Credits: Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander.


“By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the Moon and beyond, “ said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. “This exploration will bring with it new and unique samples into the best labs right here on Earth.”


Six of the nine teams will look at one of the three remaining lunar samples, from Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17, which have never been exposed to Earth’s atmosphere. The particular sample these teams will study came to Earth vacuum-sealed on the Moon by the Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Gene Cernan in 1972.


The Apollo 17 sample comprises about 800 grams (1.8 pounds) of material, still encased in a “drive tube” that was pounded into the lunar regolith to collect a core of material. That core preserves not just the rocks themselves but also the stratigraphy from below the surface so today’s scientists can, in a laboratory, study the rock layers exactly as they existed on the Moon. The core has been carefully stored at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, since December 1972.



Earth’s Moon. Image Credit: NASA

Other teams will be studying samples that have also been specially curated, some from Apollo 17 that were brought to Earth and then kept frozen, and samples from the Apollo 15 mission which have been stored in helium since 1971.


NASA has only collected samples from a few places on the Moon so far, but NASA knows from the remote sensing data that the Moon is a complex geologic body. From orbit, the agency has identified types of rocks and minerals that are not present in the Apollo sample collection. 


“Returned samples are an investment in the future. These samples were deliberately saved so we can take advantage of today’s more advanced and sophisticated technology to answer questions we didn’t know we needed to ask,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington, DC.


The nine institutions include:


NASA Ames Research Center/Bay Area Environmental Research Institute: A team led by Alexander Sehlke will complete an experiment started 50 years ago by studying the frozen lunar samples from Apollo 17 to see how volatiles like water are stored in the radiation environment of the lunar surface, which is not protected by an atmosphere like Earth.


NASA Ames – A team led by David Blake and Richard Walrothwill study the vacuum-sealed sample to study “space weathering” or how exposure to the space environment affects the Moon’s surface.


NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center: A team led by Jamie Elsila Cook will study the vacuumed-sealed sample to better understand how small organic molecules—namely, precursors to amino acids—are preserved on the Moon.


NASA Goddard: A team led by Barbara Cohen and Natalie Curran will study the vacuum-sealed sample to investigate the geologic history of the Apollo 17 site. They’ll specifically be looking at the abundance of noble gases in the sample, which can tell them about the sample’s age.


University of Arizona: A team led by Jessica Barnes will study how curation affects the amount of hydrogen-bearing minerals in lunar soil, which will help us better understand how water is locked in minerals on the Moon.


University of California Berkeley: A team led by Kees Welten will study how micrometeorite and meteorite impacts may have affected the geology of the lunar surface.


US Naval Research Laboratory. A team led by Katherine Burgess will look at the frozen samples and the samples stored in helium to study how airless bodies are affected by exposure to the space environment.


University of New Mexico: A team led by Chip Shearer will look at the vacuum-sealed sample to study the geologic history of the Apollo 17 site. They will be studying samples from a region that had been cold enough for water to freeze—called a “cold trap.” This will be the first time a sample from one of these cold traps will be examined in the lab.


Mount Holyoke College/Planetary Science Institute: A team led by Darby Dyar will look at both the vacuum-sealed samples and samples stored on helium to study volcanic activity on the Moon. They’ll specifically look at tiny glass beads that formed rapidly during an ancient lunar eruption.


The samples won’t be opened right away. First, the teams will work together and with the curation staff at NASA Johnson to determine the best way to open the sample to avoid contaminating them and maximize the science to be gained.


The teams for the Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis grants were selected by the Planetary Science Division and will be funded by the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program.


NASA is going to the Moon and on to Mars, in a measured, sustainable way. The direction from Space Policy Directive-1 builds on the hard work NASA is doing on its SLS and Orion spacecraft, agency efforts to enable commercial partners, its work with international partners at the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, and what NASA learns from its current robotic missions at the Moon and Mars. Learn more at: https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars


Related links:


Apollo 17: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo17.html


Apollo: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/index.html


Space Policy Directive-1: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/new-space-policy-directive-calls-for-human-expansion-across-solar-system


Earth’s Moon: http://www.nasa.gov/moon


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert/Noah Michelsohn/Dwayne Brown/JoAnna Wendel.


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China Space Station to be completed in 2022


CASC – China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.


March 12, 2019



China Space Station

The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) announced Monday that the core module of the country’s space station, the Long March-5B carrier rocket and its payloads will be sent to the launch site in the second half of this year, to make preparations for the space station missions.


China is scheduled to complete the construction of the space station around 2022. It will be the country’s space lab in long-term stable in-orbit operation.


The space station will have a core module and experiment modules, which are under development and will be launched into space by the Long March-5B.


Joint exercises will be carried out in the Wenchang Space Launch Center at the end of 2019 for the maiden flight of the Long March-5B.


Programs to select and train astronauts are underway.



China Space Station to be completed in 2022

Video above: China Space Station is expected to be completed in 2022. In 2019, a Long March-5B rocket is scheduled to launch the first module, the Tianhe-1 core module. Zhang Bainan, chief engineer, China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), explains the progress so far and the path forward. Video Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews.


China is committed to making the country’s space station an international platform for scientific and technological cooperation, according to the CMSEO.


In June this year, the CMSEO will work with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to complete the application selection of China’s space station and launch a number of cooperation projects.


China’s Tiangong-2 space lab, launched on Sept. 15, 2016, is conducting in-orbit tests and will de-orbit after July this year.


Related links:


CASC Press Release: http://english.spacechina.com/n16421/n17212/c2509363/content.html


For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit: http://english.spacechina.com/n16421/index.html


Image, Video (mentioned), Text, Credit: CASC.


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Scientists go to extremes to reveal make-up of Earth’s core…


Scientists go to extremes to reveal make-up of Earth’s core http://www.geologypage.com/2019/03/scientists-go-to-extremes-to-reveal-make-up-of-earths-core.html


Teenage T. rex was already chomping on prey…


Teenage T. rex was already chomping on prey http://www.geologypage.com/2019/03/teenage-t-rex-was-already-chomping-on-prey.html


Dyke cutting Canary Islands, Spain…


Dyke cutting Canary Islands, Spain http://www.geologypage.com/2019/03/dyke-cutting-canary-islands-spain.html


NASA is With You When You Fly, Even on Mars


NASA – Mars Rover 2020 logo.


March 12, 2019


According to the 1958 law that established NASA, where the first “A” in NASA stands for aeronautics, the agency is charged with solving the problems of flight within the atmosphere.


But the law doesn’t say which planet’s atmosphere.



NASA Mars Helicopter Technology Demonstration

Video above: NASA Aeronautics researchers helped to refine the design and operations of the Mars Helicopter, a technology demonstration that will travel to the Red Planet with the Mars 2020 rover. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.


In that spirit, when the decision was made to add a small helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover mission to the Red Planet, experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California looked to the agency’s finest aeronautical innovators on this planet for help.


“Flying a heavier-than-air vehicle within Mars’ thin atmosphere has never been done before, and we’re excited our aeronautics experts could help with this important space mission” said Susan Gorton, NASA’s manager for the Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) project.


This first Mars Helicopter will serve as a technology demonstrator that, if successful, will enable future scientists to remotely explore regions of the planet’s surface far from its mothership’s landing site.


“The Mars Helicopter’s initial flight will represent that planet’s version of the Wright Brothers’ achievement at Kitty Hawk and the opening of a new era,” Gorton said. “For those of us whose research revolves around all things related to flight, that would be a remarkable, historic moment.”


Still, there are no guarantees.


Cleared for Take Off


The problems facing the Mars Helicopter design team were and are daunting. The vehicle must fly in Mars’ thin atmosphere, survive brutally cold nights, and operate essentially on its own since it’s millions of miles from the nearest pilot on Earth.


Nevertheless, the engineers at JPL came up with a design that can deal with those concerns, and more.


For example, take the Martian atmosphere. At the surface where the Mars 2020 rover is targeted to land, the atmospheric pressure is equivalent to about 100,000 feet above the Earth’s surface. No helicopter has ever reached even half that distance above Earth.


Yet the Mars Helicopter will be able to fly as high as about 15 feet above the Red Planet thanks to its two sets of rotor blades – each four feet long, tip-to-tip – spinning at 2,400 rotations per minute, which is about 10 times faster than an Earth helicopter.


The smallness of the main helicopter body helps too. It’s only about the size of a softball and will weigh just under four pounds.



Image above: NASA’s Mars Helicopter, a small autonomous rotorcraft, will demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.


The plan at Mars is to attempt up to five flights, each one flying just a little farther and each lasting up to 90 seconds. A solar array on the top of the vehicle will recharge the batteries, which will be used both to rotate the blades and to keep the vehicle warm, especially at night.


And while just the act of flying the helicopter at Mars is the main goal, a small camera nearly identical in capability to the average smart phone will take pictures of the surface below for transmission back to Earth.


A Little Help


It was just after the overall Mars Helicopter concept was defined that JPL sought out the experts at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia and Ames Research Center in California to help refine and test the vehicle’s design and operation.


“When JPL asked for our expertise, we put together a small but very effective team to help them with configuration, sizing and aerodynamic performance; along with testing and simulation work,” Gorton said.


To do this the team used some of its workhorse computer tools to characterize and better understand how well the Mars Helicopter would fly in the Red Planet’s atmosphere. These included codes used to analyze conceptual design and vehicle sizing called the NASA Design and Analysis of Rotorcraft tool, as well as a more detailed computational fluid dynamics analysis tool known as OVERFLOW.



Animation above: A small but mighty NASA Aeronautics team used computer tools, including special codes, to better understand how the Mars Helicopter would fly in Mars’ atmosphere. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-CalTech.


Their work began in late 2013 and has continued to the present, Gorton said, noting that even during the recent government shutdown, one of the RVLT research engineers was called to duty to help assess the data from a round of final testing.


“When a vehicle goes to Mars it’s going to have to operate autonomously. When it gets there the whole control system and everything that makes it fly must be tuned so that it can fly on its own, which this final round of testing addressed,” Gorton said.


Back on Earth


Although not directly linked to the Mars Helicopter in terms of the technology used, the work NASA Aeronautics is doing with Urban Air Mobility (UAM) also requires many of the same kind of autonomous operational considerations, Gorton said.


One of the most important elements required for UAM to work is for the unmanned vehicle – whether it is carrying cargo or passengers in or around a large city – to be able to make immediate decisions on its own when something unexpected happens.


That could be correcting for a sudden wind shear as it flies between buildings, maneuvering away from another vehicle flying too close, or detecting a technical problem requiring a safe landing as soon as possible.


While the Mars Helicopter isn’t expected to run into any other vehicles flying about, a technical problem or unpredicted change in atmospheric conditions could require the vehicle to immediately cut power and gently drop to the surface.



Image above: Autonomous operations, like those required by the Mars Helicopter, are also required for safe air traffic operations in urban areas of a new variety of vehicles in the not-distant future. Image Credit: NASA.


“That’s what autonomous operations is all about,” Gorton said.


Looking to the future, if the Mars Helicopter works as planned, JPL scientists say future missions to the Red Planet could carry and deploy even more helicopters to extend the scientific reach of the landers they arrived on.


Should that happen, and the skies of Mars start to get a little busy with autonomous helicopters flying about, parts of a drone-related traffic management system descended from work being done today by NASA Aeronautics also could find a home on the Red Planet.


“Whatever the future holds for flight in our atmosphere, the skies above Mars, or over any other planet that’s out there, we’re ready to share the skills and expertise we’ve gained over decades of aeronautics research,” Gorton said.


Related links:


Mars 2020 rover mission: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/


Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT): https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aavp/rvlt


Urban Air Mobility (UAM): https://www.nasa.gov/aero/taking-air-travel-to-the-streets-or-just-above-them


NASA’s Langley Research Center: https://www.nasa.gov/langley


NASA’s Ames Research Center: https://www.nasa.gov/ames


NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL): https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/


NASA Design and Analysis of Rotorcraft: https://rotorcraft.arc.nasa.gov/ndarc/index.php/reports-and-papers


OVERFLOW: https://overflow.larc.nasa.gov/


Drone-related traffic management system: https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aosp/utm


Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lillian Gipson/Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate/Jim Banke.


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Atmospheric scientists reveal the effect of sea-ice loss on Arctic warming

Enhanced warming in the Arctic (north of 67°N) is found in both recent observational investigations and model simulations with greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions increasing. Global warming is occurring twice as fast in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth. However, why the largest the Arctic amplification (AA) only occurs in certain periods over areas with significant sea-ice loss is still under great debate.











Atmospheric scientists reveal the effect of sea-ice loss on Arctic warming
Sea-ice loss plays a vital important role in extraordinary
Arctic warming [Credit: Aiguo Dai]

Scientists from State University of New York, Albany and Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences found the answers by means of historical data analyzation and climate model simulations. Their analyses indicated that AA would not slow down until the 22nd and 23rd centuries, after almost all of the Arctic’s sea ice has melted away with GHGs emissions increasing.


“Rapid Arctic warming and sea ice loss are attracting a lot of attention in the media, public and scientific community. Our study links the two together and suggests that the sea ice loss is causing the rapid warming in the Arctic,” said the lead author, Aiguo DAI, In a news release. “When the sea ice melts away completely, this elevated warming will also disappear and the warming rate in the Arctic will be similar to the rest of the world,”


According to this research, the large AA only occurs in clod season (October to April), and only over the area of prominent sea-ice loss. This is mainly because seasonal sea-ice melting from May to September causes more extensive upper seawater and absorbs more sunlight during the warm season and the heat energy is stored in sea-surface Arctic waters. Most of this energy is released into the atmosphere through longwave radiation, and latent and sensible heat fluxes to heating the atmosphere during the cold season when Arctic Ocean becomes a heat source, leading to the large AA.


Scientists warn that the melting of Arctic sea ice will greatly enhance warming in Arctic for the coming decades and could also impact weather patterns in mid-latitudes, causing more frequent intrusions of winter polar vortex into China and the continental U.S., leading to extreme events including severe winter weather.


This research was published in Nature Communications.


Source: Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences [March 08, 2019]



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6500-year-old skeleton found in Bavarian cornfield

The skeleton, said to be that of a young man who lived during the Neolithic Period, the final period of the Stone Age, was well-preserved thanks to the high concentration of calcium oxide in the soil where he was buried.











6500-year-old skeleton found in Bavarian cornfield
The Middle Neolithic skeleton ‘Fred’ [Credit: Daniel Karmann/dpa]

Archaeologists are thrilled after discovering the remains of an ancient skeleton, whom they christened ‘Fred’, along with a worn-out stone axe and seeds of grain, in a dig in Lower Franconia, Bavaria, Die Welt has reported.


Thought to have lived some 6,500 years ago during the Neolithic Period, a period of prehistory during which human beings used stone tools and began to domesticate crops and animals on a widespread basis, Fred probably died at the age of 20 to 30 years old, according to archaeologists.


Lead archaeologist Scott Tucker was highly impressed by the rare find. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said, speaking to Die Welt. The local soil’s high calcium oxide content allowed the remains to stay preserved without decomposing as normal.


Fred was found under a cornfield. Excavations were carried out in the area in connection with plans by a local winery to build new facilities in the area. Archaeologists have been working in the area since November, inspecting the 13,000 square meter building site before construction begins.











6500-year-old skeleton found in Bavarian cornfield
The skeleton was discovered under a cornfield in Lower Franconia, Bavaria
[Credit: Daniel Karmann/dpa]

Finding Fred required archaeologists to remove only 30-40 centimeters of topsoil. “In Lower Franconia, not much has changed in the ground over the past millennia,” Tucker explained.


According to Dr. Heidi Peter-Rocher, a professor of archaeology at the University of Wurzburg, Fred’s bent leg burial pose was one of several used by communities in the area during the Neolithic Period. Scientists are divided about what the pose could mean, with some speculating that it is meant to emulate humans’ position at birth or during sleep.


Along with Fred, archaeologists found ceramic plates, remains of food, seashells and other graves. These included the skeleton of a 12 year old boy who was buried in the area some 4,500 years ago at the dawn of the Bronze Age.


As Welt explained, under Bavarian law, archaeological finds belong to the land’s owners, rather than the state or their finders. Due to the high costs associated with storing and caring for Fred’s remains, it’s possible that he may be handed over, preserved in the piece of land around him, to a museum. Fred will be taken to Munich for a more detailed study in the coming days.


Source: Sputnik News [March 08, 2019]



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Criteria for the reduction of environmental impact applied in the Roman Theatre of...

In the majority of studies carried out until now Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been used according to a methodology based on the final evaluation of an already finished design. This article proposes a new approach of using LCA as an evaluation tool at the time of design, so making environmental-impact reduction criteria part of the decision-making process in projects so that they affect the final outcome.











Criteria for the reduction of environmental impact applied in the Roman Theatre of Itálica
This is a live performance in the Roman Theatre of Italica (Sevilla), Spain
[Credit: Universidad de Sevilla]

However, very few studies apply Life-Cycle Analysis to heritage interventions. Taking into account the value of heritage building is necessary for planning intervention proposals with minimal environmental impact. On this matter, researchers from the Seville Higher School of Architecture have published a study in which they apply the methodology of LCA to the Roman Theatre of Itálica. Specifically, they have developed tools that link LCA and BIM software so that environmental-impact reduction criteria can be integrated into projects from the moment of their first design.


“Since 2011, we have been carrying out an intervention in the Roman Theatre of Itálica that allows it to be used as a space for contemporary dance and theatre, so that it can hold the International Dance Festival that is organised by Seville’s provincial authority (diputación provincial). The elements that have been designed, and that are some 14 metres above the stage to support the electro-acoustic equipment, are totally removable and allow the theatre to recover its original appearances when there are no performances. For the design of the final solution LCA tools were used, which, as indicated in the article, allowed the final configuration to be adjusted”, explains the University of Seville teacher, Juan Carlos Gómez de Cózar.


“Basically, the strategy of being able to reverse the intervention means that the piece of heritage can be returned to its original configuration if necessary. On the other hand, the use of LCA tools allows for the minimisation of environmental impact that a specific solution produces as opposed to other design options, thus making it possible to carry out heritage interventions that give the piece of heritage value and use and extend its useful life”, adds a member of the research group TEP-130 ‘Architecture, heritage and sustainability: acoustics, illumination, optics and energy”.


Life-cycle assessment


From the environmental point of view, life-cycle assessment applied to buildings makes it possible to calculate the impact of a building over its whole life cycle. To achieve this, every phase of this building is studied (production, construction, use, demolition and end of life) and its impact is measured in different categories, such as, for example, GWP (global warming potential). In this way, it is possible to take into account the complete impact that a building produces, both when it is being built and demolished (including both the materials and the processes that are necessary for the work) and when it is in use (if the design is not correct, the building will use a lot of energy for heating, air conditioning, lighting, etc.).


The study is published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.


Source: University of Seville [March 11, 2019]



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From Stone Age chips to microchips: How tiny tools may have made us human

Anthropologists have long made the case that tool-making is one of the key behaviors that separated our human ancestors from other primates. A new paper, however, argues that it was not tool-making that set hominins apart — it was the miniaturization of tools.











From Stone Age chips to microchips: How tiny tools may have made us human
The iconic, tear-drop shaped hand axe, which filled a human palm, required a large toolkit to produce (left),
in contrast to a toolkit for tiny flakes [Credit: Emory University]

Just as tiny transistors transformed telecommunications a few decades ago, and scientists are now challenged to make them even smaller, our Stone Age ancestors felt the urge to make tiny tools. “It’s a need that we’ve been perennially faced with and driven by,” says Justin Pargeter, an anthropologist at Emory University and lead author of the paper. “Miniaturization is the thing that we do.”


The journal Evolutionary Anthropology is publishing the paper — the first comprehensive overview of prehistoric tool miniaturization. It proposes that miniaturization is a central tendency in hominin technologies going back at least 2.6 million years.


“When other apes used stone tools, they chose to go big and stayed in the forests where they evolved,” says co-author John Shea, professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University. “Hominins chose to go small, went everywhere, and transformed otherwise hostile habitats to suit our changing needs.”


The paper reviews how stone flakes less than an inch in length — used for piercing, cutting and scraping — pop up in the archaeological record at sites on every continent, going back to some of the earliest known stone tool assemblages. These small stone flakes, Pargeter says, were like the disposable razor blades or paperclips of today — pervasive, easy to make and easily replaced.


He identifies three inflection points for miniaturization in hominin evolution. The first spike occurred around two million years ago, driven by our ancestors’ increasing dependence on stone flakes in place of nails and teeth for cutting, slicing and piercing tasks. A second spike occurred sometime after 100,000 years ago with the development of high-speed weaponry, such as the bow and arrow, which required light-weight stone inserts. A third spike in miniaturization occurred about 17,000 years ago. The last Ice Age was ending, forcing some humans to adapt to rapid climate change, rising sea levels and increased population densities. These changes increased the need to conserve resources, including the rocks and minerals needed to make tools.


A native of South Africa, Pargeter co-directs field work in that country along its rugged and remote Indian Ocean coastline and nearby inland mountains. He is also a post-doctoral fellow in Emory University’s Center for Mind, Brain and Culture and the Department of Anthropology’s Paleolithic Technology Laboratory. The lab members actually make stone tools to better understand how our ancestors learned these skills, and how that process shaped our evolution. The lab’s director, Dietrich Stout, focuses on hand axes, dating back more than 500,000 years. These larger tools are considered a turning point in human biological and cognitive evolution, due to the complexity involved in making them.


Pargeter’s work on tiny tools adds another facet to the investigation of human evolution. “He’s exploring what may have led to the compulsion to produce these tiny instruments — essentially the relationship between the tools and the human body, brain and the probable uses of the tools,” Stout says.











From Stone Age chips to microchips: How tiny tools may have made us human
The tiny crystal flake, from a site in South Africa called Boomplaas, that sparked Justin Pargeter
 to investigate Stone Age miniaturization [Credit: Justin Pargeter]

When looking for a PhD thesis topic, Pargeter first focused on collections of larger implements, considered typical of the Stone Age tool kit. He pored over artifacts from a South African site called Boomplaas that were being held in storage at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town. As he rummaged through a bag labelled as waste — containing small flakes thought to be left over from making larger tools — something caught his eye. A sliver of crystal quartz looked like it had been shaped using a highly technical method called pressure flaking.


“It was diminutive, about the size of a small raisin, and weighed less than half a penny,” he recalls. “You could literally blow it off your finger.”


Pargeter examined the flake under a magnifying glass. He noticed it had a distinctive, stair-step fracture on its tip that previous experimental research showed to be associated with damage caused in hunting.


“It suddenly occurred to me that archaeologists may have missed a major component of our stone tool record,” Pargeter says. “In our desire to make ‘big’ discoveries we may have overlooked tiny, but important, details. A whole technology could lay hidden behind our methods, relegated to bags considered waste material.”


So how to interpret the use of a tool so tiny that you could easily blow it off your finger?


Pargeter began thinking of this question in terms of the age of the flake — about 17,000 years — and the environment at the time. The last Ice Age was ending and massive melting of ice at the poles caused the global sea-level to rise. In parts of South Africa, the rising oceans swallowed an area the size of Ireland. As the coastal marshes and grasslands disappeared — along with much of the game and aquatic life — the hunter-gatherers living there fled inland to sites like Boomplaas, currently located about 80 kilometers inland. The mountains around Boomplaas provided permanent springs and other dependable freshwater sources.


The climate, however, was less predictable, with sudden shifts in temperature and rainfall. Vegetation was shifting dramatically, temperatures were rising and large mammals were increasingly scarce. Archaeology from Boomplaas shows that people ate small game like hares and tortoises. These small animals would have been easy to catch, but they provided limited nutritional packages.


“These are low-reward food sources, indicating a foraging stress signal,” Pargeter says. “Boomplaas might have even served as a type of refugee camp, with groups of hunter-gatherers moving away from the coast, trying to survive in marginal environments as resources rapidly depleted and climate change ratcheted up.”



Arrow points a little less than an inch across were already in the archaeological literature, but the Boomplaas crystal quartz flake was half that size. In order to bring down an animal, Pargeter hypothesized, the Boomplaas flake would need poison on its tip — derived either from plants or insects — and a high-speed delivery system, such as a bow and arrow.


Pargeter used his own extensive knowledge of prehistoric tool-making and archaeology to hypothesize that the tiny flake could have been hafted, using a plant-based resin, onto a link shaft, also likely made of a plant-based material, such as a reed. That link shaft, about the length of a finger, would in turn fit onto a light arrow shaft.


“The link shaft goes into the animal, sacrificing the small blade, but the arrow shaft pops out so you can retain this more costly component,” he says. “Our ancestors were masters of aerodynamics and acted like engineers, rather than what we think of as ‘cave people.’ They built redundancy into their technological systems, allowing them to easily repair their tools and to reduce the impact of errors.”


Our ancestors were also connoisseurs of the type of fine-grained rocks needed for tool-making.


Supplies of such vital toolmaking raw materials, however, were likely diminished as the rising oceans consumed land and people became more crowded together, driving them to more carefully conserve what they could find on the landscape.


As paleoanthropologists are faced with more than three million years of hominin “stuff,” one of the perennial questions they keep seeking to answer is, what makes us humans unique? “We’ve typically said that tool use makes us human, but that’s kind of buckled under,” Pargeter says, as evidence of tool use by other animals accumulates.


Macaques, for example, use rocks to smash apart oysters. Chimpanzees use rocks as hammers and anvils to crack nuts and they modify sticks to dig and fish for termites. These tools, however, are large. “The hands of other primates are not evolved for repeated fine manipulation in high-force tasks,” Pargeter says. “We’ve evolved a unique precision grip that ratchets up our ability for miniaturized technology.”


Humans are also the masters of dispersing into novel environments, unlike other primates that remained in the landscapes of their ancestors. “Smaller tools are the choice of technology for a mobile, dispersing population,” Pargeter says. “When Homo sapiens left Africa they weren’t carrying bulky hand axes, but bows and arrows and smaller stone implements.”


Author: Carol Clark | Source: Emory University [March 12, 2019]



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Early Harappan burial site found in Kutch

Archaeological excavations undertaken by a group of researchers and students of the University of Kerala in Kutch (Gujarat) have shed light on the custom and burial rituals that were prevalent during the early Harappan phase.











Early Harappan burial site found in Kutch
It’s first time rectangular burials have been found in Gujarat [Credit: Times of India]

The 47-member team, which camped in Khatiya village of Kutch for a month-and-a-half, unearthed several skeletal remains from a cemetery-like burial site where 26 graves out of the nearly 300-odd ones were excavated.
The rectangular graves, each of varying dimensions and assembled using stones, contained skeletons that were placed in a specific manner. They were oriented east-west with the heads positioned on the eastern side. Next to the legs on the western side, the archaeologists found earthen pots and pottery shards and other artefacts, including conch-shell bangles, beads made of stones and terracotta, numerous lithic tools and grinding stones.


Early Harappan burial site found in Kutch










Early Harappan burial site found in Kutch
The burial site is estimated to be 4,600 to 5,200 years old [Credit: Times of India]

“While the burial of belongings next to the corpse could possibly suggest the prevalence of the concept of afterlife, much study was required before we could arrive at any such conclusions,” says Rajesh S.V., Assistant Professor at the university’s Department of Archaeology, who along with Assistant Professor Abhayan G.S., led the excavations.
Of the 26 graves that were excavated, the biggest was 6.9 metres long and the smallest 1.2 metres long. The skeletal remains of human beings in most of them were found to be disintegrated. The presence of animal skeletons along with those of humans were also recorded in a few graves.


Early Harappan burial site found in Kutch










Early Harappan burial site found in Kutch
Skeletal remains unearthed from an early Harappan site in Kutch [Credit: The Hindu]

Interestingly, the researchers found the mode of burial to be non-uniform. Instances of primary burial and secondary burial (when the remains of the primary burial are exhumed and moved to another grave) were found. The remains of those who were possibly cremated were also found in a few graves.
The excavation team managed to recover a complete human skeleton, which was later placed in a box structure made of plaster of Paris with the assistance of Kanti Parmar, a faculty member of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. The recovered skeleton and artefacts will be kept for display at the museum of the Kerala University’s Archaeology Department. The other skeletal remains will be sent to various laboratories to run tests to understand the age, gender, circumstances that could have led to the death and the salient features of the respective DNA, Prof. Rajesh said.


Early Harappan burial site found in Kutch










Early Harappan burial site found in Kutch
The graves also contained pottery vessels placed near the feet of the deceased [Credit: Times of India]

Lending credence to the trade network that could have existed during the early phase of the Harappan civilisation from 3300 BCE to 2600 BCE, the researchers claimed that the mud pots bore similarities with those that were unearthed from other Harappan sites in Kot Diji, Amri and Nal in Pakistan, Nagwada, Santhali, Moti Pipli and Ranod in North Gujarat, and Surkotada and Dhaneti in Kutch.


Author: Sarath Babu George | Source: The Hindu [March 12, 2019]



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