пятница, 12 апреля 2019 г.

‘King’s Quoit’ Prehistoric Burial Chamber, Manorbier, Pembrokeshire,...

‘King’s Quoit’ Prehistoric Burial Chamber, Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 12.4.19.

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‘The Cockpit’ Prehistoric Stone Circle, Moor Divock Prehistoric Complex,...

‘The Cockpit’ Prehistoric Stone Circle, Moor Divock Prehistoric Complex, Cumbria, 10.4.19.

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Meteor Activity Outlook for April 13-19, 2019

This is Michel Deconinck’s impression of the 2018 Lyrids as seen from Artignosc Provence, France on the night of April 22/23 © Michel Deconinck See more of Michel’s work at: http://www.aquarellia.com/

During this period the moon will reach its full phase on Friday April 19th. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon will set during the early morning hours and will not interfere with meteor observing the remainder of the night. Next week though the window of dark skies shrinks with each passing night so by Wednesday the nearly full moon will remain above the horizon nearly all night. Hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week are near 2 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 3 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S). For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 7 as seen from mid-northern latitudes and 10 from the southern tropics. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Rates are reduced during this period due to interfering moonlight. Note that the hourly rates listed below are estimates as viewed from dark sky sites away from urban light sources. Observers viewing from urban areas will see less activity as only the brighter meteors will be visible from such locations.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning April 13/14 . These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period. Most star atlases (available at science stores and planetariums) will provide maps with grid lines of the celestial coordinates so that you may find out exactly where these positions are located in the sky. A planisphere or computer planetarium program is also useful in showing the sky at any time of night on any date of the year. Activity from each radiant is best seen when it is positioned highest in the sky, either due north or south along the meridian, depending on your latitude. It must be remembered that meteor activity is rarely seen at the radiant position. Rather they shoot outwards from the radiant so it is best to center your field of view so that the radiant lies near the edge and not the center. Viewing there will allow you to easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant (if it is a shower member) or in another direction if it is a sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located far below the horizon. The positions below are listed in a west to east manner in order of right ascension (celestial longitude). The positions listed first are located further west therefore are accessible earlier in the night while those listed further down the list rise later in the night.

Radiant Positions at 21:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

Radiant Positions at 1:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

Radiant Positions at 5:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

These sources of meteoric activity are expected to be active this week.

The pi Puppids (PPU) are active from April 17 through May 1. Maximum activity is expected on April 24 this year. The radiant is currently located at 07:00 (105) -44. This area of the sky is located in southern Puppis, directly between the 3rd magnitude stars known as sigma and nu Puppis. This area of the sky also lies 10 degrees northeast of the brilliant star known as Canopus (alpha Carinae). Activity from this source is best seen as soon as it becomes dark. Due to the southern location of this radiant, activity from the pi Puppids are best seen from the southern hemisphere where the radiant lies much higher in the evening sky. With an entry velocity of 15 km/sec., the average pi Puppid meteor would be of very slow velocity.

The center of the large Anthelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 14:28 (217) -15. This position lies in western Libra, 5 degrees west of the 3rd magnitude star known as Zubenelgenubi (αlpha2 Librae). Due to the large size of this radiant, Anthelion activity may also appear from eastern Virgo as well as Libra. This radiant is best placed near 0200 Local Daylight Saving Time (LDT), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near 2 per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Anthelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

The first signs of Lyrid (LYR) activity may appear next week from a radiant located at 17:48 (267) +33. This area of the sky is actually located in eastern Hercules, 5 degrees north of the 4th magnitude star known as mu1 Herculis. Lyrid activity is best seen during the last dark hour before the start of morning twilight. Rates are expected to be low this week as maximum activity is not until April 23rd. With an entry velocity of 46 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of medium-swift velocity.

The April epsilon Delphinids (AED) were first identified by P. Jenniskens and R. Rudawska based on studying data from SonotaCo and CAMS observations. This source is currently listed among the “working ” showers of the International Astronomical Union but may be strong enough to be observed by visual means. The exact stream duration is not available but this source should be active for a least a week centered on the April 13th maximum. The radiant position at maximum is 20:42 (310) +13. This area of the sky is located in central Delphinus, 1 degree southeast of the 4th magnitude star known as Rotanev (beta Delphini). This radiant is best placed during the last hour before dawn when it lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky. Rates at this time should be near 1 per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 41 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of medium velocity.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately 5 sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near 1 per hour. As seen from the tropical southern latitudes (25S), morning rates would be near 8 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and 2 per hour during the evening hours. Rates are reduced during this period due to moonlight.

The list below offers the information from above in a condensed form. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning except where noted in the shower descriptions.

RA (RA in Deg.) DEC Km/Sec Local Daylight Saving Time North-South
pi Puppids (PUP) Apr 24 07:00 (105) -44 15 18:00 <1 -<1 III
Anthelion (ANT) 14:00 (210) -13 30 02:00 2 – 2 II
Lyrids (LYR) Apr 23 17:48 (267) +33 46 06:00 <1 -<1 I
April epsilon Delphinids (AED) Apr 13 20:42 (310) +13 41 10:00 <1 -<1 IV

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Protect Against Obesity Around 1 in 4 adults in the UK are…

Protect Against Obesity

Around 1 in 4 adults in the UK are estimated to be obese, which can be both difficult to treat and life threatening. Obesity is commonly caused by an imbalance between the fuel we eat and the fuel our bodies need. Researchers have shifted this balance in mice to make they use more energy and so gain less weight than typical mice when eating a high-fat diet. They did this by raising levels of a protein, called AMPK, which regulates energy use. Higher levels of AMPK triggered the mice’s fat cells to develop more blood vessels and to become similar, in some ways, to muscle cells. Overall, these cellular changes made the mice use much more energy. Here, mouse fat tissue shows droplets of protein and fat (red), and each cell’s protein structure (green) and nucleus (blue). Future medicines could target AMPK to treat obesity.

Written by Deborah Oakley

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Life could be evolving right now on nearest exoplanets

Rocky, Earth-like planets orbiting our closest stars could host life, according to a new study that raises the excitement about exoplanets.

Life could be evolving right now on nearest exoplanets
The intense radiation environments around nearby M stars could favor habitable worlds resembling
younger versions of Earth [Credit: Jack O’Malley-James/Cornell University]

When rocky, Earth-like planets were discovered orbiting in the habitable zone of some of our closest stars, excitement skyrocketed – until hopes for life were dashed by the high levels of radiation bombarding those worlds.

Proxima-b, only 4.24 light years away, receives 250 times more X-ray radiation than Earth and could experience deadly levels of ultraviolet radiation on its surface. How could life survive such a bombardment? Cornell University astronomers say that life already has survived this kind of fierce radiation, and they have proof: you.

Lisa Kaltenegger and Jack O’Malley-James make their case in a new paper, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Kaltenegger is associate professor of astronomy and director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute, at which O’Malley-James is a research associate.

All of life on Earth today evolved from creatures that thrived during an even greater UV radiation assault than Proxima-b, and other nearby exoplanets, currently endure. The Earth of 4 billion years ago was a chaotic, irradiated, hot mess. Yet in spite of this, life somehow gained a toehold and then expanded.

The same thing could be happening at this very moment on some of the nearest exoplanets, according to Kaltenegger and O’Malley-James. The researchers modeled the surface UV environments of the four exoplanets closest to Earth that are potentially habitable: Proxima-b, TRAPPIST-1e, Ross-128b and LHS-1140b.

These planets orbit small red dwarf stars which, unlike our sun, flare frequently, bathing their planets in high-energy UV radiation. While it is unknown exactly what conditions prevail upon the surface of the planets orbiting these flaring stars, it is known that such flares are biologically damaging and can cause erosion in planetary atmospheres. High levels of radiation cause biological molecules like nucleic acids to mutate or even shut down.

O’Malley-James and Kaltenegger modeled various atmospheric compositions, from ones similar to present-day Earth to “eroded” and “anoxic” atmospheres – those with very thin atmospheres that don’t block UV radiation well and those without the protection of ozone, respectively. The models show that as atmospheres thin and ozone levels decrease, more high-energy UV radiation reaches the ground. The researchers compared the models to Earth’s history, from nearly 4 billion years ago to today.

Although the modeled planets receive higher UV radiation than that emitted by our own sun today, this is significantly lower than what Earth received 3.9 billion years ago.

“Given that the early Earth was inhabited,” the researchers wrote, “we show that UV radiation should not be a limiting factor for the habitability of planets orbiting M stars. Our closest neighboring worlds remain intriguing targets for the search for life beyond our solar system.”

Author: Linda B. Glaser | Source: Cornell University [April 09, 2019]



More than 90% of glacier volume in the Alps could be lost by 2100

The study, by a team of researchers in Switzerland, provides the most up-to-date and detailed estimates of the future of all glaciers in the Alps, around 4000. It projects large changes to occur in the coming decades: from 2017 to 2050, about 50% of glacier volume will disappear, largely independently of how much we cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 90% of glacier volume in the Alps could be lost by 2100
Gorner glacier at the end of the summer of 2017. The glacier is located in the Monte Rosa massif
and is the second largest glacier of the European Alps [Credit: M. Huss]

After 2050, “the future evolution of glaciers will strongly depend on how the climate will evolve,” says study-leader Harry Zekollari, a researcher at ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, now at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. “In case of a more limited warming, a far more substantial part of the glaciers could be saved,” he says.

Glacier retreat would have a large impact on the Alps since glaciers are an important part of the region’s ecosystem, landscape and economy. They attract tourists to the mountain ranges and act as natural fresh water reservoirs. Glaciers provide a source of water for fauna and flora, as well as for agriculture and hydroelectricity, which is especially important in warm and dry periods.

To find out how Alpine glaciers would manage in a warming world, Zekollari and his co-authors used new computer models (combining ice flow and melt processes) and observational data to study how each of these ice bodies would change in the future for different emission scenarios. They used 2017 as their ‘present day’ reference, a year when Alpine glaciers had a total volume of about 100 cubic kilometres.

Under a scenario implying limited warming, called RCP2.6, emissions of greenhouse gases would peak in the next few years and then decline rapidly, keeping the level of added warming at the end of the century below 2°C since pre-industrial levels. In this case, Alpine glaciers would be reduced to about 37 cubic kilometres by 2100, just over one-third of their present-day volume.

Under the high-emissions scenario, corresponding to RCP8.5, emissions would continue to rise rapidly over the next few decades. “In this pessimistic case, the Alps will be mostly ice free by 2100, with only isolated ice patches remaining at high elevation, representing 5% or less of the present-day ice volume,” says Matthias Huss, a researcher at ETH Zurich and co-author of The Cryosphere study. Global emissions are currently just above what is projected by this scenario.

The Alps would lose about 50% of their present glacier volume by 2050 in all scenarios. A reason why volume loss is mostly independent of emissions until 2050 is that increases in mean global temperature with increasing greenhouse gases only become more pronounced in the second half of the century. Another reason is that glaciers at present have ‘too much’ ice: their volume, especially at lower elevations, still reflects the colder climate of the past because glaciers are slow at responding to changing climate conditions. Even if we manage to stop the climate from warming any further, keeping it at the level of the past 10 years, glaciers would still lose about 40% of their present-day volume by 2050 because of this “glacier response time,” says Zekollari.

“Glaciers in the European Alps and their recent evolution are some of the clearest indicators of the ongoing changes in climate,” says ETH Zurich senior co-author Daniel Farinotti. “The future of these glaciers in indeed at risk, but there is still a possibility to limit their future losses.”

Source: European Geosciences Union [April 09, 2019]



New research about biodiversity accumulation in deep time reveals the importance of...

Natural history museum paleontologists in Copenhagen and Helsinki have succeeded in mapping historical biodiversity in unprecedented detail. For the first time, it is now possible to compare the impact of climate on global biodiversity in the distant past — a result that paints a gloomy picture for the preservation of present-day species richness. The study has just been published in the American journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New research about biodiversity accumulation in deep time reveals the importance of climate on today’s abundance of life
Credit: University of Copenhagen

The diversity of life on Earth is nearly unimaginable. There is such a wealth of organisms that we literally can’t count them all.

Nevertheless, there is broad consensus that biodiversity is in decline and that Earth is in the midst of a sixth extinction event — most likely due to global warming. The sixth extinction event reflects the loss of plant and animal species that scientists believe we are now facing. It is an event that, with overwhelming probability, is caused by human activity.

Assistant Professor Christian Mac Ørum of the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen leads the groundbreaking study: “One of the problems with the hypothesis of global warming is that it is difficult to predict what happens to ecosystems and biodiversity as the planet warms. By examining animals of the past and species adaptability, we can more accurately respond to the question of what leads to crises in ecosystems, and what happens thereafter. Thus far, it has been a big problem that some of the largest fluctuations in biodiversity through geological time have been exceptionally tough to grasp and accurately date. As such, it has been difficult to compare possible environmental impacts and their effects on biodiversity. Among other things, this is because climate change takes place quite abruptly, in a geological perspective. As previous calculations of biodiversity change in deep time have been based on a time-binning partitioning divided into 10 — 11 million year intervals, direct comparisons with climate impacts have not been possible. Our new biodiversity curves provide unprecedentedly high temporal resolution, allowing us to take a very large step towards the understanding and coherence of climate-related and environmental impacts on overall biodiversity — both in relation to species development and extinction event intervals,” explains Christian Mac Ørum.

New method ensures better temporal precision

Researchers at the universities of Copenhagen and Helsinki have devised a new method that can provide unprecedented accuracy in the portrayal of biodiversity fluctuations on geological time scales. This has lead to new insight, both in relation to what spurred the largest marine speciation interval in Earth’s history, as well as to what caused our planet’s second-largest mass extinction event.

This method has deployed, among other things, big data and the processing of large quantities of information collected on fossils, climate and historic geological changes. The study covers a prehistoric period characterized by dramatic changes to Earth’s climate and environment. Among other things, it documents increasing levels of oxygen and heavy volcanic activity as well as important events that documents the rise in the number of multicellular marine species, such as during the ‘Cambrian Explosion’.

“The studies we have been engaged with for over four years have, for the first time, made it possible to compare developments related to biodiversity with climate change, for example. We are now able to see that precisely when ocean temperature fell to its current level, there was also a dramatic increase in biodiversity. This suggests that a cooler climate — but not too cold — is very important for conserving biodiversity. Furthermore, we find that the very large extinction event at the end of the Ordovician period (485 — 443 million years ago), when upwards of 85% of all species disappeared, was not “a brief ice age” — as previously believed — but rather a several million years long crisis interval with mass extinctions. It was most likely prompted by increased volcanic activity. It took nearly 40 million years to rectify the mess before biodiversity was on a par with levels prior to this period of volcanic caused death and destruction,” emphasizes Christian Mac Ørum.

Extinction events

It is widely accepted that there have been a considerable number of large extinction events throughout Earth’s history, with five major extinction events in particular, the “Big Five.” These are the three largest:

The largest extinction event occurred 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian geologic period. 95% of all species are believed to have disappeared as a result of a catastrophe suspected to be due to volcanic activity.

The second largest extinction event occurred 443 million years ago, at the end of the Ordovician geologic period. Until now, it was believed that a sudden global cooling precipitated this event, during which up to 85% of all species became extinct. The new study published in PNAS does away with this assumption and points at volcanism as the main reason.

The most recent major extinction event took place 66 million years ago, when dinosaurs and other forms of life on Earth became extinct. Volcanism and meteor-impact events on Earth are thought to have caused the disappearance of up to 75% of all species. Today, researchers are talking about the planet being in a sixth extinction event prompted by human-induced change, including global warming.

Working methods

Among other things, the researchers have made use of a large database known as ‘the Paleobiology Database ‘. It contains data about fossils collected from across the planet and from different periods of Earth’s geological history. Until now, pulling data to provide an overall picture and assessment of the global situation with high temporal resolution has not been possible due to the arduous nature of the process. The new study has overcome this obstacle by first constructing a globally defined schema of ‘time intervals’ that divided a 120 million-year-long period into 53 ‘time bins’.

They then juxtaposed these bins of time with rock formations in which fossils were found. Then, the researchers analyzed their data using a statistical method typically used by biologists to calculate the prevalence of animal life in a given area. The paleontologists used the method to calculate the diversity of genera per time bin, as well as ‘to predict’ how many genera ought to occur in subsequent time bin. Not only did this methodology allow for researchers to achieve an unprecedented high temporal accuracy, it also let them account for any lacking fossil remains over geological time.

Source: Faculty of Science – University of Copenhagen [April 09, 2019]



The return of Cthulhu – the small sea creature

Cthulhu is calling from the ancient depths – and this time, researchers are only too happy to speak its name.

The return of Cthulhu - the small sea creature
Life reconstruction of Sollasina cthulhu [Credit: Elissa Martin,
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History]

Researchers at Yale, Oxford, the University of Leicester, Imperial College London, and University College London have identified a 430 million-year-old fossil as a new species related to living sea cucumbers. They named the creature Sollasina cthulhu, after H.P. Lovecraft’s tentacled monster, Cthulhu. A study announcing the discovery appears in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The new cthulhu, Sollasina, had 45 tentacle-like tube feet, which it used to crawl along the ocean floor and capture food. The creature was small, about the size of a large spider. It was found in the Herefordshire Lagerstätte in the United Kingdom, a site that has proven to be a trove of fossilized ancient sea animals.

“In this paper, we report a new echinoderm — the group that includes sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and sea stars — with soft-tissue preservation,” said Yale paleontologist Derek Briggs, a co-author of the study. “This new species belongs to an extinct group called the ophiocistioids. With the aid of high-resolution physical-optical tomography, we describe the species in 3D, revealing internal elements of the water vascular system that were previously unknown in this group and, indeed, in nearly all fossil echinoderms.”

The return of Cthulhu - the small sea creature
3D reconstruction of Sollasina cthulhu. Tube feet are shown in different colours
[Credit: Imran Rahman, Oxford University Museum of Natural History]

The 3D reconstruction process involves grinding a fossil away, layer by layer, and taking photographs at each stage. This results in hundreds of slice images, which are digitally reconstructed into a “virtual fossil.”

That’s how the researchers were able to discern Sollasina’s internal water vascular system and determine it is more closely related to sea cucumbers rather than to sea urchins.

“The water vascular system operates the tentacle-like structures that they used for locomotion and food capture,” Briggs said. “The tube feet of living echinoderms are naked, but in the ophiocistioids they were plated. Our analysis strongly suggests that ophiocistioids diverged from the line leading to modern sea cucumbers.”

The researchers said Sollasina’s existence demonstrates that the sea cucumber skeleton was modified gradually during the assembly of its body plan.

Source: University of Oxford [April 09, 2019]



Researchers interpret Cherokee inscriptions in Alabama cave

For the first time, a team of scholars and archaeologists has recorded and interpreted Cherokee inscriptions in Manitou Cave, Alabama. These inscriptions reveal evidence of secluded ceremonial activities at a time of crisis for the Cherokee, who were displaced from their ancestral lands and sent westward on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.

Researchers interpret Cherokee inscriptions in Alabama cave
Study researchers Beau Duke Carroll and Julie Reed examine Manitou Cave in Alabama, whose walls bear Cherokee
 syllabary that’s has nearly 200 years old [Credit: A. Cressler; Antiquity Publications Ltd.]

“These are the first Cherokee inscriptions ever found in a cave context, and the first from a cave to be translated,” said Jan Simek, president emeritus of the University of Tennessee System and Distinguished Professor of Science in UT’s Department of Anthropology. Simek is a co-author of the study “Talking Stones: Cherokee Syllabary in Manitou Cave, Alabama,” published recently in Antiquity. “They tell us about what the people who wrote on the walls were doing in the cave and provide a direct link to how some Native Americans viewed caves as sacred places.”
The research team that worked to understand the nature and meaning of these historic inscriptions included scholars from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees, and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma as well as Euro-American archaeologists.

The researchers concentrated on two main groups of Cherokee inscriptions found in Manitou Cave, a popular tourist site near Fort Payne, Alabama. Until now, indigenous uses of the cave had been unrecorded, as typical archaeological evidence like artifacts or deposits have been removed during its time as a tourist attraction.

Researchers interpret Cherokee inscriptions in Alabama cave
Cherokee inscriptions found in Manitou Cave, Alabama [Credit: University of Tennessee at Knoxville]

The first inscription records an important ritual event that took place in 1828, translated as “The leaders of the stickball team on the 30th day in their month April 1828.” A nearby inscription reads “We who are those that have blood come out of their nose and mouth.”

Stickball is a Cherokee sport similar to lacrosse.

“It is far more than a simple game,” Simek said. “It is a ceremonial event that often continues over days, focusing on competition between two communities who epitomize the spirit and power of the people and their ancestors.”

A second series of inscriptions is located on the ceiling nearer to the entrance of the cave.

“The ceiling inscriptions are written backwards, as if addressing readers inside the rock itself,” Simek said. “This corresponds with part of one inscription which reads ‘I am your grandson.’ This is how the Cherokee might formally address the Old Ones, which can include deceased Cherokee ancestors as well as comprise other supernatural beings who inhabited the world before the Cherokee came into existence.”

Researchers interpret Cherokee inscriptions in Alabama cave
A section of the Cherokee syllabary, which was found about almost 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) inside Manitou Cave
in Alabama [Credit: A. Cressler; Antiquity Publications Ltd.]

The inscriptions analyzed by researchers indicate that caves like Manitou were seen by the Cherokee as spiritually potent places where wall embellishment was appropriate in the context of ceremonial action.
Since their work in Manitou Cave, the researchers have identified several caves with similar inscriptions. They will continue to collaborate as scholars from the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes and archaeologists.

“Our research has shown that the Cherokee voice in Alabama did in fact outlast the Trail of Tears,” Simek said. “We will continue to document and protect these previously unknown records of indigenous American history and culture.”

Source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville [April 10, 2019]



Archaeologists identify first prehistoric figurative cave art in Balkans

An international team, led by an archaeologist from the University of Southampton and the University of Bordeaux, has revealed the first example of Palaeolithic figurative cave art found in the Balkan Peninsula.

Archaeologists identify first prehistoric figurative cave art in Balkans
Digital tracing of Bison featured in rock art
[Credit: Aitor Ruiz-Redondo]

Dr Aitor Ruiz-Redondo worked with researchers from the universities of Cantabria (Spain), Newfoundland (Canada), Zagreb (Croatia) and the Archaeological Museum of Istria (Croatia) to study the paintings, which could be up to 34,000 years old.
The cave art was first discovered in 2010 in Romualdova Pećina (‘Romuald’s cave’) at Istria in Croatia, when Darko Komšo, Director of the Archaeological Museum of Istria, noticed the existence of the remains of a red colour in a deep part of the cave.

Following his discovery, the team led by Dr Ruiz-Redondo and funded by the French State and the Archaeological Museum of Istria, with the support of Natura Histrica, undertook a detailed analysis of the paintings and their archaeological context.

Archaeologists identify first prehistoric figurative cave art in Balkans
Digital tracing of Ibex featured in rock art
[Credit: Aitor Ruiz-Redondo]

This led to the identification of several figurative paintings, including a bison, an ibex and two possible anthropomorphic figures, confirming the Palaeolithic age of the artworks. Furthermore, an excavation made in the ground below these paintings led to the discovery of a number of Palaeolithic age remains; a flint tool, an ochre crayon and several fragments of charcoal.
Radiocarbon dating of these objects show an estimated age of around 17,000 years and other indirect data suggest the paintings date to an even earlier period – at around 34,000-31,000 years ago. Further research will be conducted in order to establish the precise age of the rock art.

This discovery expands the so far sparse register of Palaeolithic art in south east Europe. It makes Romualdova Pećina the first site where figurative Palaeolithic rock art has been discovered in this area. Together with Badanj in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the two are the only examples of rock art from the Palaeolithic period in the Balkans.

Archaeologists identify first prehistoric figurative cave art in Balkans
Composite of digital tracings of 1, Bison 2, Ibex and 3, possible anthropomorphic
 figures, from cave art [Credit: Aitor Ruiz-Redondo]

Dr Aitor Ruiz-Redondo, a British Academy-funded Newton International Fellow at the University of Southampton and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bordeaux, said: “The importance of this finding is remarkable and sheds a new light on the understanding of Palaeolithic art in the territory of Croatia and the Balkan Peninsula, as well as its relationship with simultaneous phenomena throughout Europe.”

The findings are published in the journal Antiquity.

Source: University of Southampton [April 10, 2019]



This is no Westeros. On April 8, 2019, the Landsat 8 satellite…

This is no Westeros. On April 8, 2019, the Landsat 8 satellite acquired a scene of contrasts in Russia: a fire surrounded by ice.

Between chunks of frozen land and lakes in the Magadan Oblast district of Siberia, a fire burned and billowed smoke plumes that were visible from space.

Not much is known about the cause of the fire, east of the town of Evensk. Forest fires are common in this heavily forested region, and the season usually starts in April or May. Farmers also burn old crops to clear fields and replenish the soil with nutrients, also known as ‘slash and burn agriculture’; such fires occasionally burn out of control. Land cover maps, however, show that this fire region is mainly comprised of shrublands, not croplands.

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worldhistoryfacts: Painting of Manichaean priests from the…


Painting of Manichaean priests from the Uighur kingdom of Kocho in what is now western China, 10th-11th century CE. Manichaeism was a vibrant religion in the early middle ages before being squeezed out by Christianity in the west, Islam in the middle east, and Buddhism in east Asia. Mani, its founder, built on the teachings of the Buddha, Jesus, and Zoroaster to create a syncretic religion with elements of all three.


worldhistoryfacts: A French copy of Muhammad al-Idrisi’s 12th…


A French copy of Muhammad al-Idrisi’s 12th century map of the known world. Oriented with south on the top, the map was made as part of an atlas for Roger II of Sicily and projected a far more accurate circumference of the earth (22,000 miles) than Columbus did.  The book took 15 years to produce.


worldhistoryfacts: Song Dynasty-era statue of Laozi, the…


Song Dynasty-era statue of Laozi, the founder of Daoism, near Mt. Qingyuan in China. Daoism was resurgent during the Song, with scholars pursuing alchemy and immortality potions. The Song Emperor Huizong even briefly banned Buddhism because it was seen as a competitor to Daoism. 


romegreeceart: Fanciulla Torlonia* An Etruscan sculpture found…


Fanciulla Torlonia

* An Etruscan sculpture found in Vulci

* Torlonia museum, Rome


worldhistoryfacts: A Mesopotamian version of the phalanx…


A Mesopotamian version of the phalanx formation ((from the “Stele of Vultures”). Phalanxes were characterized by closely packed troops wearing breastplates and helmets, carrying shields and spears. If soldiers could stay in a disciplined, tight formation, it was very difficult for their enemies to penetrate the well-armored formation with long spears bristling out. The phalanx is most associated with classical-era Greek warfare, but dates back two thousand years before that in Egypt and Sumeria.


worldhistoryfacts: Ancient Egyptian school tablet from the…


Ancient Egyptian school tablet from the Roman period. This child was practicing the Greek alphabet and has written some Coptic letters as well. It was rare for Egyptians to use wood for writing, as it had to be imported from other regions. 


2019 April 12 A Cosmic Rose: The Rosette Nebula in Monoceros …

2019 April 12

A Cosmic Rose: The Rosette Nebula in Monoceros
Image Credit & Copyright: Jean Dean

Explanation: The Rosette Nebula, NGC 2237, is not the only cosmic cloud of gas and dust to evoke the imagery of flowers, but it is the most famous. At the edge of a large molecular cloud in Monoceros some 5,000 light years away, the petals of this cosmic rose are actually a stellar nursery. The lovely, symmetric shape is sculpted by the winds and radiation from its central cluster of hot young, O-type stars. Stars in the energetic cluster, cataloged as NGC 2244, are only a few million years young, while the central cavity in the Rosette Nebula, is about 50 light-years in diameter. The nebula can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of Monoceros, the Unicorn. This natural appearing telescopic portrait of the Rosette Nebula was made using broadband and narrowband filters, because sometimes roses aren’t red.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190412.html

NASA’s Landmark Twins Study Reveals Resilience of Human Body in Space

ISS – The Twins Study patch.

April 11, 2019

Results from NASA’s landmark Twins Study, which took place from 2015-2016, were published Thursday in Science. The integrated paper — encompassing work from 10 research teams — reveals some interesting, surprising and reassuring data about how one human body adapted to — and recovered from — the extreme environment of space.

The Twins Study provides the first integrated biomolecular view into how the human body responds to the spaceflight environment, and serves as a genomic stepping stone to better understand how to maintain crew health during human expeditions to the Moon and Mars.

Twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. Image Credit: NASA

Retired NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and his identical twin brother Mark, participated in the investigation, conducted by NASA’s Human Research Program. Mark provided a baseline for observation on Earth, and Scott provided a comparable test case during the 340 days he spent in space aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 43, 44, 45 and 46. Scott Kelly became the first American astronaut to spend nearly a year in space.

“The Twins Study has been an important step toward understanding epigenetics and gene expression in human spaceflight,” said J.D. Polk, chief Health and Medical Officer at NASA Headquarters. “Thanks to the twin brothers and a cadre of investigators who worked tirelessly together, the valuable data gathered from the Twins Study has helped inform the need for personalized medicine and its role in keeping astronauts healthy during deep space exploration, as NASA goes forward to the Moon and journeys onward to Mars.”

Living and Working in Space: Twins Study

Video above: Living and working in space requires human perseverance. Future missions will focus on exploration at greater distances from Earth; to the Moon and then to Mars. These missions will mean humans will stay in space for extended durations. To ensure that these goals are achieved, NASA’s astronauts must be able to perform at peak productivity under even the most daunting conditions. Video Credit: NASA.

Key results from the NASA Twins Study include findings related to gene expression changes, immune system response, and telomere dynamics. Other changes noted in the integrated paper include broken chromosomes rearranging themselves in chromosomal inversions, and a change in cognitive function. Many of the findings are consistent with data collected in previous studies, and other research in progress.

The telomeres in Scott’s white blood cells, which are biomarkers of aging at the end of chromosomes, were unexpectedly longer in space then shorter after his return to Earth with average telomere length returning to normal six months later. In contrast, his brother’s telomeres remained stable throughout the entire period. Because telomeres are important for cellular genomic stability, additional studies on telomere dynamics are planned for future one-year missions to see whether results are repeatable for long-duration missions.

A second key finding is that Scott’s immune system responded appropriately in space. For example, the flu vaccine administered in space worked exactly as it does on Earth. A fully functioning immune system during long-duration space missions is critical to protecting astronaut health from opportunistic microbes in the spacecraft environment.

A third significant finding is the variability in gene expression, which reflects how a body reacts to its environment and will help inform how gene expression is related to health risks associated with spaceflight. While in space, researchers observed changes in the expression of Scott’s genes, with the majority returning to normal after six months on Earth. However, a small percentage of genes related to the immune system and DNA repair did not return to baseline after his return to Earth. Further, the results identified key genes to target for use in monitoring the health of future astronauts and potentially developing personalized countermeasures.

“A number of physiological and cellular changes take place during spaceflight,” said Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist of the Human Research Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We have only scratched the surface of knowledge about the body in space. The Twins Study gave us the first integrated molecular view into genetic changes, and demonstrated how a human body adapts and remains robust and resilient even after spending nearly a year aboard the International Space Station. The data captured from integrated investigations like the NASA Twins Study will be explored for years to come.”

Part of the record-setting one-year mission, the NASA Twins Study incorporated 10 investigations to advance NASA’s mission and benefit all of humanity. Scott participated in a number of biomedical studies, including research into how the human body adjusts to known hazards, such as weightlessness and space radiation. Meanwhile, Mark participated in parallel studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects of space on a body down to the cellular level. The findings represent 27 months of data collection.

The Twins Study helped establish a framework of collaborative research that serves as a model for future biomedical research. Principal investigators at NASA and at research universities across the nation initiated an unprecedented sharing of data and discovery. Supported by 84 researchers at 12 locations across eight states, the data from this complex study was channeled into one inclusive study, providing the most comprehensive and integrated molecular view to date of how a human responds to the spaceflight environment. While significant, it is difficult to draw conclusions for all humans or future astronauts from a single test subject in the spaceflight environment.

“To our knowledge, this team of teams has conducted a study unprecedented in its scope across levels of human biology: from molecular analyses of human cells and the microbiome to human physiology to cognition,” said Craig Kundrot, director, Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Application Division at NASA Headquarters. “This paper is the first report of this highly integrated study that began five years ago when the investigators first gathered. We look forward to the publication of additional analyses and follow-up studies with future crew members as we continue to improve our ability to live and work in space and venture forward to the Moon and on to Mars.”

The unique aspects of the Twins Study created the opportunity for innovative genomics research, propelling NASA into an area of space travel research involving a field of study known as “omics,” which integrates multiple biological disciplines. Long-term effects of research, such as the ongoing telomeres investigation, will continue to be studied.

NASA has a rigorous training process to prepare astronauts for their missions, including a thoroughly planned lifestyle and work regime while in space, and an excellent rehabilitation and reconditioning program when they return to Earth. Thanks to these measures and the astronauts who tenaciously accomplish them, the human body remains robust and resilient even after spending a year in space.

Related articles:

NASA Twins Study Confirms Preliminary Findings

Symphonizing the Science: NASA Twins Study Team Begins Integrating Results

Fireworks in Space: NASA’s Twins Study Explores Gene Expression

How Stressful Will a Trip to Mars Be on the Human Body? We Now Have a Peek Into What the NASA Twins Study Will Reveal

Related links:

Science: https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aau8650

Human Research Program: https://www.nasa.gov/hrp

Humans in Space: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/humans-in-space

One-Year Crew: https://www.nasa.gov/content/one-year-crew/index.html

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

For more information about the NASA Twins Study, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/twins-study

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Stephanie Schierholz/JSC/Shaneequa Vereen.

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Israel’s Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes Into Moon During Landing Attempt

SpaceIL – Google Lunar XPrize Mission patch.

April 11, 2019

Israel’s first moon lander came up just short in its historic touchdown bid this afternoon (April 11).

The robotic Beresheet spacecraft, built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), aimed to become the first Israeli craft, and the first privately funded mission, ever to land softly on the moon. But the little robot couldn’t quite make it, crashing into the gray dirt around 3:25 p.m. EDT (1925 GMT). Mission control lost communications with the spacecraft when it was about 489 feet (149 meters) above the moon’s surface.

Image above: An artist’s illustration of the Beresheet moon lander, built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries. Image Credits: SpaceIL/IAI.

“We had a failure in the spacecraft; we unfortunately have not managed to land successfully,” Opher Doron, the general manager of IAI, said during a live broadcast from mission control. “It’s a tremendous achievement up ’til now.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who watched Beresheet’s landing attempt from SpaceIL’s control center in Yehud, Israel.

So the list of moon-landing nations remains at three, all of them superpowers — the Soviet Union, the United States and China.

But Beresheet accomplished plenty during its short life, as we shall see.

Image above: The Beresheet spacecraft captured this “selfie” during its landing maneuver on April 11, 2019. It was about 22 kilometers above the moon at the time. Image Credit: SpaceIL/IAI.

The competition ended last year without a winner, but SpaceIL and IAI, the country’s biggest aerospace and defense company, continued working on the 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) Beresheet. (Some other former GLXP teams, such as Florida-based Moon Express, have kept going as well.)

Last month, the X Prize Foundation announced that SpaceIL could win a special $1 million Moonshot Award if Beresheet successfully landed on the lunar surface.  Just minutes after the moon crash,  X Prize founder and Executive Chairman Peter Diamandis and CEO Anousheh Ansari said SpaceIL and IAI will receive the award despite failing to land.

“I think they managed to touch the surface of the moon, and that’s what we were looking for for our Moonshot Award,” Ansari said.

“And also, besides touching the surface of the moon, they touched the lives and the hearts of an entire nation, an entire world, schoolkids around the world,” Diamandis said.

The lander launched on the night of Feb. 21, soaring into Earth orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Beresheet continued looping around our planet for the next six weeks, performing engine burns now and again to push its elliptical orbit closer and closer to the moon.

Israel’s Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes Into Moon During Landing

Beresheet ended up covering about 4 million miles (6.5 million kilometers) during this phase of the mission, team members said. No other spacecraft has taken such a long road to the moon.

Beresheet’s slow-and-steady strategy paid off on April 4, when the moon’s gravity captured the lander. Beresheet then lowered its lunar orbit via a series of burns, the last of which occurred yesterday (April 10). That 32-second maneuver shifted the spacecraft into a highly elliptical orbit with a closest lunar approach of just 9 to 10 miles (15 to 17 kilometers) and a most-distant point 125 miles (200 km) from the gray dirt, mission team members said.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander:

“While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”

Related articles:

SpaceX – NUSANTARA SATU Mission Success

NASA is Aboard First Private Moon Landing Attempt

Related links:

Google Lunar X Prize: https://www.space.com/israeli-moon-lander-million-dollar-prize.html

SpaceIL: http://www.spaceil.com/mission/ and http://www.visit.spaceil.com/

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI): http://www.iai.co.il/2013/22031-en/homepage.aspx

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: Spaceflight.com/Mike Wall/NASA/SpaceIL/IAI.

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