пятница, 28 июня 2019 г.

Express Delivery It’s no good having a chef to make delicious…

Express Delivery

It’s no good having a chef to make delicious pizzas, but no waiters or delivery people to bring them to hungry customers. Likewise, exciting new stem-cell treatments, that promise to boost recovery with renewed growth from starter cells that can develop into any number of other forms, are only useful if the stem cells can be transported to where they’re needed. A new study has developed magnet-controlled microbots to help overcome this limitation. The tiny structures provide a scaffold for cells like neurons (brain cells, orange, right) and oligodendrocytes (support cells in the brain, stained green, left) to grow, and can then be guided through the body with external magnets. Initial tests have shown that the parcels can be precisely delivered, raising hopes that one day this system could improve treatments, especially for Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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Scientists determine origin of Fast Radio Burst detected by ASKAP

Artist’s impression of CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope finding a fast radio burst and determining its precise location. The KECK, VLT and Gemini South optical telescopes joined ASKAP with follow-up observations to image the host galaxy. Credit: CSIRO/Dr Andrew Howells. Hi-res image

Perth, Australia, Friday 28 June 2019 – An Australian-led international team of astronomers has determined the precise location of a powerful one-off burst of cosmic radio waves. The discovery was made with CSIRO’s new Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope in Western Australia. The galaxy from which the burst originated was then imaged by three of the world’s largest optical telescopes – Keck, Gemini South and ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

The results were announced this week by PhD student Wael Farah (Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia) at the annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society (EWASS2019) in Lyon, France, and are published in the journal Science.

Fast radio bursts last less than a millisecond, making it difficult to accurately determine where they have come from. The team developed new technology to freeze and save ASKAP data less than a second after a burst arrives at the telescope. This technology was used to pinpoint the location of FRB 180924 to its home galaxy (DES J214425.25−405400.81). The team made a high-resolution map showing that the burst originated in the outskirts of a Milky Way-sized galaxy about four billion light-years away. To find out more about the home galaxy, the team imaged it with the European Southern Observatory’s 8-m Very Large Telescope in Chile and measured its distance with the 10-m Keck telescope in Hawai’i and the 8-m Gemini South telescope in Chile.

The cause of fast radio bursts remains unknown but the ability to determine their exact location is a big leap towards solving this mystery. Evan Keane, SKA Project Scientist and winner of the MERAC Prize for Observational Astrophysics this week for his groundbreaking work on FRBs, has been closely involved in the field. “In order to fully exploit the potential of FRBs as cosmological probes, it’s essential to be able to localise them this precisely, and ASKAP has done just that for the first time. It’s an amazing step for FRB science. The ultimate goal will be to go deeper in redshift and localise thousands of FRBs, this is where SKA will come in.” he said.

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When the Moon’s Shadow Falls on Earth

On July 2, 2019, a total solar eclipse will pass over parts of Argentina and Chile.


Solar eclipses happen when the Moon passes directly between the Sun and Earth, casting its shadow onto Earth’s surface. Because the Moon’s orbit isn’t perfectly in line with the Sun and Earth, its shadow usually passes above or below Earth. But when it lines up just right, we get a solar eclipse!


People in the inner part of the Moon’s shadow — the umbra — have the chance to witness a total solar eclipse, while those in the outer part of the shadow — the penumbra — experience a partial solar eclipse.


The path of the total solar eclipse stretches across parts of Chile and Argentina. People outside this path may see a partial eclipse or no eclipse at all.

During a total solar eclipse, the Moon blocks out the Sun’s bright face, revealing its comparatively faint outer atmosphere, the corona. The corona is a dynamic region that is thought to hold the answers to questions about the fundamental physics of the Sun — like why the corona is so much hotter than the Sun’s surface and how the Sun’s constant outflow of material, the solar wind, is accelerated to such high speeds


Our Parker Solar Probe and the upcoming Solar Orbiter mission from the European Space Agency are exploring these questions by flying through the corona itself and taking unprecedented measurements of the conditions there. Plus, our newly-chosen PUNCH mission will create tiny, artificial eclipses in front of its cameras — using an instrument called a coronagraph — to study structures in the Sun’s corona and examine how it generates the solar wind.

Watching the eclipse

It’s never safe to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun – so you’ll need special

solar viewing glasses

or an indirect viewing method, like

pinhole projection

, to watch the eclipse. 


For people in the path of totality, there will be a few brief moments when it is safe to look directly at the eclipse. Only once the Moon has completely covered the Sun and there is no sunlight shining is it safe to look at the eclipse. Make sure you put your eclipse glasses back on or return to indirect viewing before the first flash of sunlight appears around the Moon’s edge.

No matter where you are, you can watch the eclipse online! The Exploratorium will be streaming live views of the eclipse with commentary in both English and Spanish starting at 4 p.m. EDT / 1 p.m. PDT on July 2. Watch with us at nasa.gov/live!

Para más información e actualizaciones en español acerca del eclipse, sigue a @NASA_es en Twitter o vea esta hoja de hechos.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

2019 June 28 A Solstice Night in Paris Image Credit &…

2019 June 28

A Solstice Night in Paris
Image Credit & Copyright: Michel Loic

Explanation: The night of June 21 was the shortest night for planet Earth’s northern latitudes, so at latitude 48.9 degrees north, Paris was no exception. Still, the City of Light had an exceptionally luminous evening. Its skies were flooded with silvery night shining or noctilucent clouds after the solstice sunset. Hovering at the edge of space, the icy condensations on meteoric dust or volcanic ash are still in full sunlight at the extreme altitudes of the mesophere. Seen at high latitudes in summer months, stunning, wide spread displays of northern noctilucent clouds are now being reported.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190628.html

Meteor Activity Outlook for June 29-July 5, 2019

Meteor over the Alabama Hills (Death Valley National Park) – August, 26 2017 © Kyle Sullivan, BLM.
Nikon D750, 24.0 mm f/1.4, 20s, 800ISO

Meteor season finally gets going in July for the northern hemisphere. The first half of the month will be much like June with predominately slow rates. After the 15th though, both sporadic and shower rates increase significantly. For observers in the southern hemisphere, sporadic rates will be falling but the overall activity will increase with the arrival of the Southern delta Aquariids during the last week of the month.

During this period the moon reaches its new phase on Tuesday July 2nd. On that date the moon is located near the sun and is invisible at night. This weekend the waning crescent moon will rise during the late morning hours but will not cause any problems for viewing meteor activity as long as you keep it out of your field of view. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 3 for those viewing from the northern hemisphere and 4 for those located south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 6 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 7 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S). 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. 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 brightest 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 June 29/30. 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 at 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 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 22:00 LDST

Radiant Positions at 22:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

Radiant Positions at 01:00 LDST

Radiant Positions at 1:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

Radiant Positions at 04:00 lDST

Radiant Positions at 4:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

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

The alpha Capricornids (CAP) are active from July 3 through August 11 with maximum activity occurring during the last week of July. The broad maximum occurs anywhere from July 25 to the 30th with visual rates usually around 3 per hour. The radiant is currently located at 18:23 (276) -17, which places it in northern Sagittarius, 2 degrees south of the dim star known as gamma Scuti. This radiant is best placed near 01:00 local daylight saving time (LDST), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Hourly rates at this time should be less than 1 no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 22 km/sec., the average alpha Cap meteor would be of slow velocity.

The center of the large Anthelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 19:24 (291) -22. This position lies in eastern Sagittarius, 1 degree east of the bright planet Saturn. This area of the sky is best placed near 02:00 LDST when it lies highest above the southern horizon. Due to the large size of this radiant, anthelion activity may also appear from  Scutum as well as Sagittarius. Rates at this time should be near 2 per hour as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45 N) and 3 per hour as seen from the southern tropics (S 25). With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average anthelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

The Northern June Aquilids (NZC) are active from a radiant located at 20:28 (307) -06. This area of the sky is located in southeastern Aquila, 6 degrees northeast of the 3rd magnitude star known as Algiedi Prima (alpha1 Capricorni). This radiant is best placed near 03:00 LDST, when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Hourly rates at this time should be near 2 no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 38 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of medium-slow velocity. An interesting fact about this source is that it may be related to the Northern delta Aquariids of August. Where and when this source ends coincides with the start and position of the Northern delta Aquariids.

The Southern June Aquilids (SZC) were discovered by G. Gartrell and W. G. Elford, in their study of Southern Hemisphere meteor streams. This stream is active from June 9 through July 17 with maximum activity occurring on July 6. The radiant is currently located at 20:52 (313) -29. This area of the sky is actually located in northern Microscopium, 3 degrees south of the 4th magnitude star known as omega Capricornii. This radiant is best placed near 0400 LDST, when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Hourly rates at this time are expected to be less than 1 as seen from the northern hemisphere and 1 as seen from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 39 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of medium-slow velocity. This source is synonymous with the Microscopiids.

The last of the beta Equulids (BEQ) are expected this weekend. The radiant position currently lies at 21:07 (316) +04. This area of the sky lies in southern Equuleus, 2 degrees southwest of the 4th magnitude star known as Kitalphar (alpha Equulei). This radiant is best placed near 0400 LDST, when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Hourly rates are expected to be less than 1, no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 33 kilometers per second, a majority of these meteors will appear to move with medium-slow velocities.

The epsilon Pegasids (EPG) were discovered by Dr. Peter Brown and associates using data from the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) installation. These meteors are active from July 03-23 with maximum activity occurring on July 11th. The radiant position currently lies at 21:24 (321) +09. This area of the sky lies in eastern Equuleus, 2 degrees east of the 4th magnitude star known as delta Equulei. These meteors are best seen near 0400 LDST when the radiant lies highest in the sky. Hourly rates are expected to be less than 1 no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 28 kilometers per second, a majority of these meteors will appear to move with medium-slow velocities.

The July Pegasids (JPE) have been noticed for some time now but have had a checkered history. It has been added, dropped, and then re-added to several radiant lists. Video studies within the past 10 years have positively identified this source as an active radiant during the entire month of July. Maximum activity occurs on July 10th. The radiant is currently located at 22:39 (340) +09. This area of the sky is located in southern Pegasus, 2 degrees south of the 3rd magnitude star known as Homan (zeta Pegasi). This radiant is best placed near 0500 LDST, when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky.  Rates are expected to be less 1 per hour this week no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 68 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of swift velocity.

The phi Piscids (PPS) were another discovery by Dr. Peter Brown and associates using data from the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) installation. These meteors are active from June 8-August 02 with maximum activity occurring on July 5th. The radiant position currently lies at 00:49 (012) +23. This area of the sky lies in southern Andromeda, 1 degree west of the 4th magnitude star known as eta Andromedae. These meteors are best seen near during the last dark hour of the night when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. Current rates should be near 2 per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and 1 as seen from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 67 kilometers per second, a majority of these meteors will appear to move with swift velocities.

The c-Andromedids (CAN) were discovered by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel using video data from the IMO network. Activity from this source is seen from June 26 through July 27 with maximum activity occurring on July 9. The radiant currently lies at 01:14 (018) +45, which places it in northern Andromeda, almost 3 degrees south of the 4th magnitude star known as phi Andromedae. This area of the sky is best seen during the last dark hour before dawn when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. Observers in the northern hemisphere are better situated to view this activity as the radiant rises much higher in the sky before dawn compared to southern latitudes. Current rates would be near 1 per hour for observers in the northern hemisphere and less than 1 as seen from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 58 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of swift velocity.

The July chi Arietids (JXA) were discovered by two investigating teams in Europe using video data from European video Meteor Network Database (EDMOND), SonotaCo, 2013; and CMN, 2013. Activity from this stream is seen from July 2 through August 1 with maximum activity occurring on July 13. The radiant currently lies at 01:32 (023) +05, which places it in southeastern Pisces, 1 degree south of the faint star known as mu Piscium. This area of the sky is best seen during the last dark hour before dawn when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. Current rates are expected to be less than 1 per hour during this period. With an entry velocity of 69 km/sec., the average meteor from this source would be of swift velocity.

As seen from mid-northern hemisphere (45N), morning rates would be near 7 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and 2 per hour during the evening hours. As seen from the tropical southern latitudes (25S), one would expect to see approximately 8 sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near 3 per hour. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures.

The list below offers the information from above in tabular 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
alpha Capricornids (CAP) Jul 27 18:23 (276) -17 22 01:00 <1 – <1 II
Anthelion (ANT) 19:24 (291) -22 30 02:00 2 – 3 II
Northern June Aquilids (NZC) Jul 03 20:28 (307) -06 41 03:00 2 – 2 IV
Southern June Aquilids (SZC) Jul 06 20:52 (313) -29 39 04:00 <1 – 1 IV
beta Equulids (BEQ Jun 15 21:07 (316) +04 33 04:00 <1 – <1 IV
epsilon Pegasids (EPG) Jul 11 21:24 (321) +09 28 04:00 <1 – <1 IV
July Pegasids (JPE) Jul 10 22:39 (340) +09 68 05:00 <1 – <1 IV
phi Piscids (PPS) Jul 05 00:49 (012) +23 67 07:00 1 – <1 IV
c-Andromedids (CAN) Jul 09 01:14 (018) +45 58 08:00 <1 – <1 IV
July chi Arietids (JXA) Jul 13 01:32 (023) +05 69 08:00 <1 – <1 IV

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NASA’s Dragonfly Will Fly Around Titan Looking for Origins, Signs of Life

NASA logo.

June 27, 2019

NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

Image above: This illustration shows NASA’s Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander approaching a site on Saturn’s exotic moon, Titan. Taking advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere and low gravity, Dragonfly will explore dozens of locations across the icy world, sampling and measuring the compositions of Titan’s organic surface materials to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment and investigate the progression of prebiotic chemistry. Image Credits: NASA/JHU-APL.

Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet. During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years. Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.

“With the Dragonfly mission, NASA will once again do what no one else can do,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe. This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we’re now ready for Dragonfly’s amazing flight.”

Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years’ worth of Cassini data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets. It will first land at the equatorial “Shangri-La” dune fields, which are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia in southern Africa and offer a diverse sampling location. Dragonfly will explore this region in short flights, building up to a series of longer “leapfrog” flights of up to 5 miles (8 kilometers), stopping along the way to take samples from compelling areas with diverse geography. It will finally reach the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of past liquid water, organics – the complex molecules that contain carbon, combined with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen – and energy, which together make up the recipe for life. The lander will eventually fly more than 108 miles (175 kilometers) – nearly double the distance traveled to date by all the Mars rovers combined.

“Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for Science at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “It’s remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn’s largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment. Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach us about the origin of life itself.”

Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth. Unlike Earth, Titan has clouds and rain of methane. Other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow. The moon’s weather and surface processes have combined complex organics, energy, and water similar to those that may have sparked life on our planet.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and is the second largest moon in our solar system. As it orbits Saturn, it is about 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth. Because it is so far from the Sun, its surface temperature is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Its surface pressure is also 50 percent higher than Earth’s.

Dragonfly was selected as part of the agency’s New Frontiers program, which includes the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, Juno to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx to the asteroid Bennu. Dragonfly is led by Principal Investigator Elizabeth Turtle, who is based at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. New Frontiers supports missions that have been identified as top solar system exploration priorities by the planetary community. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.

“The New Frontiers program has transformed our understanding of the solar system, uncovering the inner structure and composition of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, discovering the icy secrets of Pluto’s landscape, revealing mysterious objects in the Kuiper belt, and exploring a near-Earth asteroid for the building blocks of life,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Now we can add Titan to the list of enigmatic worlds NASA will explore.”

Related links:

New Horizons: http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

Juno: http://www.nasa.gov/juno

OSIRIS-REx: http://www.nasa.gov/osirisrex

For more information about Titan, visit:


Read more about NASA’s New Frontiers Program and missions at: https://planetarymissions.nasa.gov

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Grey Hautaluoma/Alana Johnson.

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NASA’s TESS Mission Finds Its Smallest Planet Yet

NASA — TESS Mission logo.

June 27, 2019

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a world between the sizes of Mars and Earth orbiting a bright, cool, nearby star. The planet, called L 98-59b, marks the tiniest discovered by TESS to date.

Two other worlds orbit the same star. While all three planets’ sizes are known, further study with other telescopes will be needed to determine if they have atmospheres and, if so, which gases are present. The L 98-59 worlds nearly double the number of small exoplanets — that is, planets beyond our solar system — that have the best potential for this kind of follow-up.

Image above: The three planets discovered in the L98-59 system by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) are compared to Mars and Earth in order of increasing size in this illustration. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“The discovery is a great engineering and scientific accomplishment for TESS,” said Veselin Kostov, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. “For atmospheric studies of small planets, you need short orbits around bright stars, but such planets are difficult to detect. This system has the potential for fascinating future studies.”

A paper on the findings, led by Kostov, was published in the June 27 issue of The Astronomical Journal and is now available online: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-3881/ab2459.

TESS Discovers Its Tiniest World To Date

Video above: NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite has confirmed the tiniest planet in its catalog so far — one of three discovered around a bright, nearby star called L 98-59. As shown in the illustrations in this video, all could occupy the “Venus zone,” the range of distances from the star where a Venus-like atmosphere is possible. The outermost planet also has the potential for a Neptune-like atmosphere. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

L 98-59b is around 80% Earth’s size and about 10% smaller than the previous record holder discovered by TESS. Its host star, L 98-59, is an M dwarf about one-third the mass of the Sun and lies about 35 light-years away in the southern constellation Volans. While L 98-59b is a record for TESS, even smaller planets have been discovered in data collected by NASA’s Kepler satellite, including Kepler-37b, which is only 20% larger than the Moon.

The two other worlds in the system, L 98-59c and L 98-59d, are respectively around 1.4 and 1.6 times Earth’s size. All three were discovered by TESS using transits, periodic dips in the star’s brightness caused when each planet passes in front of it.

TESS monitors one 24-by-96-degree region of the sky, called a sector, for 27 days at a time. When the satellite finishes its first year of observations in July, the L 98-59 system will have appeared in seven of the 13 sectors that make up the southern sky. Kostov’s team hopes this will allow scientists to refine what’s known about the three confirmed planets and search for additional worlds.

“If you have more than one planet orbiting in a system, they can gravitationally interact with each other,” said Jonathan Brande, a co-author and astrophysicist at Goddard and the University of Maryland, College Park. “TESS will observe L 98-59 in enough sectors that it may be able to detect planets with orbits around 100 days. But if we get really lucky, we might see the gravitational effects of undiscovered planets on the ones we currently know.”

How NASA’s Newest Planet Hunter Scans the Sky

Video above: NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), stares for a month at a time at sectors of the sky, watching for dips in the light from stars as planets pass in front of them, called transits. TESS will map 13 sectors each in the southern and northern sky. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

M dwarfs like L 98-59 account for three-quarters of our Milky Way galaxy’s stellar population. But they are no larger than about half the Sun’s mass and are much cooler, with surface temperatures less than 70% of the Sun’s. Other examples include TRAPPIST-1, which hosts a system of seven Earth-size planets, and Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor, which has one confirmed planet. Because these small, cool stars are so common, scientists want to learn more about the planetary systems that form around them.

L 98-59b, the innermost world, orbits every 2.25 days, staying so close to the star it receives as much as 22 times the amount of energy Earth receives from the Sun. The middle planet, L 98-59c, orbits every 3.7 days and experiences about 11 times as much radiation as Earth. L 98-59d, the farthest planet identified in the system so far, orbits every 7.5 days and is blasted with around four times the radiant energy as Earth.

None of the planets lie within the star’s “habitable zone,” the range of distances from the star where liquid water could exist on their surfaces. However, all of them occupy what scientists call the Venus zone, a range of stellar distances where a planet with an initial Earth-like atmosphere could experience a runaway greenhouse effect that transforms it into a Venus-like atmosphere. Based on its size, the third planet could be either a Venus-like rocky world or one more like Neptune, with a small, rocky core cocooned beneath a deep atmosphere.

Image above: Illustration of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

One of TESS’s goals is to build a catalog of small, rocky planets on short orbits around very bright, nearby stars for atmospheric study by NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. Four of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are prime candidates, and Kostov’s team suggests the L 98-59 planets are as well.

The TESS mission feeds our desire to understand where we came from and whether we’re alone in the universe.

«If we viewed the Sun from L 98-59, transits by Earth and Venus would lead us to think the planets are almost identical, but we know they’re not,” said Joshua Schlieder, a co-author and an astrophysicist at Goddard. “We still have many questions about why Earth became habitable and Venus did not. If we can find and study similar examples around other stars, like L 98-59, we can potentially unlock some of those secrets.”

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

Related links:

TRAPPIST-1: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/trappist1

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/webb/main/index.html

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

Images (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Jeanette Kazmierczak.

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Expedition 60 Science Ramps Up as Next Crew Trains for Mission

ISS — Expedition 60 Mission patch.

June 27, 2019

Virtual reality filming, space gardening and biomedical research were on the timeline for two NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station today, while a cosmonaut took care of computer hardware and life support maintenance.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch tended to plants today growing inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module for the Veg-04 botany study. She later relocated a pair of tiny research facilities in the EXPRESS-6 science rack. The two devices, TangoLab-2 and STaARS-1, enable advanced investigations into a variety of biological processes, such as cell cultures and tissue engineering.

Image above: The atmospheric glow and a wispy aurora australis, also known as the “southern lights,” frame a cloud-covered Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronaut Nick Hague took a turn today recording himself with a 360-degree camera for a virtual reality experience targeted to audiences on Earth. In the afternoon, he collected and stowed his urine samples in a science freezer for later analysis.

Expedition 60 Commander Alexey Ovchinin worked on Russian computer hardware in the Zvezda service module. In the evening, he picked up a high-powered camera for a photographic survey of catastrophes on Earth and their natural consequences.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

The next crew to launch to the space station is in Star City, Russia for final qualification exams to certify to fly aboard the Soyuz MS-13 spaceship. Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov will lead NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano in the Soyuz when they blast off June 20 for a six-hour ride to their new home in space. This will be Morgan’s first space mission, Parmitano’s second and Skvortsov’s third visit to the station.

Related links:

Expedition 59 Crewmates Return from Space Station Mission

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

Veg-04: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/search.html?#q=veg-04&i=&p=&c=&g=&s=

EXPRESS-6: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=598

TangoLab-2: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=7519

STaARS-1: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=7389

360-degree camera: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7877

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

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

Smash and grab: A heavyweight stellar champion for dying stars

Dying stars that cast off their outer envelopes to form the beautiful yet enigmatic «planetary nebulae» (PNe) have a new heavy-weight champion, the innocuously named PNe «BMP1613-5406». Massive stars live fast and die young, exploding as powerful supernovae after only a few million years. However, the vast majority of stars, including our own Sun, have much lower mass and may live for many billions of years before going through a short lived but glorious PNe phase.

Smash and grab: A heavyweight stellar champion for dying stars
A 30 x 30 arcminute image of NGC6067 & BMP1613-5406. North-East is top left. The image is a B,R,H-alpha tri-colour
RGB image (extracted from the online UK Schmidt Telescope SuperCOSMOS H-alpha Survey H-alpha,
hort-Red (SR) and broad-band ‘B’ images [Credit: The University of Hong Kong]

PNe form when only a tiny fraction of unburnt hydrogen remains in the stellar core. Radiation pressure expels much of this material and the hot stellar core can shine through. This ionizes the previously ejected shroud creating a PNe and providing a visible and valuable fossil record of the stellar mass loss process (PNe have nothing to do with planets but acquired this name because their glowing spheres of ionized gas around their hot central stars resembled planets to early observers).
PNe theoretically derive from stars in the range 1-8 times the mass of the Sun, representing 90% of all stars more massive than the sun. However, until now, PNe have been proven to derive from stars born with only 1-3 times the mass of our Sun. Professor Quentin Parker, Department of Physics and Director of The Laboratory for Space Research, The University of Hong Kong and his PhD student Miss Fragkou Vasiliki, in collaboration with University of Manchester and South African Astronomical Observatory, have now officially smashed this previous limit and grabbed the proof that a PNe has emerged from a star born with 5.5 times the mass of our Sun. Their journal paper «A high-mass planetary nebula in a Galactic open cluster» has just been published in Nature Astronomy.

But why is this important?

Firstly, PNe provide a unique window into the soul of late stage stellar evolution revealed by their rich emission line spectra that are excellent laboratories for plasma physics. PNe are visible to great distances where their strong lines permit determination of the size, expansion velocity and age of the PN, so probing the physics and timescales of stellar mass loss. They can also be used to derive luminosity, temperature and mass of their central remnant stellar cores, and the chemical composition of the ejected gas.

Smash and grab: A heavyweight stellar champion for dying stars
A VPHAS+ combined u g r multi-band ‘RGB’ color image centred on the planetary nebula
central star (CS) candidate. The image is 55 x 55 arcseconds in size and the CS is
obvious as the sole blue star in the middle of field, located at RA:16h13m02.1s
and DEC:-54o06’32.3″ (J2000) [Credit: The University of Hong Kong]

Secondly, and key here, is that this is an unprecedented example of a star whose proven original «progenitor» mass is close to the theoretical lower limit of core-collapse supernova formation. Our results are the first solid evidence confirming theoretical predictions that 5+ solar mass stars can actually form PNe. This unique case therefore provides the astronomical community with an important tool for fresh insights into stellar and Galactic chemical evolution.
But how did the team from The University of Hong Kong and the University of Manchester claim the heavyweight crown?

The key was the discovery of the PNe in a young, Galactic open cluster called NGC6067. Finding a PNe residing in an open cluster is an extremely rare event. Indeed, only one other PNe, «PHR1615-6555» has ever been previously proven to reside on an open cluster but whose progenitor star had considerably lower mass. Interestingly, this was an earlier discovery from the same led team as here.

Smash and grab: A heavyweight stellar champion for dying stars
A current plot from cluster WDs for the latest IFMR estimates from Cummings et al (2018), together
with our estimated point for BMP1613-5406 plotted as a red circle. The only other point from
 a known OC PN is plotted as a yellow circle (Parker et al 2011). The errors attached to our
point reflect the errors in the adopted cluster parameters and the spread of the
estimated CS magnitudes [Credit: The University of Hong Kong]

The proven location of a PN in a cluster provides key and important data that is difficult to acquire otherwise. This includes an accurate distance and a cluster «turn off» mass estimate (i.e. the mass a star must have had when it was born to now be seen evolving off the main sequence in the cluster of known age). High confidence in the PN-cluster association comes from their highly consistent radial velocities (to better tan 1km/s) in a sight-line with a steep velocity-distance gradient, common distances, common reddening and projected and close physical proximity of the PN to the cluster centre.
In summary our exciting results are solid evidence confirming theoretical predictions that 5+ solar mass stars can form planetary nebulae and are, as expected, Nitrogen rich. The PN’s cluster membership provides fresh and tight constraints on the lower mass limit for the progenitor mass of core-collapse supernovae and also for the intermediate to high mass end of the white dwarf Initial to Final Mass Relation (IFMR). It also provides an empirical benchmark for evaluating nucleosynthetic (element creation) predictions for intermediate-mass stars. PN BMPJ1613-5406 and its cluster NGC6067 will provide the astronomical community with important insights into stellar and Galactic (chemical) evolution.

Source: The University of Hong Kong [June 24, 2019]



Galaxy clusters caught in first kiss

For the first time, astronomers have found two giant clusters of galaxies that are just about to collide. This observation can be seen as a missing ‘piece of the puzzle’ in our understanding of the formation of structure in the Universe, since large-scale structures—such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies—are thought to grow by collisions and mergers. The result was published in Nature Astronomy.

Galaxy clusters caught in first kiss
Cluster Merger [Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/L. Gu et al. 2019;
Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRT; Optical: SDSS]

Clusters of galaxies are the largest known bound objects and consist of hundreds of galaxies that each contain hundreds of billions of stars. Ever since the Big Bang, these objects have been growing by colliding and merging with each other. Due to their large size, with diameters of a few million light years, these collisions can take about a billion years to complete. After the dust has settled, the two colliding clusters will have merged into one bigger cluster.
Because the merging process takes much longer than a human lifetime, we only see snapshots of the various stages of these collisions. The challenge is to find colliding clusters that are just at the stage of first touching each other. In theory, this stage has a relatively short duration and is therefore hard to find. It is like finding a raindrop that just touches the water surface in a photograph of a pond during a rain shower. Obviously, such a picture would show a lot of falling droplets and ripples on the water surface, but only few droplets in the process of merging with the pond.. Similarly, astronomers found a lot of single clusters and merged clusters with outgoing ripples indicating a past collision, but until now no two clusters that are just about to touch each other.

Galaxy clusters caught in first kiss
This graphic shows 1E2215 and 1E2216, plus two systems at earlier stages before collision
 (Abell 399/Abell 401, and Abell 1758), and one where the collision has already occurred
(CIZA J2242.8). This series of images represents the sequential steps a galaxy cluster would undergo.
A labeled version shows the separation between the two clusters and the amount of time, measured
in billions of years, before or after impact [Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/L.
Gu et al. 2019; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRT; Optical: SDSS]

An international team of astronomers have now announced the discovery of two clusters on the verge of colliding. This enabled astronomers to test their computer simulations, which show that in the first moments a shock wave is created in between the clusters and travels out perpendicular to the merging axis. «These clusters show the first clear evidence for this type of merger shock», says first author Liyi Gu from RIKEN national science institute in Japan and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research. «The shock created a hot belt region of 100-million-degree gas between the clusters, which is expected to extend up to, or even go beyond the boundary of the giant clusters. Therefore the observed shock has a huge impact on the evolution of galaxy clusters and large scale structures.»
Astronomers are planning to collect more ‘snapshots’ to ultimately build up a continuous model describing the evolution of cluster mergers. SRON-researcher Hiroki Akamatsu: «More merger clusters like this one will be found by eROSITA, an X-ray all-sky survey mission that will be launched this year. Two other upcoming X-ray missions, XRISM and Athena, will help us understand the role of these colossal merger shocks in the structure formation history.»

Source: RIKEN [June 24, 2019]



A new normal: Study explains universal pattern in fossil record

Throughout life’s history on earth, biological diversity has gone through ebbs and flows — periods of rapid evolution and of dramatic extinctions. We know this, at least in part, through the fossil record of marine invertebrates left behind since the Cambrian period. Remarkably, extreme events of diversification and extinction happen more frequently than a typical, Gaussian, distribution would predict. Instead of the typical bell-shaped curve, the fossil record shows a fat-tailed distribution, with extreme, outlier, events occurring with higher-than-expected probability.

A new normal: Study explains universal pattern in fossil record
Illustration of marine fossils that have existed since the Cambrian. Represented taxa include brachiopods,
trilobites, ammonites, bivalves, and decapods [Credit: Mesa Shumacher/Santa Fe Institute]

While scientists have long known about this unusual pattern in the fossil record, they have struggled to explain it. Many random processes that occur over a long time with large sample sizes, from processes that produce school grades to height among a population, converge on the common Gaussian distribution. «It’s a very reasonable default expectation,» says Santa Fe Institute Omidyar Fellow Andy Rominger. So why doesn’t the fossil record display this common pattern?
In a new paper published in Science Advances, Rominger and colleagues Miguel Fuentes (San Sebastián University, Chile) and Pablo Marquet (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile) have taken a new approach to tackling this question. Instead of trying to only describe fluctuations in biodiversity across all types of organisms, they also look at fluctuations within clades, or groups of organisms that share a common ancestral lineage.

«Within a lineage of closely related organisms, there should be a conserved evolutionary dynamic. Between different lineages, that dynamic can change,» says Rominger. That is, within clades, related organisms tend to find an effective adaptive strategy and never stray too far. But between these clade-specific fitness peaks are valleys of metaphorically uninhabited space. «It turns out, just invoking that simple idea, with some very simple mathematics, described the patterns in the fossil record very well.»

These simple mathematics are tools that Fuentes, in 2009, used to describe another system with an unusual fat-tailed distribution: the stock market. By using superstatistics — an approach from thermodynamics to describe turbulent flow — Fuentes could accurately describe the hard-to-predict dramatic crashes and explosions in value.

«In biology, we see these crashes and explosions too, in terms of biodiversity,» says Rominger. «We wondered if Fuentes’ elegant approach could also describe the evolutionary dynamics we see in the fossil record.»

The team writes that their success opens up new research directions to better understand the evolutionary processes that lead to both stable rates of extinction and speciation at the order- and family-levels of life, and to interruptions that allow for new life forms to emerge.

Source: Santa Fe Institute [June 26, 2019]



What made humans ‘the fat primate’?

Blame junk food or a lack of exercise. But long before the modern obesity epidemic, evolution made us fat too.

What made humans 'the fat primate'?
Sculptures by Jurriaan van Hall [Credit: Flickr/Bart van Damme]

«We’re the fat primates,» said Devi Swain-Lenz, a postdoctoral associate in biology at Duke University.

The fact that humans are chubbier than chimpanzees isn’t news to scientists. But new evidence could help explain how we got that way.

Despite having nearly identical DNA sequences, chimps and early humans underwent critical shifts in how DNA is packaged inside their fat cells, Swain-Lenz and her Duke colleagues have found. As a result, the researchers say, this decreased the human body’s ability to turn «bad» calorie-storing fat into the «good» calorie-burning kind.

Compared to our closest animal relatives, even people with six-pack abs and rippling arms have considerable fat reserves, researchers say. While other primates have less than 9% body fat, a healthy range for humans is anywhere from 14% to 31%.

To understand how humans became the fat primate, a team led by Swain-Lenz and Duke biologist Greg Wray compared fat samples from humans, chimps and a more distantly-related monkey species, rhesus macaques. Using a technique called ATAC-seq, they scanned each species’ genome for differences in how their fat cell DNA is packaged.

Normally most of the DNA within a cell is condensed into coils and loops and tightly wound around proteins, such that only certain DNA regions are loosely packed enough to be accessible to the cellular machinery that turns genes on and off.

The researchers identified roughly 780 DNA regions that were accessible in chimps and macaques, but had become more bunched up in humans. Examining these regions in detail, the team also noticed a recurring snippet of DNA that helps convert fat from one cell type to another.

Not all fat is created equal, Swain-Lenz explained. Most fat is made up of calorie-storing white fat. It’s what makes up the marbling in a steak and builds up around our waistlines. Specialized fat cells called beige and brown fat, on the other hand, can burn calories rather than store them to generate heat and keep us warm.

One of the reasons we’re so fat, the research suggests, is because the regions of the genome that help turn white fat to brown were essentially locked up — tucked away and closed for business — in humans but not in chimps.

«We’ve lost some of the ability to shunt fat cells toward beige or brown fat, and we’re stuck down the white fat pathway,» Swain-Lenz said. It’s still possible to activate the body’s limited brown fat by doing things like exposing people to cold temperatures, she explained, «but we need to work for it.»

Humans, like chimps, need fat to cushion vital organs, insulate us from the cold, and buffer us from starvation. But early humans may have needed to plump up for another reason, the researchers say — as an additional source of energy to fuel our growing, hungry brains.

In the six to eight million years since humans and chimps went their separate ways, human brains have roughly tripled in size. Chimpanzee brains haven’t budged.

The human brain uses more energy, pound for pound, than any other tissue. Steering fat cells toward calorie-storing white fat rather than calorie-burning brown fat, the thinking goes, would have given our ancestors a survival advantage.

Swain-Lenz said another question she gets a lot is: «Are you going to make me skinny?»

«I wish,» she said.

Because of brown fat’s calorie-burning abilities, numerous researchers are trying to figure out if boosting our body’s ability to convert white fat to beige or brown fat could make it easier to slim down.

Swain-Lenz says the differences they found among primates might one day be used to help patients with obesity — but we’re not there yet.

«Maybe we could figure out a group of genes that we need to turn on or off, but we’re still very far from that,» Swain-Lenz said. «I don’t think that it’s as simple as flipping a switch. If it were, we would have figured this out a long time ago,» she explained.

The findings were published in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution.

Author: Robin A. Smith | Source: Duke University [June 26, 2019]



Neanderthals used resin ‘glue’ to craft their stone tools

Archaeologists working in two Italian caves have discovered some of the earliest known examples of ancient humans using an adhesive on their stone tools—an important technological advance called «hafting.»

Neanderthals used resin 'glue' to craft their stone tools
Credit: NASA

The new study, which included CU Boulder’s Paola Villa, shows that Neanderthals living in Europe from about 55 to 40 thousand years ago traveled away from their caves to collect resin from pine trees. They then used that sticky substance to glue stone tools to handles made out of wood or bone.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggests that these cousins of Homo sapiens were more clever than some have made them out to be.

«We continue to find evidence that the Neanderthals were not inferior primitives but were quite capable of doing things that have traditionally only been attributed to modern humans,» said Villa, corresponding author of the new study and an adjoint curator at the CU Museum of Natural History.

That insight, she added, came from a chance discovery from Grotta del Fossellone and Grotta di Sant’Agostino, a pair of caves near the beaches of what is now Italy’s west coast.

Neanderthals used resin 'glue' to craft their stone tools
Flints bearing traces of pine resin. The letter «R» indicates the presence of visible resin,
and the arrows point to spots where researchers sampled material

 for chemical analysis [Credit: Degano et al. 2019]

Those caves were home to Neanderthals who lived in Europe during the Middle Paleolithic period, thousands of years before Homo sapiens set foot on the continent. Archaeologists have uncovered more than 1,000 stone tools from the two sites, including pieces of flint that measured not much more than an inch or two from end to end.

In a recent study of the tools, Villa and her colleagues noticed a strange residue on just a handful of the flints—bits of what appeared to be organic material.

«Sometimes that material is just inorganic sediment, and sometimes it’s the traces of the adhesive used to keep the tool in its socket» Villa said.

To find out, study lead author Ilaria Degano at the University of Pisa conducted a chemical analysis of 10 flints using a technique called gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The tests showed that the stone tools had been coated with resin from local pine trees. In one case, that resin had also been mixed with beeswax.

Neanderthals used resin 'glue' to craft their stone tools
The entrance to the Grotta di Sant’Agostino 
[Credit: Paola Villa]

Villa explained that the Italian Neanderthals didn’t just resort to their bare hands to use stone tools. In at least some cases, they also attached those tools to handles to give them better purchase as they sharpened wooden spears or performed other tasks like butchering or scraping leather.

«You need stone tools to cut branches off of trees and make them into a point,» Villa said.

The find isn’t the oldest known example of hafting by Neanderthals in Europe—two flakes discovered in the Campitello Quarry in central Italy predate it. But it does suggest that this technique was more common than previously believed.

The existence of hafting also provides more evidence that Neanderthals, like their smaller human relatives, were able to build a fire whenever they wanted one, Villa said—something that scientists have long debated. She said that pine resin dries when exposed to air. As a result, Neanderthals needed to warm it over a small fired to make an effective glue.

Neanderthals used resin 'glue' to craft their stone tools
Researchers excavate the Grotta del Fossellone 
[Credit: Paola Villa]

«This is one of several proofs that strongly indicate that Neanderthals were capable of making fire whenever they needed it,» Villa said.

The findings are published in PLOS ONE.

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder [June 26, 2019]



Neanderthals made repeated use of the ancient settlement of ‘Ein Qashish, Israel

The archaeological site of ‘Ein Qashish in northern Israel was a place of repeated Neanderthal occupation and use during the Middle Paleolithic, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Ravid Ekshtain of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and colleagues.

Neanderthals made repeated use of the ancient settlement of 'Ein Qashish, Israel
The archaeological site of ‘Ein Qashish in northern Israel was a place of repeated Neanderthal occupation
and use during the Middle Paleolithic, according to a study  [Credit: Ekshtain, 2019]

In the Levant region of the Middle East, the main source of information on Middle Paleolithic human occupation comes from cave sites. Compared to open air settlements, sheltered sites like caves were easily recognized and often visited, and therefore are more likely to record long periods of occupation. The open-air site of ‘Ein Qashish in northern Israel, however, is unusual in having been inhabited over an extended prehistoric time period. This site provides a unique opportunity to explore an open-air locality across a large landscape and over a long period ranging between 71,000 and 54,000 years ago.
In a joint collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority Ekshtain and colleagues identified human skeletal remains in ‘Ein Qashish as Neanderthal and observed more than 12,000 artifacts from four different depositional units in the same location on the landscape. These units represent different instances of occupation during changing environmental conditions.

From modification of artifacts and animal bones at the site, the authors infer that the occupants were knapping tools, provisioning resources, and consuming animals on-site.

Whereas many open-air settlements are thought to be short-lived and chosen for specialized tasks, ‘Ein Qashish appears to be the site of repeated occupations each of which hosted a range of general activities, indicating a stable and consistent settlement system. The authors suggest that within a complex settlement system, open-air sites may have been more important for prehistoric humans than previously thought.

Ekshtain adds: «Ein Qashish is a 70-60 thousand years open-air site, with a series of stratified human occupations in a dynamic flood plain environment. The site stands out in the extensive excavated area and some unique finds for an open-air context, from which we deduce the diversity of human activities on the landscape. In contrast to other known open-air sites, the locality was not used for task-specific activities but rather served time and again as a habitation location. The stratigraphy, dates and finds from the site allow a reconstruction of a robust settlement system of the late Neanderthals in northern Israel slightly before their disappearance from the regional record, raising questions about the reasons for their disappearance and about their interactions with contemporaneous modern humans.»

Source: Public Library of Science [June 26, 2019]



The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have retrieved nuclear genome sequences from the femur of a male Neanderthal discovered in 1937 in Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave, Germany, and from the maxillary bone of a Neanderthal girl found in 1993 in Scladina Cave, Belgium. Both Neandertals lived around 120,000 years ago, and therefore predate most of the Neanderthals whose genomes have been sequenced to date.

The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe
The Maxillary bone of a Neanderthal girl from Scladina Cave, Belgium
[Credit: © J. Eloy, AWEM, Archéologie andennaise]

By examining the nuclear genomes of these two individuals, the researchers could show that these early Neanderthals in Western Europe were more closely related to the last Neanderthals who lived in the same region as much as 80,000 years later, than they were to contemporaneous Neanderthals living in Siberia.

The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe
The femur of a male Neanderthal from Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave, Germany
[Credit: © Oleg Kuchar, Museum Ulm]

«The result is truly extraordinary and a stark contrast to the turbulent history of replacements, large-scale admixtures and extinctions that is seen in modern human history», says Kay Prüfer who supervised the study.

The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe
Scladina Cave [Credit: D. Bonjean, © Archéologie andennaise]

Intriguingly, unlike the nuclear genome, the mitochondrial genome of the Neanderthal from Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave in Germany is quite different from that of later Neanderthals — a previous report showed that more than 70 mutations distinguish it from the mitochondrial genomes of other Neanderthals.

Processing of samples in the ancient DNA laboratory and analysis of the sequencing data generated 

[Credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology]

The researchers suggest that early European Neanderthals may have inherited DNA from a yet undescribed population. «This unknown population could represent an isolated Neanderthal population yet to be discovered, or may be from a potentially larger population in Africa related to modern humans», explains Stéphane Peyrégne who led the analysis.

The study is published in Science Advances.

Source: Max Planck Society [June 26, 2019]



‘First undisturbed’ Roman shipwreck found off eastern coast of Cyprus

The Department of Antiquities has announced the discovery of an ancient shipwreck in the sea off Protaras, Cyprus. The site was reported by Mr Spyros Spyrou and Mr Andreas Kritiotis, both volunteer divers of the underwater archaeological research team of the Maritime Archaeological Research Laboratory (MARELab), Archaeological Research Unit, of the University of Cyprus. The Department of Antiquities acted immediately after the report, in order to secure the necessary funds to cover the cost of the preliminary in situ investigation, as soon as possible.

'First undisturbed' Roman shipwreck found off eastern coast of Cyprus
Credit: Dept. of Antiquities, Republic of Cyprus

A team of MARELab archaeologists, students and volunteers, led by the Associate Professor of Maritime Archaeology, Dr Stella Demesticha, is already in the area. The team is working on the documentation and protection of the site, in collaboration with the Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Geoinformatics of the Cyprus University of Technology, Dr Dimitris Skarlatos, and the Conservator at the Department of Antiquities, Ms Eleni Loizides.
The site is a wreck of a Roman ship, loaded with transport amphorae, most probably from Syria and Cilicia. It is the first undisturbed Roman shipwreck ever found in Cyprus, the study of which is expected to shed new light on the breadth and the scale of seaborne trade between Cyprus and the rest of the Roman provinces of the eastern Mediterranean.

This project also marks a milestone for Cypriot archaeology, because it is the first time that an underwater archaeological project is fully funded by the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works.

The Department of Antiquities and the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus express their deep appreciation and thanks to Mr Spyros Spyrou and Mr Andreas Kritiotis for immediately reporting their discovery to the authorities. Sincere thanks are, also, owed to all volunteers and supporters of this project, which was organized on a very short notice. The Department would also like to thank diverse institutions and individuals for their generosity and collaboration on this project. This enthusiastic mobilization of authorities and citizens around an important archaeological site sends optimistic messages regarding the protection of cultural heritage by the Cyprus society.

Source: Department of Antiquities, Republic of Cyprus [June 27, 2019]




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