пятница, 19 июля 2019 г.

The first experience on the moon was Swiss

NASA — Apollo 11 Mission patch.

July 19, 2019

A sensor developed by the University of Bern was the only non-American experiment on Apollo 11.

Before the American flag, a «Swiss» flag flew on the moon in the night of July 20 to 21, 1969: the «solar sail» developed by the University of Bern, which aimed to bring back particles of solar wind. The trip to the moon has also helped to better understand the sun.

Image above: Solar Wind Composition Experiment (SWC), deployed by Buz Aldrin. Image Credits: NASA/Apollo 11.

Time was counted on the surface of the moon. Hardly Edwin «Buzz» Aldrin had landed the lunar module «Eagle» he unrolled and planted in the ground the Solarwind Composition Experiment, designed by Professor Johannes Geiss at the Institute of Physics of the University of Bern . It was only four minutes later that the astronaut unfurled the American flag with Neil Armstrong.

The solar wind particle sensor, a sheet of aluminum that has undergone various treatments, was the only non-American experience on Apollo 11. A simple idea that convinced NASA also thanks to the low weight of the device.

The sheet collected particles for 77 minutes. For the first time, authentic solar materials were brought back to Earth and analyzed in laboratories in Zurich and Bern.

Impossible from Earth

It is indeed impossible to study the solar wind from Earth, the magnetic field repelling the particles. «The NASA lunar mission was a good opportunity to capture the solar wind out of the Earth’s magnetic field and thus to have a sample of the Sun,» Peter Wurz, University of Bern, Keystone-ATS told Reuters.

Image above: Solar Wind Composition Experiment (SWC) description (Apollo manual). Image Credit: NASA

The researchers were particularly interested in noble gases: «As they are extremely chemically stable, they give information on the beginnings of the solar system,» says Professor Wurz.

As far as the moon itself is concerned, the various Apollo missions have brought back more than 300 kilos of rocks and dust from our satellite. The University of Bern, an expert in meteorite dating and analysis by mass spectrometry, was one of the few institutions in Europe to be involved in this research from the beginning.

In quarantine

The equipment was first quarantined, remembers Otto Eugster, long in charge of coordinating with NASA. «We did not know if the lunar rocks contained dangerous elements, for example bacteria that could have infected the Earth,» he says.

Image above: Solar Wind Composition Experiment (SWC) during its deployment by Buz Aldrin. Image Credits: NASA/Apollo 11. 

«We gave them to eat mice, they even liked that and had no problem,» says the physicist. Other analyzes quickly showed that there was no trace of life on the moon.

No new items were found, but then unknown minerals. One of them was named Armalcolite, a contraction of the names of the three astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins.

Again in the viewfinder

In recent years, the Moon is again in the sights of space agencies, including American and Chinese. According to Professor Eugster, this could be due to helium-3, an isotope 300 times more present on the Moon than on Earth and could be exploited as a source of energy.

Apollo 11: «First Moonwalk on TV», First Men on the Moon

The Moon could also become an intermediate step for future missions to Mars, the specialist adds. Given its small gravitational field, it would require much less energy than leaving the Earth. One could also install on the dark side of the Moon telescopes that would not be disturbed by terrestrial radio waves.

In general, there is still much to discover on the Moon. The Apollo missions have all aluni around the equator and on the face facing the Earth. Even including the probes, it is estimated that only one twentieth of the Moon’s surface has been directly studied.

Bern always part

The University of Bern will be involved in future lunar exploration missions, including that planned for 2024 by the Russian agency Roscosmos, says Professor Wurz. Participation in the Chinese mission «Chang’e 6», also in 2024, is under discussion.

Image above: Solar Wind Composition Experiment (SWC), developed by the University of Bern. Image Credit: Universität Bern.

The same year, NASA plans to send humans back to the moon, including the first woman, and again the Bernese alma mater is on the line. «But we are just at the beginning of the discussions,» concludes Peter Wurz.

Swiss solar sail on the Moon

Just 50 years ago, the first steps on the Moon also marked one of the first achievements of the University of Bern in the space field. To celebrate the event, Swissmint issues a new 20-franc silver coin. Initially sketched in pencil by the engraver Swissmint Remo Mascherini, the pattern of the piece was then reworked numerically. As part of the Apollo 11 mission, Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men to walk on the moon on July 21, 1969. The only non-American experience aboard the lunar module, the solar sail of the University of Bern, was installed by Buzz Aldrin even before he raised the American flag.

Swissmint Apollo 11, commemorative coin of 50 years. Image Credit: Swissmint

The Solar Wind Composition Experiment (SWC) was developed by the Bernese physicists surrounding Professor Johannes Geiss at the Institute of Physics at the University of Bern. Its purpose was to verify the presence of the solar wind, whose existence was suspected but that could not be measured from Earth. The simplicity of the experience and the low weight of the craft had convinced the NASA space agency.

Related links:

Solar Wind Composition Experiment (SWC): https://www.lpi.usra.edu/lunar/missions/apollo/apollo_11/experiments/swc/

University of Bern: https://www.unibe.ch/index_eng.html

Swissmint: https://www.swissmint.ch/

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

Apollo 11: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo-11.html

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: Reuters/ATS/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

5 Ways the Moon Landing Changed Life on Earth

When Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the Moon 50

years ago
, he famously said “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap

for mankind
.” He was referring to the historic milestone of exploring beyond

our own planet — but there’s also another way to think about that giant leap:

the massive effort to develop technologies to safely reach, walk on the Moon

and return home led to countless innovations that have improved life on Earth.

Armstrong took one small step on the lunar surface, but the Moon

landing led to a giant leap forward in innovations for humanity.

Here are five examples of technology developed for the

Apollo program that we’re still using today:

1. Food Safety Standards

As soon as we started planning to send astronauts into

space, we faced the problem of what to feed them — and how to ensure the food was

safe to eat. Can you imagine getting food poisoning on a spacecraft, hundreds

of thousands of miles from home?

We teamed up with a familiar name in food production: the

Pillsbury Company. The company soon realized that existing quality control

methods were lacking. There was no way to be certain, without extensive testing

that destroyed the sample, that the food was free of bacteria and toxins.

Pillsbury revamped its entire food-safety process, creating what

became the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system. Its aim was to prevent food safety problems from

occurring, rather than catch them after the fact. They managed this by analyzing

and controlling every link in the chain, from the raw materials to the

processing equipment to the people handling the food.

Today, this is one of the space program’s most far-reaching

spinoffs. Beyond keeping the astronaut food supply safe, the Hazard Analysis

and Critical Point system has also been adopted around the world — and likely reduced

the risk of bacteria and toxins in your local grocery store. 


2. Digital Controls for

Air and Spacecraft

The Apollo spacecraft was revolutionary for many reasons.

Did you know it was the first vehicle to be controlled by a digital computer?

Instead of pushrods and cables that pilots manually adjusted to manipulate the

spacecraft, Apollo’s computer sent signals to actuators at the flick of a


Besides being physically lighter and less cumbersome, the

switch to a digital control system enabled storing large quantities of data and

programming maneuvers with complex software.

Before Apollo, there were no digital computers to control

airplanes either. Working together with the Navy and Draper Laboratory, we

adapted the Apollo digital flight computer to work

on airplanes. Today, whatever airline you might be flying, the pilot is

controlling it digitally, based on the technology first developed for the

flight to the Moon.


3. Earthquake-ready Shock


A shock absorber descended from

Apollo-era dampers and computers saves lives by stabilizing buildings during


Apollo’s Saturn V rockets had to

stay connected to the fueling tubes on the launchpad up to the very last

second. That presented a challenge: how to safely move those tubes out of the

way once liftoff began. Given how fast they were moving, how could we ensure

they wouldn’t bounce back and smash into the vehicle?

We contracted with Taylor

Devices, Inc. to develop dampers to cushion the shock, forcing the company to

push conventional shock isolation technology to the limit.

Shortly after, we went back to

the company for a hydraulics-based high-speed computer. For that challenge, the

company came up with fluidic dampers—filled with compressible fluid—that worked

even better. We later applied the same technology on the Space Shuttle’s


The company has since adapted

these fluidic dampers for buildings and bridges to help them survive

earthquakes. Today, they are successfully protecting structures in some of the

most quake-prone areas of the world, including Tokyo, San Francisco and Taiwan.


4. Insulation for Space

We’ve all seen runners draped in silvery “space blankets” at

the end of marathons, but did you know the material, called radiant barrier

insulation, was actually created for space?

Temperatures outside of Earth’s atmosphere can fluctuate

widely, from hundreds of degrees below to hundreds above zero. To better

protect our astronauts, during the Apollo program we invented a new kind of effective, lightweight


We developed a method of coating mylar with a thin layer of vaporized metal particles. The resulting material had the look and weight

of thin cellophane packaging, but was extremely reflective—and pound-for-pound, better than anything else available.

Today the material is still used to protect astronauts, as

well as sensitive electronics, in nearly all of our missions. But it has also

found countless uses on the ground, from space blankets for athletes to

energy-saving insulation for buildings. It also protects essential components

of MRI machines used in medicine and much, much more.


Image courtesy of the U.S. Marines

5. Healthcare Monitors

Patients in hospitals are hooked up to sensors that send

important health data to the nurse’s station and beyond — which means when an

alarm goes off, the right people come running to help.

This technology saves lives every day. But before it reached

the ICU, it was invented for something even more extraordinary: sending health

data from space down to Earth.

When the Apollo astronauts flew to the Moon, they were

hooked up to a system of sensors that sent real-time information on their blood

pressure, body temperature, heart rate and more to a team on the ground.

The system was developed for us by Spacelabs Healthcare,

which quickly adapted it for hospital monitoring. The company now has telemetric

monitoring equipment in nearly every hospital around the world, and it is

expanding further, so at-risk patients and their doctors can keep track of

their health even outside the hospital.


Only a few people have ever walked on the Moon, but the

benefits of the Apollo program for the rest of us continue to ripple widely.

In the years since, we have continued to create innovations

that have saved lives, helped the environment, and advanced all kinds of technology.

Now we’re going forward to the Moon with the Artemis program and on to Mars — and

building ever more cutting-edge technologies to get us there. As with the many

spinoffs from the Apollo era, these innovations will transform our lives for

generations to come.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of

space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Meteor Activity Outlook for July 13-19, 2019

Jason Ptaszek captured this fantastic green fireball at 08:15 Universal Time on  July 1, 2019, from Summer Lake, Oregon USA. Refer to AMS Fireball Report #2847-2019 © Jason Ptaszek

During this period the moon reaches its full phase on Tuesday July 16th. On that date the moon is located opposite the sun in the sky and remains above the horizon all night long. This weekend the waxing gibbous moon will set during the morning hours just before dawn, allowing a small opportunity to view under dark skies. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 2 no matter your location. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 8 no matter your location. 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 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 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 July 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 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 03:00 LDST

Radiant Positions at 4:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

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

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. Details of each source will continue next week when viewing conditions are more favorable.

RA (RA in Deg.) DEC Km/Sec Local Daylight Saving Time North-South
alpha Capricornids (CAP) Jul 27 19:16 (289) -13 22 01:00 <1 – <1 II
Anthelion (ANT) 20:16 (304) -19 30 02:00 1 – 2 II
Northern June Aquilids (NZC) Jul 03 21:20 (320) -02 41 03:00 1 – 1 IV
Southern June Aquilids (SZC) Jul 06 21:51 (328) -25 39 04:00 <1 – 1 IV
epsilon Pegasids (EPG) Jun 15 22:12 (333) +14 28 04:00 <1 – <1 IV
July Pegasids (JPE) Jul 11 23:24 (351) +12 68 05:00 <1 – <1 IV
Perseids (PER) Aug 13 00:20 (005) +50 59 06:00 <1 – <1 I
49 Andromedids (FAN) Jul 21 01:12 (018) +46 60 07:00 <1 – <1 IV
phi Piscids (PPS) Jul 05 01:16 (026) +28 67 07:00 1 – <1 IV
psi Cassiopeiids (PCA) Jul 22 01:26 (022) +71 42 07:00 <1 – <1 IV
c-Andromedids (CAN) Jul 09 02:17 (034) +50 58 08:00 1 – <1 IV
July chi Arietids (JXA) Jul 13 02:26 (036) +09 69 08:00 1 – 1 IV

Source link

2019 July 18 Tranquility Base Panorama Image Credit: Neil…

2019 July 18

Tranquility Base Panorama
Image Credit: Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11, NASA

Explanation: On July 20, 1969 the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle safely touched down on the Moon. It landed near the southwestern corner of the Moon’s Mare Tranquillitatis at a landing site dubbed Tranquility Base. This panoramic view of Tranquility Base was constructed from the historic photos taken from the lunar surface. On the far left astronaut Neil Armstrong casts a long shadow with Sun is at his back and the Eagle resting about 60 meters away ( AS11-40-5961). He stands near the rim of 30 meter-diameter Little West crater seen here to the right ( AS11-40-5954). Also visible in the foreground is the top of the camera intended for taking stereo close-ups of the lunar surface.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190719.html

A new look at the Gibraltar Neanderthals

Modern DNA sequencing techniques are allowing us to discover more about some iconic Neanderthal skulls than ever before.

A new look at the Gibraltar Neanderthals
The adult female Neanderthal cranium discovered at Forbes Quarry, Gibraltar
[Credit: Natural History Museum]

Two skulls from Gibraltar were among the first Neanderthal remains ever found, and have since become some of the best-studied human fossils in the world.

One was found at Forbes’ Quarry in 1848, and one at a site called Devil’s Tower in 1926.

Despite their fame, there are many remaining uncertainties about the two partial skulls, including their geological age and their relationship to other European Neanderthals.

It was long thought that little DNA analysis could be done on the two skulls, since they had been preserved in unfavourable conditions for many years, and because present-day human DNA has contaminated them.

But ancient DNA has finally been extracted from these fossils, in a collaboration led by the Natural History Museum in London and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig,

We now know the sex of both the individuals as well as details about how one of them could be linked to Neanderthal relatives beyond Gibraltar.

The Forbes’ Quarry Neanderthal

The Forbes’ Quarry skull (pictured above) was the first adult Neanderthal ever discovered, and it is one of the most precious specimens in the Museum collections. It is also known as Gibraltar 1.

A new look at the Gibraltar Neanderthals
A three-quarter view of the Forbes’ Quarry Neanderthal, which is held in the Museum collection
[Credit: Natural History Museum]

It was found in the northern end of the Rock of Gibraltar in 1848, and presented to the Gibraltar Scientific Society by Lieutenant Edmund Flint on 3 March of that year.  This was eight years before the Neanderthal type specimen was discovered in the Neander Valley in Germany.

The skull came to Britain in 1864, where Charles Darwin recorded that he examined it, and it was donated to the Royal College of Surgeons in London four years later. It was transferred to the Natural History Museum in the 1950s.

The Museum’s Prof Chris Stringer, an expert on human evolution, says, ‘It has long been recognised as one of the most important Neanderthal fossils, the first one showing the typical Neanderthal facial shape, dominated by a projecting midface and nose.’

The Devil’s Tower child

Further Neanderthal discoveries were made nearby in the 1910s and 1920s. The Devil’s Tower specimen (also known as Gibraltar 2 and pictured above) is part of a Neanderthal child’s skull. It was found in 1926 by a team led by the archaeologist Dorothy Garrod.

A new look at the Gibraltar Neanderthals
The Devil’s Tower child skull [Credit: Guérin Nicolas/WikiCommons]

The Devil’s Tower site is at a rock shelter not far from Forbes’ Quarry where the skull was recovered alongside animal remains and stone tools.

The Neanderthal remains consist of parts of the jaws and parts of the braincase, and its teeth show that the child was probably about four or five years old when they died.

In 1928 the Trustees of the Percy Sladen Fund presented the remains to the Museum.

Modern DNA techniques

Studying ancient human remains can be difficult because they are easily contaminated by modern human DNA.

A new look at the Gibraltar Neanderthals
The Devils Tower Neanderthal child fossil in pieces
[Credit: Natural History Museum]

To investigate DNA preservation in these Neanderthal remains, Lukas Bokelmann and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology analysed bone powder from the base of each of the skulls.

They used a preparation method that reduces modern contamination before sequencing, to isolate the Neanderthal DNA.

Analyses confirmed that the Devil’s Tower child was male, and the Forbes’ Quarry adult was female. The researchers also found that the adult was genetically more similar to earlier (60,000- to 120,000-year-old) Neanderthals in Europe and western Asia than to younger Neanderthal remains from Spain.

So although Gibraltar is often considered as one of the last refugia of the Neanderthals, the Forbes’ Quarry fossil appears from its DNA to be an earlier example.

Prof Stringer adds, ‘These results show that it’s now possible to analyse DNA in highly contaminated fossils from relatively warm climates.

‘It holds out promise for the recovery of comparably ancient DNA from regions such as North Africa, the Middle East and China.’

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Author: Katie Pavid | Source: Natural History Museum [July 16, 2019]



Fabled Crusader moat outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls

Archaeologists have discovered an 11th-century moat just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls—the first hard evidence of a fabled Crusader siege against the city 920 years ago. Attested to in several historical documents, many scholars nonetheless believed the siege was a myth.

Fabled Crusader moat outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls
The excavation near the Old City’s southern wall [Credit: Virginia Winters/
Israel Nature and Parks Authority]

The groundbreaking find was made as part of the Mount Zion Archaeological Project, a joint international effort led by professor Shimon Gibson and professor James Tabor of the University of North Carolina in Charlotte in cooperation with Rafi Lewis of Ashkelon Academic College. The excavation site is part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park, where archaeologists have previously found a first-century Jewish mansion and a rare gold coin stamped with the face Roman Emperor Nero.
The five-week battle for Jerusalem between Crusader armies and the Fatimid Caliphate that controlled the region in 1099 C.E. came to a head in July 15 of that year, with Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, one of the leaders of the First Crusade, attacking the city from the south while another Christian force erected a tower to breach the city walls from the north.

Raymond of Aguilers, who wrote a contemporary account of the battle, described a moat dug by the Muslim defenders to thwart attackers to the south. According to his chronicles, the count promised golden dinars to all Crusaders who would help fill the ditch so he could build a stable siege tower against the wall.

Fabled Crusader moat outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls
A Crusader-era earring discovered at Mount Zion archaeological
excavations [Credit: Virginia Withers]

“Anyone who ever dealt with the Crusade in Jerusalem knows this story. … It’s a very saucy bit of story,” said Mount Zion team co-director Lewis according to GeekWire. “But nobody ever found the ditch, so people said maybe [the story was] made up.”
Gibson said the realization they had uncovered the ditch began to set in when he noticed that the dirt layers were not sloping away from the city wall, but rather towards it, in a manner consistent with a ditch or moat which had been filled in.

According to the account by Raymond of Aguilers, the siege ultimately succeeded, but the tower was burnt down. When the northern force conquered the city, Crusaders spent a week slaughtering Muslim and Jewish residents of the city.

Fabled Crusader moat outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls
Mount Zion archaeological excavations [Credit: Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel]

Over five years, the team mapped and dated the layers and artifacts, revealing a 13-foot-deep, 56-foot-wide moat. A blackened layer found atop the moat is believed to be evidence of the 1153 civil war between Crusader King Baldwin III of Jerusalem and his mother, Queen Melisende.

In a house discovered adjacent to the site archaeologists also found arrowheads, two cross pendants of the type typically worn by Crusaders, and a 3-inch piece of gold jewelry with pearls, jade and glass, consistent with Fatimid Muslim style.

Source: Jewish News Syndicate [July 16, 2019]



Slender-billed albatross skull from Pliocene discovered in New Zealand

Senckenberg ornithologist Gerald Mayr, in conjunction with his colleague Alan Tennyson of the Te Papa Museum in New Zealand, describe a previously unknown, extinct albatross species from the Pliocene. The bird, which lived about 3 million years ago, only reached approximately 90 percent of the size of the smallest modern albatrosses.

Slender-billed albatross skull from Pliocene discovered in New Zealand
Nearly complete fossil skull of the new albatross species (above) in comparison to the Black-footed Albatross,
one of the smallest extant albatrosses (below) [Credit: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa]

However, the fossil’s most remarkable trait is the unusually narrow beak, which suggests that the new species mainly fed on fish. The diet of modern albatrosses, by contrast, is dominated by squid. The fossil discovery thus indicates a higher diversity in the feeding ecology of extinct albatrosses and raises the question why the fish-eating forms ultimately went extinct. The study is published today in the scientific journal Ibis.
Extant albatrosses are known for their considerable size: the largest species reach a wingspan of more than 3 meters. However, while living albatrosses are among the most iconic pelagic birds, little is known about the evolutionary history of these characteristic flyers, and fossils are extremely rare.

Slender-billed albatross skull from Pliocene discovered in New Zealand
Skull of the newly discovered albatross species (above) in comparison to the Antipodean Albatross,
one of the largest extant albatrosses (below) [Credit: Jean-Claude Stahl, Te Papa]

The new species, described as Aldiomedes angustirostris, is represented by an almost completely preserved skull that was discovered in 2011 by a private collector in the Tangahoe Formation on New Zealand’s North Island. The marine sediments of this fossil site are known for their rich Pliocene fauna.
«The new species we described is clearly smaller than all modern albatrosses,» explains Dr. Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, and he continues, «Small albatross species are already known from the Eocene and Miocene epochs, but the new fossil is the youngest and most complete of these small forms and the only one of which a skull has been found.»

Slender-billed albatross skull from Pliocene discovered in New Zealand
Southern Royal Albatross in flight [Credit: Alan Tennyson]

The avian skull examined by Mayr and his colleague Alan Tennyson differs from all other known albatross species not only in its size; the shape of the beak also deviates from the norm. «The slender beak resembles that of modern seabirds that feed on fish,» explains Mayr. The ornithologists therefore assume that the newly discovered species preferred a diet of fish, unlike modern albatrosses who primarily hunt for squid.

The fossil discovery shows that albatrosses had a more diversified feeding ecology in the past. However, it remains an enigma why these small, fish-eating species ultimately went extinct. «It is possible that they shared similar ecological niches with other seabirds such as boobies or cormorants during the Pliocene and ultimately succumbed to competition with these birds» assumes Mayr and adds in closing, «However additional fossils from the avifaunas of that time are needed to properly test this hypothesis.»

Source: Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum [July 17, 2019]



Six medieval ships unearthed in Norwegian capital

Six ships from the Middle Ages have been uncovered in a series of excavations in central Oslo, providing researchers with new knowledge on Norwegian maritime history.

Six medieval ships unearthed in Norwegian capital
Credit: Lars Dønvold-Myhre/NRK

The ships dating from between the 1300s to the 1600s, were unearthed in the modern Bjørvika district situated at the Oslo Fjord in connection with urban development and the construction of a high-speed railway.
“In Norway, this is completely unique. There is no doubt about that”, project manager and archaeologist Elling Utvik Wammer of the Norwegian Maritime Museum told the daily newspaper Aftenposten describing the spate of findings “archaeological adventure”.

Six medieval ships unearthed in Norwegian capital

Credit: Lars Dønvold-Myhre/NRK

The last ship found in Bjørvika is about ten metres long. According to the archaeologists, its wood is in fantastic condition, given that the ship is about 500 years old.
According to Wammer, this is most likely a cargo ship, as lumber was 16th-century Norway’s main export. Fellow archaeologist Marja-Liisa Grue assumed that it could have also been used to ship stones to nearby Akershus Fortress, one of Oslo’s main sights.

Six medieval ships unearthed in Norwegian capital

Credit: Lars Dønvold-Myhre/NRK

The archaeologist crew stressed that the findings will shed more light upon a little-known period in the Norwegian capital’s history, namely the Reformation and the great city fire of 1624. At that time, Norway was part of the Dano-Norwegian realm. After the deadly fire, Oslo was renamed Christiania after Christian IV of Denmark.
Since the start of massive urban development in Bjørvika, a total of 40 shipwrecks have been found. According to Wammer, the findings dating back from the Middle Ages and early modern times are “unique in European context”.

Eventually, some of the shipwrecks will be exhibited at the Norwegian Maritime Museum and 3D models of how the ships looked will also be made.
During the excavations, a number of discoveries were made, including flutes and other instruments, golden rings, a medieval seal and an ink-well of bone decorated with a small star-shaped flower.

Since the 2000s, Bjørvika has undergone vigorous re-development, being transformed from a container port to Oslo’s new cultural and urban centre. Up to 5,000 homes and commercial buildings with room for 20,000 employees will be built.

Source: Sputnik News [July 17, 2019]



Going to the Moon Was Hard — But the Benefits Were Huge, for All of Us

NASA — Apollo 11 Mission patch.

July 18, 2019

President John F. Kennedy wasn’t kidding when he said going to the Moon was hard.

Much of the technology needed to get to the lunar surface and return didn’t exist at the time of Kennedy’s famous 1962 speech. And much was unknown. As NASA’s Apollo missions were being planned, there was concern that the lunar module might sink right into the surface or become stuck in it.

Image above: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the Moon near a leg of the lunar module during Apollo 11. Image Credit: NASA.

Thanks in part to the massive, 400,000-person effort that put astronauts on the Moon seven years later, our knowledge of the solar system has increased dramatically in the decades since. The many challenges NASA overcame forced the agency and its partners to devise new inventions and techniques that spread into public life, many of which are taken for granted today.

As NASA prepares to return to the Moon by 2024, the space agency is mapping out the next round of technological advances needed to establish sustainable operations by 2028 and send future crewed missions to Mars. If history is any guide, many of these technologies will go on to become part of day-to-day life on Earth, just as many Apollo inventions already have.

Here is a small selection of Apollo technologies still in use 50 years after the first Moon landing.

Digital Flight Controls

Maybe the clearest illustration of Apollo’s contributions to the state of the art is the digital fly-by-wire control system that guided its path. The technology was unheard-of at the time, but it is now integral to airliners and is even found in most cars.

When the Apollo program started, pilots controlled planes mechanically, with cables and rods connecting their instruments to the aircraft’s control surfaces, such as wing flaps and tail rudders. To eliminate human error and guide flight more precisely during a three-day trip to the Moon and daring lunar touchdown, NASA commissioned Draper Laboratories to build a computer guidance system for the Apollo command module and lunar module. The Apollo Primary Guidance, Navigation and Control System converted pilots’ inputs into electrical signals and fed them to the Apollo Guidance Computer, along with information from various sensors. The computer then decided how to adjust control firings to achieve the desired outcome. Being digital, rather than analog, the computer could make use of complex software and store large amounts of data.

Image above: For the first 70 years of human flight, pilots used controls that connected directly to aircraft components through cables and pushrods. Following the successful use of a flight computer during the Apollo program, a partnership between NASA and Draper Laboratory resulted in the first plane flown digitally. Today, so-called digital fly-by-wire systems are the norm in aviation. Image Credit: NASA.

Following Apollo, NASA and its partners spent years adapting the system for use in airplanes, where it is now common. Digital fly-by-wire technology also appears in automobile features like cruise control, antilock brakes and electronic stability control systems.

Food Safety

One of the many problems NASA faced planning space missions was the need to ensure all food astronauts took with them was free of microbes that could make them sick. The agency enlisted food manufacturer Pillsbury to help tackle the problem. The company quickly discovered existing quality-control methods were not up to the task.

Rather than spot-checking end products to catch problems, Pillsbury developed a system for taking control of the entire manufacturing process, from raw materials to the processing environment to distribution and the people involved. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system was in place in time for the first Moon missions, and it was soon implemented in Pillsbury’s own factories.

Image above: Looking to ensure the absolute safety of prepackaged foods for spaceflight, NASA partnered with the Pillsbury Company to create a new, systematic approach to quality control. Image Credit: NASA.

For the past couple of decades, the U.S. government has required meat, poultry, seafood and juice producers to use HACCP procedures, and the same principles informed newer regulations that are being applied across the entire food industry today.

Space Blankets

One of the most prevalent spinoffs from the entire space program was invented for Apollo-era spacesuits. It might be best known as the “space blankets” found in emergency kits and handed out at the end of marathons, but multilayer reflective insulation is more often used in less visible applications.

NASA found that by layering multiple metalized sheets of lightweight mylar, it could create a reflective insulation far more effective both pound-for-pound and inch-for-inch than anything else available. NASA went on to master the technology, improving its strength, fabrication techniques and testing procedures, fine-tuning it for maximum performance.

Image above: Space blankets, also known as emergency blankets, are made out of an insulation first developed by NASA in 1964. Image Credit: AFM Inc.

The insulation has been used in just about every NASA spacecraft and spacesuit since its creation, and it has become a ubiquitous spinoff found in clothing, firefighting and camping gear, building insulation, cryogenic storage, magnetic resonance imaging machines and particle colliders, to name a few applications.


A technology that started with Apollo-era shock absorbers and computers now protects buildings and bridges around the world from earthquakes. A company that built dampers to manage the massive arms that swung away from Apollo’s Saturn V rocket during launch had to push conventional shock isolation technology to the limit.

For a separate project to help build NASA a hydraulics-based analog computer in the mid-1960s, the company researched fluidics science and developed a fluidic damper that easily exceeded the performance of existing technology. NASA later used dampers based on those advances for every space shuttle launch.

For decades, the company has made fluidic shock absorbers using the same technology, which now reinforce hundreds of buildings, bridges, and other structures around the world, particularly in quake-prone regions.

Rechargeable Hearing Aids

Even decades after the Moon landing, new spinoff technologies from the Apollo program continue to arrive on the market. The world’s first practical rechargeable hearing aid batteries, which debuted in 2013, built on extensive work NASA did during and after Apollo.

The command module that went to the Moon used silver-zinc batteries, the lightest known battery couple. But the agency also wanted to make the cells rechargeable, and innovators at NASA spent many years experimenting with cell separators and electrodes, vastly improving the technology — though it never made it into space. A company founded in 1996 picked up where NASA and others had left off, but it took many more years of work to make a viable product.

Hearing aid batteries have always been disposable, because the zinc batteries that can be made small enough for them aren’t rechargeable. Lithium-ion batteries can’t get quite as small and suffer from problems related to overheating. Now, the company’s silver-zinc hearing aid batteries can hold enough power to last all day and can be recharged upwards of 1,000 times without losing performance. They’re even recyclable.

The batteries have also made their way into a bone-anchored hearing system and a line of noise-canceling wireless earbuds. It is likely that we will see many more silver-zinc battery applications in the future.

More to Come

These are just a few of the numerous commercial products from humanity’s first trips to the Moon. The full stories for these and other Apollo technologies that have made their way into everyday life can be found on the NASA Spinoff website.

As NASA plans upcoming Artemis missions, with new objectives and long-term exploration goals, it’s clear that, once again, much of the necessary technology and infrastructure don’t exist yet for sustainable missions. For example, the agency plans to extract resources from the lunar surface. Engineers will need to figure out how to turn frozen water locked in the Moon’s surface into drinkable water, breathable oxygen and usable rocket fuel.

None of this will be easy, but that is why the effort will prove fruitful. Interviewed about fly-by-wire technology decades after its invention, Darryl Sargent, vice president of programs for Draper Laboratories, said, “What NASA has meant to us is a steady stream of hard problems to work on,” noting that the company then applies the solutions it devises as broadly as possible.

Technology created for Artemis will certainly find secondary applications on Earth. And it will enable a new economy in space. Finally, the mission architecture itself — rocket and capsule, surface modules, spacecraft that will ferry astronauts to and from the lunar surface, and all the technology that enables sustainable operations on the Moon — is a test bed for humanity’s next great leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

Related links:

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

Apollo 11: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo-11.html

NASA Spinoff website: https://spinoff.nasa.gov/

Space Tech: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Loura Hall/GSFC/Mike DiCicco.

Greetings, Orbiter.chArchive link

Rocket Rolls Out Ready to Launch New Station Crew on Apollo 50th

ISS — Expedition 60 Mission patch.

July 18, 2019

A Soyuz rocket stands at its launch pad today at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ready to launch three new flight engineers to the International Space Station on Saturday. NASA astronaut Drew Morgan will embark on his first space mission with veteran station residents Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov.

The Expedition 60-61 trio from the United States, Italy and Russia, is lifting off Saturday at 12:28 p.m. EDT aboard the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft. They will dock less than six-and-a-half hours later to the Zvezda service module 50 years to the day NASA first landed humans on the Moon.

Image above: The Soyuz rocket that will launch three new Expedition 60-61 crewmembers to the station on Saturday stands at its launch pad in Kazakhstan. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

About two-and-a-half hours later the Soyuz and station hatches will open and they will enter their new home in space. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and station Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos will greet their new crewmates then hold a ceremony with family, friends and mission officials on the ground.

Soyuz MS-13 ready for launch

NASA TV is broadcasting all the activities live with launch coverage beginning Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Docking coverage begins at 6 p.m. as the Soyuz begins its approach with the orbiting lab. Finally, NASA TV’s live coverage of the hatch opening and crew welcoming ceremony begins at 8 p.m.

Related links:

Expedition 60: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition60/index.html

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

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

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

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

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/Roscosmos/SciNews.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

Centuries-old Nandi statues unearthed near Mysore

A pair of centuries-old Nandi statues, carved out of monolithic soapstone, have been unearthed from a dried lake bed in Arasinakere, about 20 km from Mysore, a city in India’s southwestern Karnataka state.

Centuries-old Nandi statues unearthed near Mysore
Credit: Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage

The locals, particularly the senior citizens of the village, had earlier been aware of the presence of the Nandis, whose heads appeared to peep out partially whenever the water level in the lake dipped. The complete drying up of the waterbody during summer presented the curious residents an opportunity to dig deeper.
The locals, who dug up the area and even deployed an earth mover during a three-to-four-day exercise, managed to unearth two giant Nandi statues facing each other.

Centuries-old Nandi statues unearthed near Mysore
Credit: Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage

A team of officials from the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, including archaeologist M.L. Gowda and engineer Satish, visited the spot on Monday. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Gowda said the statues appeared to belong to the 16th or 17th century, dating back to the post-Vijayanagar period. He said they resembled most of the sculptures carved out of the smooth soapstone during that period.
The statues are carved out of a single rock. “The statues are incomplete. While one appears to be 60% completed, the other is at about 85%,” Mr. Gowda said. He added that the statues were also not identical in size. While the larger one is around 15 feet in length and 12 feet in height, the smaller one is more compact, according to locals.

Centuries-old Nandi statues unearthed near Mysore
Credit: Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage

A report on the excavation has been sent to the Commissioner of the Department Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, T. Venkatesh. For the time being, further excavation has been stopped and the department officials is awaiting instructions from seniors on the measures to be taken for the statues’ conservation. Mr. Gowda said the department had been aware of the presence of the statues. “We conducted a spot inspection during 2016, but the area was covered with shrubs and submerged,” he said.
Meanwhile, citing locals, Jyothi S., Panchayat Development Officer of Marballi Gram Panchayat, under whose purview Arasinakere falls, said the village adjoining the waterbody is named after the Maharaja. Arasinakere, when translated into English, means ‘the king’s lake’, she said.

Centuries-old Nandi statues unearthed near Mysore
Credit: Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage

Locals also claim that the late Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, had visited the lake several decades ago and tried to unearth the statues by deploying men and material. However, the labourers had to be abandon the task because of the rising water level in the lake.

While the locals suggest there could be an ancient temple beneath the lake, archaeologists say it is plausible that the Nandi statues had been carved out of the rock found at the spot for transportation to a different destination.

Source: The Hindu [July 17, 2019]



Community size matters when people create a new language

Why are languages so different from each other? After comparing more than two thousand languages, scientists noticed that languages with more speakers are usually simpler than smaller languages. For instance, most English nouns can be turned into plurals by simply adding -s, whereas the German system is notoriously irregular. Linguists have proposed that languages adapt to fit different social structures.

Community size matters when people create a new language
Credit: iStockphoto, Kronick

«But we actually don’t know whether it is the size of the community that drives the difference in complexity,» says lead author Limor Raviv from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. Perhaps the bigger languages have simpler grammars because they cover larger geographical space and speakers are far from each other, or because large communities have more contact with outsiders. Together with her colleagues, Antje Meyer from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University and Shiri Lev-Ari from the Royal Holloway University of London, Raviv set out to test whether community size alone plays a role in shaping grammar.

‘Wowo-ik’ and ‘wowo-ii’

To test the role of group size experimentally, the psycholinguists used a communication game. In this game, participants had to communicate without using any language they know, leading them to create a new language. The goal of the game was to communicate successfully about different novel scenes, using only invented nonsense words.

A ‘speaker’ would see one of four shapes moving in some direction on a screen and type in nonsense words to describe the scene (its shape and direction). The ‘listener’ would then guess which scene the other person was referring to, by selecting one of eight scenes on their own screen. Participants received points for every successful interaction (correct guesses). Participants paired up with a different person from their group at every new round, taking turns producing and guessing words.

At the start of the game, people would randomly guess meanings and make up new names. Over the course of several hours, participants started to combine words or part-words systematically, creating an actual mini-language.

For instance, in one group, ‘wowo-ik’ meant that a specific shape was going up and right, whereas ‘wowo-ii’ meant that the same shape was going straight up. With such a ‘regular’ system, it becomes easier to predict the meaning of new labels (‘mop-ik’ meant a different shape going up and right). Participants played in either ‘small’ groups of four participants or ‘large’ groups of eight participants. Would the large groups invent ‘simpler’ (more systematic) languages than the small groups?

Variability promotes structure

By the end of the experiment, the large groups had indeed created languages with more systematic grammars. «The pressure to create systematic languages is much higher in larger groups,» explains Raviv. This is because there are more word versions in the larger groups. In order to understand each other, members of a large group must overcome this variability and develop systematic structure. So the more variability, the more it pushed people to make their language even simpler.

The researchers also found that the size of the group predicted how similar that group was to the other groups. All large groups reached similar levels of structure and communicative success. However, the small groups differed a lot from each other: some never developed systematic grammars, while others were very successful.» This might mean that in the real world, larger languages are potentially more similar to each other than smaller languages,» Raviv says.

«Our study shows that the social environment in which languages evolve, and specifically the number of people in the community, can affect the grammar of languages,» concludes Raviv. «This could possibly explain why some languages have more complex grammar than others. The results also support the idea that an increase in human population size was one of the main drivers for the evolution of natural languages.»

The study is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics [July 17, 2019]



Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem

A huge settlement from the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age), the largest known in Israel from that period, and one of the largest of its kind in the region, has been discovered during archaeological excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority near Motza Junction. The project was initiated and financed by the Netivei Israel Company (the National Transport Infrastructure company). The excavations are conducted as part of the Highway 16 Project which includes building a new entrance road to Jerusalem from the west, connecting the National Highway 1 from the Motza area to the southern part of Jerusalem («Bayit VeGan» area), including two double tunnels.

Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem
The huge settlement from the Neolithic Period that was discovered in the archaeological excavations at the Motza
intersection near Jerusalem by the Antiquities Authority [Credit: Eyal Marco, Antiquities Authority]

Amongst others, thousands of arrowheads, pieces of jewelry and figurines produced by the people of the site have been unearthed during the excavations.

Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem
Excavation works on the Motza Neolithic site [Credit: Yaniv Berman,
Israel Antiquities Authority]

The Motza excavation site is situated 5 km west of Jerusalem, on the banks of the Sorek Stream, near water fountains and close to a fertile valley and to the ancient way that led from the Shefela (foothills) region to Jerusalem. These optimal conditions are a central reason for long-term settlement on this site, from the Epipaleolithic Period, around 20,000 years ago, to the present day.

Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem
Thousands of flint knives were found on the site [Credit: Yaniv Berman,
Israel Antiquities Authority]

According to Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Dr. Jacob Vardi, excavation directors at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, «this is the first time that such a large-scale settlement from the Neolithic Period – 9,000 years ago – is discovered in Israel. At least 2,000 – 3,000 residents lived here – an order of magnitude that parallels a present-day city!» The excavations exposed large buildings, including rooms that were used for living, as well as public facilities and places of ritual. Between the buildings, alleys were exposed, bearing evidence of the settlement’s advanced level of planning. In the buildings, plaster was sometimes used for creating floors  and for sealing various facilities.

Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem
Many bracelets were found at the Motza excavation site. Their size shows that they were probably
given to children [Credit: Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority]

According to the researchers, «In a place where people live, there are dead people as well: Burial places have been exposed in and amongst the houses, into which various burial offerings have been placed – either useful or precious objects, believed to serve the deceased in the next world. These gifts testify to the fact that already during this ancient period, the residents of this site conducted exchange relationships with faraway places. Amongst others, unique stone-made objects were found in the tombs, made of an unknown type of stone, as well as items made of obsidian (volcanic glass) from Anatolia, and sea-shells, some of which were brought from the Mediterranean Sea and some from the Red Sea. During the excavations, artistic hand-made stone bracelets in several styles were found. «Due to the size of the bracelets, we estimate that they were mainly worn by children», the researchers say. «We also found carefully crafted alabaster beads, as well as medallions and bracelets made of mother of pearl».

Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem
9,000-year-old figurine of an ox, discovered during archaeological excavations
at Motza near Jerusalem [Credit: Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority]

In all excavation areas, many flint tools manufactured on the site were unearthed, including thousands of arrowheads that were used for hunting, and possibly for fighting as well, axes used for tree-felling, and sickle blades and knives. In the settlement, built storage sheds were exposed, which contained a huge quantity of legumes, especially lentils. The fact that the seeds were preserved is astonishing in the light of the site’s age. This finding is evidence of an intensive practice of agriculture. Moreover, one can conclude form it that the Neolithic Revolution reached its summit at that point: animal bones found on the site show that the settlement’s residents became increasingly specialized in sheep-keeping, while the use of hunting for survival gradually decreased.

Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem
9,000-year-old figurine depicting a human face, discovered during archaeological
excavations at Motza near Jerusalem [Credit: Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority]

According to researchers, «the exposure of the enormous site in Motza awakens extensive interest in the scientific world, changing what has been known about the Neolithic period in that area. So far, it was believed that the Judea area was empty, and that sites of that size existed only on the other bank of the Jordan river, or at the Northern Levant. Instead of an uninhabited area from that period, we have found a complex site, where varied economic means of subsistence existed, and all this only several dozens of centimeters below the surface. All findings were recorded using an innovative three-dimensional technology, so that we can continue to research the site at the end of the excavation as well.»

Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem
A spear from the Middle Bronze Age that was buried as a burial platform in a fighting tomb
[Credit: Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority]

According to engineer Gilad Naor, Head of Projects Department at the Netivei Israel Company, «It is a huge privilege for us, as the Israel National Transport Infrastructure Company – Netivei Israel – that tomorrow’s transportation infrastructure projects facilitate such special discoveries in the splendid history of our country».

According to Amit Re’em, Jerusalem District Archeologist of  the Israel Antiquities Authority, along with the excitement and importance of the finds, the IAA is aware of the vital need to create an additional access road to Jerusalem. In preparation for the release of the excavated area, the entire site was documented using advanced 3D technology that will enable research of every detail digitaly. It is important to know that significant percentages of the prehistoric site around the excavation are preserved. In addition, the IAA plans to tell the story of the site at the site by means of a display and illustration. At Tel Moza, adjacent to this excavation, archaeological remains are being preserved for the public at large, and conservation and accessibility activities are being carried out in Tel Bet Shemesh and Tel Yarmut.

Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs [July 17, 2019]




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