Tag: discovery

Here’s the Best-Ever Image of the Black Hole Devouring Our Galaxy

Researchers have captured the best-ever image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, by using a new computer model to see through the haze of plasma surrounding the cosmic monster.

The galactic centre is full of matter around the black hole, which acts like frosted glass that we have to look through to see the black hole,” Max Planck Institute researcher Eduardo Ros said of the discovery.

Powerful Jet

Credit: The Astrophysical Journal

The fresh image of the black hole, which is twice the resolution of the previous best one, is described in a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal. 

Researchers used 13 powerful telescopes around the world to capture the image and have been teasing its release since earlier in January.

According to reports, strophysicists had assumed that such a black hole would show a gigantic jet of matter and radiation.

Surprisingly, they didn’t find such a jet coming out of the Milky Way’s monstrous black hole. Either it doesn’t have one — or they can’t see it because it’s pointed directly at us.

No Danger




Even if that were the case, Ros cautioned, it’s not cause for alarm.

If anything is there, it will be a length that is 1,000 times less than the distance to us,” Ros said. “There is no danger at all – we should not fear the supermassive black hole.

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NASA Spacecraft Finds Water In Search For Origins Of Life On Asteroid

A NASA spacecraft that just arrived last December 2018 on an asteroid has already made its first big discovery: ingredients for water.

Scientists hope that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will shed light on the mysteries of Bennu, an asteroid the size of a skyscraper that could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth.

The craft only arrived at the asteroid in recent days but the discovery of water is a major breakthrough that scientists hope can be matched by more discoveries in the future.

It was found when OSIRIS-REx flew close to the asteroid and picked up traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules in its rocky surface. Those make up part of the recipe for water – itself a key ingredient in life itself.




The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth.

There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.

We have found the water-rich minerals from the early solar system, which is exactly the kind of sample we were going out there to find and ultimately bring back to Earth,” University of Arizona planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain.

From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet (2 meters) of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.

The spacecraft will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023.

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This 24ft Long Crocodile That Had Razor Sharp Teeth Was A Top Land Predator In Madagascar Million Years Ago

Razanandrongobe sakalavae

A new study has finally shed light on a mysterious, jaw fragment discovered on Madagascar years ago. It is from an ancient crocodile, nearly 24-feet in length, with teeth like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The study, published in the journal PeerJ, highlights the creature, identified as Razanandrongobe sakalavae, as an enormous crocodile ancestor. The ancient croc likely walked on land, hunting its prey with its massive teeth and jaws.




Put together by researchers Cristiano Dal Sasso , Giovanni Pasini, Guillaume Fleury and Simone Maganuco , the study notes that the teeth are “remarkably large, even larger than the largest denticles in large-bodied theropods.

The longest tooth found was 15 cm (5.9 inches) in length. By comparison, the longest T. rex tooth ever found was 12 inches, though they often vary in length.

Razanandrongobe sakalavae

R. sakalavae means “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region.”

“Razanandrongobe sakalavae is the largest terrestrial carnivore from this Middle Jurassic terrestrial ecosystem and was perhaps one of the top predators in Madagascar at the time,” the study’s conclusion reads.

“Its jaws were extremely robust and high, but possibly short, and bore large teeth with serrated edges resembling those of theropod dinosaurs. Many features of this species strongly suggest that it fed also on hard tissue such as bone and tendon.”

Razanandrongobe sakalavae

It is the oldest and largest known “notosuchian,” a suborder of Gondwanan mesoeucrocodylian crocodylomorphs that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. It predates other members of the species by 42 million years.

The fossils are from the mid-Jurassic period, approximately 166 million years ago. They were first found in the early 1970s, with other parts of the Razana skull found later.

The findings were made after the fossils were made available to the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Toulouse, France, where they were then analyzed and reconstructed. They had been previously part of a private collection.

jaw

The skull was reconstructed using a CT scan, as well as using 3-D printers to print out missing bone fragments, using mirror images of existing fragments.

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Early Opaque Universe Linked To Galaxy Scarcity

It has long been known that the universe is filled with a web-like network of dark matter and gas.

This “cosmic web” accounts for most of the matter in the universe, whereas galaxies like our own Milky Way make up only a small fraction.

Today, the gas between galaxies is almost totally transparent because it is kept ionized — electrons detached from their atoms — by an energetic bath of ultraviolet radiation.

Over a decade ago, astronomers noticed that in the very distant past — roughly 12.5 billion years ago, or about 1 billion years after the Big Bang — the gas in deep space was not only highly opaque to ultraviolet light, but its transparency varied widely from place to place, obscuring much of the light emitted by distant galaxies.

Then a few years ago, a team led by Becker, then at the University of Cambridge, found that these differences in opacity were so large that either the amount of gas itself, or more likely the radiation in which it is immersed, must vary substantially from place to place.




To find out what created these differences, the team of University of California astronomers from the Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles campuses turned to one of the largest telescopes in the world: the Subaru telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Using its powerful camera, the team looked for galaxies in a vast region, roughly 300 million light years in size, where they knew the intergalactic gas was extremely opaque.

For the cosmic web more opacity normally means more gas, and hence more galaxies. But the team found the opposite: this region contained far fewer galaxies than average.

Because the gas in deep space is kept transparent by the ultraviolet light from galaxies, fewer galaxies nearby might make it murkier.

This discovery, reported in the August 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, may eventually shed light on another phase in cosmic history.

In the first billion years after the Big Bang, ultraviolet light from the first galaxies filled the universe and permanently transformed the gas in deep space.

Astronomers believe that this occurred earlier in regions with more galaxies, meaning the large fluctuations in intergalactic radiation inferred by Becker and his team may be a relic of this patchy process, and could offer clues to how and when it occurred.

By studying both galaxies and the gas in deep space, astronomers hope to get closer to understanding how this intergalactic ecosystem took shape in the early universe.

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The Mystery Of Blue Diamonds And Where They Come From Finally Solved

They are the world’s most expensive diamonds, with some stones valued at £100 million.

But until now nobody has known how rare blue diamonds are made or where they come from.

Now scientists have discovered that they are formed 400 miles down in the Earth, around four times as deep as clear diamonds, where the element boron combines with carbon in such extreme pressure and heat that it crystallizes into the world’s most precious stone.

And because boron is mostly found on the Earth’s surface, scientists believe that it must have travelled down into the mantle when tectonic plates slipped beneath each other.

Eventually volcanic action brought the diamonds up closer to the surface.




The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests blue diamonds are even rarer than first thought.

We now know that the finest gem-quality diamonds come from the farthest down in our planet.”  said Steven Shirey, of the Carnegie Institution of Science.

Blue diamonds have always held a special intrigue. The world’s most famous jewel, the Hope Diamond, which was once owned by Louis XIV, Marie-Antoninette, and George IV was said to be cursed with many of its owners and their families coming to a sticky – and often headless – end.

The postman who delivered the Hope Diamond to its current location in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC had his leg crushed in a lorry accident shortly after and then his house burned down.

But the value and rarity of blue diamonds makes them difficult to study and researchers at the Carnegie Institution have spent two years tracking down and studying 46 blue diamonds from collections around the world.

And they were looking for the rarest of blue diamonds, those which include tiny mineral traces called inclusions which hint at their origins.

These so-called type IIb diamonds are tremendously valuable, making them hard to get access to for scientific research purposes,” said lead author Evan Smith of the Gemological Institute of America, adding,

“And it is very rare to find one that contains inclusions, which are tiny mineral crystals trapped inside the diamond.”

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Scientists Discover A New Shape That Might Be Inside You Right Now

The cells in our bodies are put together in all kinds of weird ways. Neuron cells have long, branching connections to other cells, bones form porous structures, and blood vessels float freely around the body.

But a lot of cells are simply squished together as tightly as possible, and scientists have determined that these cells in particular come in a unique and previously unknown shape, called a “scutoid.”

Much of our bodies are covered in epithelial cells, which are cells designed to stick very closely together in order to form some type of barrier or wall.

Our skin cells are epithelial cells, as are the cells that form the walls of many of our organs.

One of the most important functions these cells have is keeping things either inside or outside of the areas they surround, so forming a tight wall is of paramount importance.

So what shape do these cells take? Most scientists previously believed that these cells were shaped like simple cylinders, but new research suggests they take a more complicated shape.




Researchers at the University of Seville ran a computer simulation to determine what the most efficient shape would be, and their simulation settled on a strange prism-like shape.

The shape has six sides at the top and five sides at the bottom, and one of the sides had a triangular protrusion.

Crucially, this shape—which the scientists named the “scutoid” after the similarly-named and -shaped scutellum of a beetle—does indeed stack much better than a simple cylinder.

But just because a computer says it’s the best shape doesn’t mean that anything in nature actually uses it, so the researchers examined cells from fruit flies and zebrafish to see if the scutoid shows up in those animals’ epithelial tissue.

To their delight, it did. They’re not certain whether these scutoid-shaped cells exist in humans as well, but there’s a good chance.

In addition to discovering what epithelial cells look like, these researchers also discovered a brand new shape new to mathematics.

Mathematical discoveries are often very abstract but can frequently have impact in other fields in science or engineering.

So scutoids are only in your body right now, but eventually we might start seeing them show up all over the place.

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Neanderthals Used Fire To Create Wooden Tools For Hunting And Foraging 170,000 Years Ago

Neanderthals in southern Tuscany used fire to manufacture wooden tools used for foraging and hunting around 171,000 years ago, experts have found.

Experts used radiometric dating, which measures the decay of radioactive particles, to establish the age of a trove of wooden implements and bones they uncovered.

The finds furnish some of the earliest evidence of wood processing and fire use by Neanderthals.

The find was made by a team of researchers, including the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities in Florence.

In 2012, excavations for building thermal baths at Poggetti Vecchi, nestled at the foot of a hill in Grosseto in southern Tuscany, turned up the collection of ancient artefacts.




This included wooden sticks and the fossilised bones of a straight-tusked elephant, Palaeoloxodon antiquus. Most of the wooden implements were hewn from boxwood branches and likely used as digging sticks.

Such digging sticks have been known to be used for gathering plants and hunting small game.

The ends of the metre long (40 inch) sticks were fashioned into blunt points and had rounded handles useful for foraging.

Cut marks and striations, a series of linear marks, on the sticks bear witness to the manufacturing process.

Signs of superficial charring and microanalysis of blackened surfaces suggest the use of fire, in addition to stone tools, to scrape and shape the sticks.

Boxwood is among the hardiest and heaviest of European timbers. It choice as a preferred material suggests the technical mastery of toolmaking by early Neanderthals.

The find also provides some of the earliest evidence for the use of fire for fabricating wooden tools.

Writing in the report, its authors said: ‘Wood is a widely available and versatile material, which has admittedly played a fundamental role in all human history.

Wood, however, is most vulnerable to decomposition. Hence, its use is very rarely documented during prehistory.

The present study yields new insights into the cognitive abilities of the early Neanderthals in wooden tool production and pyrotechnology.

The early Neanderthals from the late Middle Pleistocene site of Poggetti Vecchi were able to choose the appropriate timber and to process it with fire to produce tools. 

“The artefacts recall the so-called “digging sticks,” multipurpose tools used by all hunter-gatherer societies.”

The full findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Scientists Find Jawbone Fossil From Oldest Modern Human Out Of Africa In A Cave In Israel

Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of a fossilized human jawbone in a collapsed cave in Israel that they said is between 177,000 and 194,000 years old.

If confirmed, the find may rewrite the early migration story of our species, pushing back by about 50,000 years the time that Homo sapiens first ventured out of Africa.

Previous discoveries in Israel had convinced some anthropologists that modern humans began leaving Africa between 90,000 and 120,000 years ago. But the recently dated jawbone is unraveling that narrative.

This would be the earliest modern human anyone has found outside of Africa, ever,” said John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Wisconsin, Madison who was not involved in the study.




The upper jawbone — which includes seven intact teeth and one broken incisor, and was described in a paper in the journal Science — provides fossil evidence that lends support to genetic studies that have suggested modern humans moved from Africa far earlier than had been suspected.

Dr. Hawks and other researchers advised caution in interpreting the discovery.

Although this ancient person may have shared some anatomical characteristics with present-day people, this “modern human” would have probably looked much different from anyone living in the world today.

Early modern humans in many respects were not so modern,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the department of human evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

Dr. Hublin said that by concluding the jawbone came from a “modern human,” the authors were simply saying that the ancient person was morphologically more closely related to us than to Neanderthals.

 

That does not mean that this person contributed to the DNA of anyone living today, he added. It is possible that the jawbone belonged to a previously unknown population of Homo sapiens that departed Africa and then died off.

That explanation would need to be tested with DNA samples, which are difficult to collect from fossils found in the arid Levant.

The upper jawbone, or maxilla, was found by a team led by Israel Hershkovitz, a paleoanthropologist at Tel Aviv University and lead author of the new paper, while excavating the Misliya Cave on the western slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel.

The jawbone was discovered in 2002 by a freshman on his first archaeological dig with the group.

The team had long known that ancient people lived in the Misliya Cave, which is a rock shelter with an overhanging ceiling carved into a limestone cliff.

By dating burned flint flakes found at the site, archaeologists had determined that it was occupied between 250,000 to 160,000 years ago, during an era known as the Early Middle Paleolithic.

Evidence, including bedding, showed that the people who lived there used it as a base camp. They hunted deer, gazelles and aurochs, and feasted on turtles, hares and ostrich eggs.

Dr. Hershkovitz and Mina Weinstein-Evron, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa, felt that the jawbone looked modern, but they needed to confirm their hunch.

The Misliya finding is just the latest in a series of discoveries that are changing the story of our evolutionary past.

One study, not yet confirmed, suggested that modern humans may have interbred with Neanderthals in Eurasia about as far back as 220,000 years ago.

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Scientists Discover Massive Ice Sheets On Mars

Scientists have discovered large sections of underlying water ice on Mars, opening new possibilities for future exploration of the planet.

On Friday’s issue of journal Science, a team of researchers led by U.S. Geological Survey planet geologist Colin Dundas have presented eight Martian regions where erosion has occurred.

Using HiRise, a powerful camera installed on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the scientists have found thick ice sheets at the red planet’s mid-latitudes.

The large deposits of water ice are believed to be buried a meter or two below the surface at unexpectedly low latitudes and extend up to 100 meters tall.




What’s more, the deposits found appear to be made of pure ice.

Moreover, researchers believe it’s possible that the layers of subterranean ice could be holding a record of Mars’ past climate.

More importantly, the large deposits of ice could potentially be a huge source of water for future human exploration of the red planet.

A few years ago, the Mars Reconnaissance beamed back data and high-resolution images showing a pale sliver of blue among the red dust covering the planet.

Upon looking at the images, Dundas and his team discovered eight steep cliffs of what appears to be pure ice.

This kind of ice is more widespread than previously thought,” Dundas said.

This is not the first time that ice was found on Mars. It’s long been known that ice covers the poles, and MRO’s radar instruments have detected signs of thick, buried ice across the red planet’s belly.

Some researchers suspect that these ice deposits are remnants of glaciers that existed millions of years ago when Mars’ spin axis and orbit were different.

The main difference is that back then, scientists have no way of determining the ice’s depth and properties.

Now that scientists have more leads as to the properties of the ice found underneath the planet’s surface, future Mars explorers will have more to go on as soon as they are able to land on it.

Since large reserves can be found a meter or two beneath the planet’s surface, it could be easier for human explorers to mine the ice content and then use it to support further missions.

Once humans are able to use Mars’ large reserves of water ice for drinking, for growing crops, and for generating fuel, the idea of a sustainable human base doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

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The Largest Prime Number Was Discovered By A FedEx Employee

A FedEx employee in Tennessee has discovered the largest known prime number.

Germantown, Tenn., resident John Pace found the number through his volunteer work with the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), a project that crowd sources computing power to search for a subset of prime numbers called Mersenne primes.

Like a normal prime number, these can only be divided by themselves and one. What sets them apart is that they can all be expressed as the number 2 raised to a given power minus one.




The newly discovered Mersenne prime, called M77232917, can be expressed as 2 to the 77,232,917 power minus one. It’s the 50th Mersenne prime to be discovered and it’s more than 23 million digits long.

Pace might be the only person in history who went into math for the money.

He told NPR, “There was a $100,000 prize attached to finding the first prime that had a 10 million digit result, and I was like, ‘Well you know, I’ve got as much chance as anybody else.’

He has been participating in the program for 14 years and this is his first discovery.

The previous longest-known prime number was discovered in January of 2016 at the University of Central Missouri. It contains 22 million digits and is also a Mersenne prime.

Large prime numbers are important for the future of computing and cyber security, and the search is already on for larger numbers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is offering a prize of $150,000 for finding the first prime number with one hundred million digits and $250,000 for finding the first prime with one billion digits.

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