Mark your calendars: the wolf moon will soon be upon us.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts January’s Wolf Moon – the first full moon of 2021 – will reach peak illumination on Jan. 28. Peak brightness is expected around 2:18 EST, but of course it won’t be visible until near twilight.
The Almanac dubs the new year’s first full moon the wolf moon based on the traditional belief that wolves howled due to hunger in the winter. This is scientifically untrue as howling and other vocalization from wolves exist to define territory, locate pack members and coordinate hunting.
The names of the various moons of the year are typically drawn from Native American, colonial and European sources. Other names for the upcoming wolf moon include the frost exploding moon (Cree), Hard Moon (Dakota) and Freeze Up Moon (Algonquin).
The new moon is set for Jan. 13 at 12:02 a.m. with the first quarter revealed seven days later at 4:03 p.m.
Paleontologists finally have their first good look at a dinosaur butthole – CNET
Paleontologists spend their entire academic careers studying the anatomy of dinosaurs. Now a team of scientists from the University of Bristol has finally described in detail a dinosaur’s cloacal or vent, which is used for everything from defecation and urination to attracting a mate to breed with (or, less scientifically, a jack-of-all-trades butthole).
In a new study, published in the journal Current Biology on Tuesday, Scientists revealed a range of theories about the cloacal vent on a dog-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus, a relative of Triceratops from the early Cretaceous era, which lived about 120 million years ago.
“I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the color patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and color patterns,” Dr. Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It took a long while before we got around to finish it off because no one has ever cared about comparing the exterior of cloacal openings of living animals, so it was largely unchartered territory,” Vinther added.
The researchers reveal the dinosaur’s cloaca has similar features as cloacas on alligators and crocodiles. The dino’s outer cloaca areas were also likely highly pigmented. This pigmentation may have been used to attract a mate, much like baboons use theirs.
“We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases, it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.” Dr. Diane Kelly from the University of Massachusetts Amherst said. “Those distinguishing features are tucked inside the cloaca, and unfortunately, they’re not preserved in this fossil.”
It’s not just the appearance of the dino’s vent that got the attention of mates, but also its smell. The large, pigmented lobes on either side of the cloacas could have also included musky scent glands to get the attention of a mate.
“Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signaling to each other gives palaeo-artists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship,” palaeo-artist and study artist Robert Nicholls said in a statement.
“It is a game-changer!”
Satellogic signs multi-launch contract with SpaceX – SpaceNews
WASHINGTON — Earth observation company Satellogic announced Jan. 19 it signed a contract with SpaceX covering several rideshare launches of its satellites through next year.
The multiple launch services agreement makes SpaceX Satellogic’s preferred provider for launching its constellation of microsatellites, after previously relying on Chinese, European and Russian vehicles, including a launch of 10 satellites as the primary payload on a Long March 6 Nov. 5.
In an interview, Emiliano Kargieman, chief executive of Satellogic, said the low prices and frequent launch opportunities that SpaceX offered led his company to sign up. “The new rideshare program that SpaceX has put together has reduced the price on the order of four or five times on a per-kilogram basis,” he said. “That really made the rideshare program compete very well in the market and it caused us to start having conversations with SpaceX.”
Satellogic plans to conduct its next four launches with SpaceX, starting in June. Additional launches will take place in December and in March and June of 2022. All will be rideshare missions going to sun-synchronous orbits, with at least four satellites on the June launch. The company, which has 13 operational satellites currently, projects having a constellation of about 60 satellites by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
The company also has the option of flying satellites as rideshare payloads on Starlink missions. Those would go to mid-inclination orbits, which Kargieman said would complement the bulk of the constellation in sun-synchronous orbits. “They give us more diversity in times for revisits for points of interest,” he said, noting the company has one satellite in such an orbit. “We are looking into deploying more mid-inclination satellites over the next 12–18 months, but we have not yet decided exactly when those launches are going to be.”
Another benefit of the agreement, he said, is the flexibility it offers in determining how many satellites to fly, as well as options for flying satellites on Starlink missions. “It gives us the possibility of making those decisions closer to the launch date.”
While SpaceX is Satellogic’s preferred launch provider, Kargieman did not rule out occasionally using other providers. “Because we might need some particular orbit, we might still decide to launch a dedicated rocket every once in a while to make sure we have the satellites where we want them,” he said.
Satellogic is seeing strong demand for the high-resolution imagery its satellites produce, he said, with that demand accelerating in the last year from government customers in particular. “On the government side it’s very clear that there is significant unsatisfied demand,” he said. “The pandemic has accelerated the demand for Earth observation data and geospatial analytics.”
That demand was a key factor in the decision to select SpaceX, with its launch services allowing Satellogic to accelerate deployment of its constellation. “That’s a good point to invest more,” Kargieman said. “We’re feeling strongly that this is a time for us to double down, scale and continue to bring this data to market at an affordable cost.”
The only preserved dinosaur butthole fossil is ‘one-of-a-kind’ – ZME Science
It’s amazing how much scientists have been able to learn about the secret lives of dinosaurs, creatures that went extinct more than 65 million years ago, just by studying their fossilized remains. Obviously, there are still a lot of loose ends owed to incomplete fossil records and due to the fact that many anatomical features rarely, if not never, fossilize. This is why scientists are excited about the first truly preserved dinosaur cloacal vent, the scientific name for the terminal end of the gastrointestinal tract in birds and amphibians, aka the butthole.
But this isn’t a butthole like any other. Speaking to Live Science, Jakob Vinther, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, said that the dinosaur cloaca he studied isn’t like that of birds. It more closely resembles that of crocodiles, with two small bulges in proximity to the cloaca which might have had musky scent glands with a possible role in courtship. However, in many respects, the dinosaur cloaca was quite unique.
The oldest cloaca in the world was found sitting in a fossil display case in the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, and belonged to a beaked, dog-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus.
A cloaca isn’t your typical butthole. It serves as an anus, in that it is the orifice through which waste ultimately exits the body after its journey through the intestinal tract. But the orifice, whose name comes from the Latin word for ‘sewer’, also plays a role in copulation and the extrusion of offspring or eggs.
The fossilized orifice was flattened over millions of years until it was unearthed from a basin in China decades ago. While working on a different study, Vinther was shocked to find that Psittacosaurus‘ posterior was intact after all these years and immediately enlisted colleagues to reconstruct it in 3-D. His team includes Robert Nicholls, a paleoartist, and Diane Kelly, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who specializes in the evolution of genitalia.
To reconstruct the dinosaur cloaca, the team had to study hundreds of preserved rear ends, from amphibians to chickens. Judging from these references and the fossils at their disposal, the researchers believe that Psittacosaurus‘ cloaca was flanked by a pair of dark-colored flaps of skin, which seems to be different from any living group known to science.
It’s exceedingly rare to find dinosaur soft tissue, so it’s no surprise that the cloaca’s interior couldn’t be analyzed. But if the dinosaur’s posterior was anything like that of crocodiles, its cloaca likely housed a penis or clitoris.
And fitting enough, the cloaca fossil was found next to a fossilized lump of feces, suggesting that the dinosaur was defecating when it suddenly succumbed and its fossils became locked in time. “It’s quite nice to find it, right near where it’s supposed to come out,” Vinther told The New York Times.
The findings were described in the journal Current Biology.
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