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Ancient bone carving could change the way we think about Neanderthals – FRANCE 24

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Issued on: 05/07/2021 – 18:42

Paris (AFP)

The design may be simple, but a chevron pattern etched onto a deer bone more than 50,000 years ago suggests that Neanderthals had their own artistic tradition before modern humans arrived on the scene, researchers said Monday.

The engraving, discovered at a German cave where Neanderthals lived tens of thousands of years ago, has no obvious utility according to researchers who say the artifact sheds new light on the ill-fated species’ capacity for creativity.

The vast majority of Stone-Age artworks discovered in Europe are attributed to Homo sapiens and experts have long suggested that Neanderthals, among our closest relatives, only began creating symbolic objects after mixing with them.

But using radiocarbon dating, archaeologists determined the recently-unearthed artifact to be at least 51,000 years old — pre-dating the arrival of Homo sapiens in central Europe by some 10,000 years, according to the research published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

“The cultural influence of H. sapiens as the single explanatory factor for abstract cultural expressions in Neanderthals can no longer be sustained,” the study says.

Dirk Leder, one of the authors and a researcher at the Lower Saxony Office for Heritage Department of Archaeology, told AFP that the bone clearly represents a means of expression.

“We are very convinced that communicates an idea, a story, something meaningful to a group,” he said.

– ‘No practical use’ –

The carved fossil was found at a well-known archaeological site called Einhornhoehle — or “Unicorn Cave”.

Located in the mountains of central Germany, treasure hunters searched there as early as the Middle Ages for what they believed to be unicorn fossils.

It was in the 1980s that scientists first found evidence of an Ice Age Neanderthal settlement at Einhornhoehle and the new bone is from a dig under a collapsed entrance to the cave where artifacts were discovered in 2017.

The bone, from the foot of a rare extinct giant deer, is about half the size of a deck of playing cards (about 5.5 centimetres long, 4 centimetres wide) and three centimetres thick.

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Six diagonal intersecting lines intentionally carved into it form a kind of chevron design that covers much of one surface.

“The item is of no practical use,” notes the study.

“Instead, the geometric pattern itself constitutes the central element.”

The study reports that a series of experiments attempting to re-create the object using cow bones shows that it was probably boiled once or twice before it was sculpted with flint.

“The complex production process leading to the creation of the incisions, their systematic arrangement and the scarcity of giant deer north of the Alps, support the notion of an intentional act and of symbolic meaning,” the study says.

– Meaningful –

The researchers said that a few discoveries from the same period attributed to Neanderthals include flint pieces, bedrock and teeth intentionally marked with cross-hatch or zig-zag marks.

The deer bone, however, stands out as “one of the most complex cultural expressions in Neanderthals known so far”, it says.

Leder said that unlike the art of Homo sapiens the various marked objects attributed to Neanderthals are not really comparable to each other, perhaps because their populations lived in smaller, more spread-out clusters.

“It seems to support the idea that within the population communicating with these things, the meaning of the symbols was not transmitted to the next generation or just died out,” he said.

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But the fact that the new find predates Homo sapiens means Neanderthals might have left a more enduring legacy.

“The idea was always that the great Homo sapiens was giving intelligent ideas to other species,” said Leder.

“In the past few years a handful of papers are pushing the idea that it could have been other way around,” he said.

In June, scientists made another discovery that could fundamentally alter our understanding of human evolution: the skull of a large-brained male that was preserved almost perfectly for more than 140,000 years.

The find in northeastern China dubbed “Dragon Man” represents a new species of ancient people more closely related to us even than Neanderthals.

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NASA spots double crater on Moon caused by mystery rocket crash – ZDNet

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A rocket body impacted the Moon on March 4, 2022, creating a double crater.

Image: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Astronomers have finally identified the impact site of a mystery rocket that curiously created two craters on the dark side of the Moon. 

The rocket part hit the Moon on March 4, but astronomers only reported the discovery of the impact site last week. There’s now an eastern crater on the Moon about 18 meters in diameter (19.5 yards) that’s superimposed on a western crater measuring 16 meters in diameter (17.5 yards). 

Innovation

According to NASA, the double crater may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. So far, no other rocket crashes on the Moon have created double craters, even though Apollo SIV-B craters were larger. 

SEE: NASA’s Mars helicopter has a problem. This clever software trick could fix it

Neither NASA nor any other astronomers have been able to confirm which nation or company’s rocket it was. 

“Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank,” said Mark Robinson, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, in a NASA press release. 

“Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may indicate its identity.” 

Robinson is also the principal investigator for the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera and a new NASA lunar-imaging experiment called ShadowCam. 

Per the New York Times, there was speculation in January that the rocket part was the second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 that was launched in 2015 on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for its “DSCOVR” Deep Space Climate Observatory project. But that was later ruled out.  

Bill Gray, the developer of Project Pluto astronomical software, first spotted the rocket in January and was tracking it as it approached the Moon. 

SEE: NASA delays its Psyche asteroid mission

He’d posited in January, as reported by Ars Technica, that it was the Falcon 9 part, but a NASA engineer said the launch trajectory didn’t fit with the orbit of the rocket. 

Gray later concluded the likely candidate was a Long March 3C rocket launched from China in 2014. 

But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed in a statement on February 21 that “the upper stage of the rocket related to the Chang’e-5 mission entered into Earth’s atmosphere and completely burned up”. 

Gray disagrees with China’s assessment and thinks it got “two different, but similarly named, lunar missions mixed up”.  

He also argues some official agency like the US Space Force, or potentially some international agency, should be tracking space junk in far-away space, not just objects like astroids in lower orbit.  

“Many more spacecraft are now going into high orbits, and some of them will be taking crews to the moon. Such junk will no longer be merely an annoyance to a small group of astronomers,” wrote Gray on his Project Pluto blog.

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G2V Optics soars on aerospace opportunities – Taproot Edmonton

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G2V Optics has sent solar simulators to NASA to help test a spacecraft that aims to solve Earth’s growing space-junk problem. It’s the latest success in the Edmonton-based company’s evolution toward using its “Engineered Sunlight” technology to help aerospace organizations know what to expect from the sun once they get their devices into orbit.

“It’s a huge project, and … a fantastic feather in the cap of everybody in our team who worked on it,” G2V Optics CEO Ryan Tucker told Taproot. “And I think an awesome thing for Edmonton and our technology.”

G2V Optics has received US$822,100 in contracts from NASA since 2021. This project, the culmination of a two-year procurement process, is for the testing of OSAM-1, a spacecraft that is scheduled to be launched in 2026 to service Landsat 7, a satellite that is past its prime. If OSAM-1 can successfully dock with Landsat 7 and refuel it, then NASA will be a step closer to increasing the life expectancy of satellites, even those that were not designed to be serviced in orbit, and decrease the number of out-of-commission craft at risk of smashing into each other around our planet.

This is not the first foray into the space business for G2V Optics. In addition to a previous contract with NASA laboratories, the company has been working with the Centre nationale d’études spatiales (CNES) in France to enable the testing of technology involved in the 2024 Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, in which a rover will land on Phobos and fly by Deimos.

“We don’t put anything into space. But we’re creating all the photons to make sure that everything works when they send it there,” Tucker said, noting that it’s fun to have a preview of the space research going on. “We kind of get to peek behind the curtain of these really interesting and exciting space exploration missions before they become public.”

Space is not where G2V Optics started when it was founded in 2015. After founder and CTO Michael Taschuk first developed the company’s light-emitting diode technology at the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta, its first applications tended to be in food production, specifically to maximize the efficacy of vertical farming.

“From a technical perspective, (we) did remarkable things,” Tucker said. “We were able to grow 30% more biomass with the same amount of energy and improve what was possible by using the complexity of our technology. But we realized that we were too early for that market … it’s such a nascent industry that’s dealing with its own challenges around scaling.”

At the same time, solar cell researchers and aerospace companies were ready for what G2V makes.

“We all of a sudden started working in this sector, with this more complex requirement, that was a perfect fit for what we had developed,” Tucker said. “That’s the traction that you’re looking for, right? Your job as a startup is to find that fit. And it wasn’t exactly where we thought it was. But we were, I like to think, smart enough to listen to it and to chase it when we found it.”

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NASA rocket launches to test new orbit for moon missions – CBC News

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NASA wants to experiment with a new orbit around the moon that it hopes to use in the coming years to once again land astronauts on the lunar surface.

So it is sending up a test satellite from New Zealand. The initial stages of the launch went according to plan late Tuesday, with the rocket carrying the satellite reaching space.

If the rest of the mission is successful, the CAPSTONE CubeSat satellite — only about the size of a microwave oven — will be the first to take the new path around the moon and will send back vital information for at least six months.

Technically, the new orbit is called a near-rectilinear halo orbit. It’s a stretched-out egg shape with one end passing close to the moon and the other far from it.

Imagine stretching a rubber band back from your thumb. Your thumb would represent the moon and the rubber band the flight path.

“It will have equilibrium. Poise. Balance,” NASA wrote on its website. “This pathfinding CubeSat will practically be able to kick back and rest in a gravitational sweet spot in space — where the pull of gravity from Earth and the Moon interact to allow for a nearly-stable orbit.”

Eventually, NASA plans to put a space station called Gateway into the orbital path, from which astronauts can descend to the moon’s surface as part of its Artemis program.

Group effort

For the satellite mission, NASA teamed up with two commercial companies. California-based Rocket Lab launched the rocket carrying the satellite, which in turn is owned and operated by Colorado-based Advanced Space.

The mission came together relatively quickly and cheaply for NASA, with the total mission cost put at $32.7 million.

Getting the 25-kilogram satellite into orbit will take more than four months and be done in three stages.

First, Rocket Lab’s small Electron rocket launched from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Just nine minutes later, the second stage called Photon separated and went into orbit around Earth. Over the next five days, Photon’s engines are scheduled to fire periodically to raise its orbit further and further from Earth.

Six days after the launch, Photon’s engines will fire a final time, allowing it to escape Earth’s orbit and head for the moon.

Photon will then release the satellite, which has its own small propulsion system but which won’t use much energy as it cruises toward the moon over four months, with a few planned trajectory course corrections along the way.

“Perfect Electron launch!” Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck tweeted Tuesday. “Lunar photon is in Low Earth Orbit.”

Rocket Lab spokesperson Morgan Bailey said it was the most ambitious and complex mission it has undertaken so far and comes after more than two years of work with NASA and Advanced Space. She said it will be the first time Rocket Lab has tested its HyperCurie engine that will be used to power Photon.

“Certainly lots of hard problems to solve along the way, but we’ve ticked them off one by one, and made it to launch day,” Bailey said.

Bailey said one of the advantages of the orbit is that, theoretically, a space station should be able to maintain continuous communication with Earth because it will avoid being eclipsed by the moon.

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