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Fossils found in Antarctica in 1980s belong to ‘giant, bony-toothed’ birds from 2.5m yrs ago – ThePrint



An artist’s depiction of ancient albatrosses harassing a pelagornithid — with its fearsome toothed beak — over the oceans around Antarctica 50 million years ago | Image courtesy of Brian Choo, via

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Fossils from Antarctica belong to gigantic bird species 

Scientists have discovered that fossils recovered from Antarctica in the 1980s belong to the oldest giant members of an extinct group of birds that patrolled the southern oceans. 

The wingspans of these birds went up to 21 feet — enough to dwarf the eleven-and-a-half foot wingspan of today’s largest bird, the wandering albatross.

Called ‘pelagornithids’, the birds were much like the albatrosses, and are believed to have travelled widely over Earth’s oceans for at least 60 million years. 

The team of American and Chinese researchers behind the finding believes that the birds evolved to a gigantic size relatively quickly after the extinction of dinosaurs. The last known bird of this species lived an estimated 2.5 million years ago, a time when the climate was changing as Earth cooled, and the ice ages began.

Pelagornithids are known as ‘bony-toothed’ birds because of the bony projections on their jaws. However, these protrusions are not like human teeth. Instead, they were covered by a horny material, keratin, which is like our fingernails. Called ‘pseudo teeth’, the protrusions helped the birds snag squid and fish from the sea as they soared for, perhaps, weeks at a time over much of Earth’s oceans. More on The Independent.

Also Read: ISRO’s Mars mission discovers how dust storms expand the red planet’s atmosphere

Astronomers discover 39 gravitational-wave events representing black holes, neutron stars

An international collaboration of astronomers, including scientists from India, has produced the most detailed family portrait of black holes to date by analysing the most recent gravitational-wave data.

Gravitational waves are ripples in the space-time fabric. The latest data from the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and the Virgo Collaboration — which are two gravitational wave detectors — has helped discover 39 cosmic bodies, representing a variety of black holes and neutron stars.

The observations could be key to solving the many mysteries around how binary stars interact — a better understanding of which has consequences across the astronomy spectrum, from exoplanets to galaxy formation. More on Science Magazine.

Asteroid Bennu has been in near-Earth orbit for 1.75 million years

Scientists have found that the asteroid Bennu has been orbiting near Earth for approximately 1.75 million years. 

Bennu is the asteroid that NASA’s ORISIS-Rex spacecraft touched down on this week, to collect samples. The samples are scheduled to return to Earth by 2023, which will allow scientists to learn more about the ancient past of the solar system. 

To learn more about the age of the asteroid and the time it has spent orbiting near the Earth, researchers from the US focused their efforts on craters in boulders on its surface. 

Previous research suggests that Bennu was once part of a larger body and was knocked off by a collision with another object while orbiting in the circumstellar disc, an asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter.

After the collision, Bennu slowly made its way out of the asteroid belt. It was then that it was struck by other objects, some of which hit boulders on its surface, resulting in large craters. 

Even after leaving the asteroid belt, Bennu continued to be hit by other smaller objects, some of which also struck boulders on its surface. The team believes those newer strikes resulted in smaller impact craters. Since Bennu moved into a near-Earth orbit, those smaller craters have represented the timeline of its move to the new orbit. 

By studying the size and depth of those craters using data from OSIRIS-Rex, the researchers were able to estimate their age — approximately 1.75 million years — which also shows how long Bennu has been near the Earth orbit. More on CNN.

Rare molecule found on Saturn’s moon puzzles scientists

NASA scientists have identified a molecule in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon — Titan — that has never been detected in any other atmosphere. The molecule is called cyclopropenylidene, or C3H2. 

“Ring-shaped molecules like this tend to act as the building blocks of molecules necessary for life, such as DNA and RNA,” New Scientist reports, adding that researchers believe it may help understand the beginning of life on Earth better.

The team found C3H2 by using a radio telescope observatory in northern Chile known as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). 

Although scientists have found C3H2 in pockets throughout the galaxy, finding it in an atmosphere was a surprise, since cyclopropenylidene can react easily with other molecules it comes into contact with and form different species. 

Astronomers have so far found C3H2 only in clouds of gas and dust that float between star systems. There are regions too cold and empty to facilitate many chemical reactions.

However, Titan has a dense atmosphere, which is why NASA is planning to send a probe called the ‘Dragonfly mission’ to this moon in 2034. More on New Scientist.

Also Read: Ancient Moon’s magnetic field shielded Earth from solar radiation

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NSF offers a closer look at how the Arecibo Observatory collapsed – Yahoo Canada Shine On



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If You Went Here Recently, Consider Yourself “Dangerous to Others”

The White House Coronavirus Task Force warned governors in private reports this week that “the COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high” and said virus-mitigation efforts in many states are still not strong enough.”We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity,” the new reports, dated Nov. 29, read. “A further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall.”This article was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.The task force also issued some of its strongest warnings yet to individual Americans, even though the reports to governors are not made public. It said anyone over age 65 should not enter indoor public spaces with unmasked people and should have groceries and medications delivered. It also said that people under 40 who gathered with others outside their households for Thanksgiving should assume they became infected, isolate themselves and be tested immediately. “You are dangerous to others,” the task force said.Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia were in the red zone for new cases in this week’s report — one fewer than the week prior — meaning they had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents. But 39 states were in the White House’s red zone for deaths — three more than the prior week — meaning they had more than two new deaths per 100,000 residents. North and South Dakota again led the nation in both cases and deaths per capita.”In many areas of the USA, state mitigation efforts remain inadequate, resulting in sustained transmission,” the task force said. “All states and counties must flatten the curve now.”The White House has said it does not share the reports publicly because it wants states to lead the pandemic response. The Center for Public Integrity is collecting and publishing the documents. Last week it exclusively obtained the 50-state version of the Nov. 22 reports, revealing that the White House was taking tough stances with many states that refuse to share their reports, including Indiana and South Dakota.”Improved public observance of social distancing measures is urgently needed to limit overrunning of hospital capacity,” the White House told officials in Indiana. “The Governor’s active engagement and support of mitigation measures are critical.”The White House reports this week again urged states to do more rapid testing. The task force also urged seniors to get tested immediately if they gathered with others for Thanksgiving and start experiencing symptoms: “If you are over 65 or have significant medical conditions and you gathered outside of your immediate household, you are at a significant risk for serious COVID infection; if you develop any symptoms, you must be tested immediately as the majority of therapeutics work best early in infection,” the reports read.RELATED: COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study FindsThe states in the red zone for cases in this week’s report (meaning they had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in the week prior):North DakotaSouth DakotaWyomingNew MexicoMinnesotaIowaNebraskaIndianaKansasMontanaUtahWisconsinAlaskaColoradoRhode IslandIllinoisOhioNevadaOklahomaMichiganIdahoMissouriKentuckyArkansasPennsylvaniaArizonaTennesseeWest VirginiaDelawareNew JerseyConnecticutLouisianaMississippiMassachusettsMarylandFloridaWashingtonTexasCaliforniaNorth CarolinaNew YorkAlabamaOregonVirginiaSouth CarolinaNew HampshireDistrict of ColumbiaGeorgiaThe states in the red zone for test positivity in this week’s report (meaning more than 10 percent of tests in the state were positive in the week prior):IdahoMontanaKansasOklahomaMissouriUtahIowaNebraskaNevadaIndianaNew MexicoSouth DakotaOhioWyomingMichiganKentuckyTennesseeNorth DakotaAlabamaMississippiIllinoisMinnesotaWisconsinPennsylvaniaArizonaColoradoTexasThe states in the red zone for deaths (meaning they had more than more than two new deaths per 100,000 residents in the week prior): South DakotaNorth DakotaNew MexicoMontanaWyomingIowaMichiganMinnesotaIndianaIllinoisWisconsinNebraskaRhode IslandTennesseeMissouriMississippiPennsylvaniaKansasColoradoWest VirginiaArkansasConnecticutIdahoNevadaLouisianaOhioTexasMarylandNew JerseyOklahomaAlabamaAlaskaKentuckyMassachusettsUtahFloridaSouth CarolinaArizonaNorth CarolinaAnd to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.About the Author: Liz Essley Whyte is a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity.

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China completes lunar sample collection ahead of schedule – CANOE



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BEIJING — China’s Chang’e-5 lunar vehicle has finished collecting samples of lunar rocks and soil more than a day ahead of schedule in the first lunar sample retrieval mission since the 1970s, the country’s space agency said on Thursday.

The robotic vehicle has stored the samples and will now dock with the orbiting Chang’e-5 for the return journey to Earth.

China launched a robotic spacecraft on Nov. 24 to bring back rocks from the moon in the first bid by any country to retrieve samples since 1976.

Late on Tuesday, the Chang’e-5 spacecraft successfully deployed a pair of landing and ascending vehicles onto the moon’s surface. The plan was to collect 2 kg (4.4 pounds) of samples.

The sample collection was completed after 19 hours, the space agency said in its statement, without disclosing the total weight of the samples collected.

China had planned to collect the samples over a period of about two days, with the entire mission taking around 23 days.

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The ascending vehicle would lift off from the lunar surface with the samples, and dock with a module currently orbiting around the moon.

The samples would then be transferred to a return capsule onboard the orbiting module for delivery back to Earth.

If successful, the mission will make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union.

China made its first lunar landing in 2013.

In January 2019, the Chang’e-4 probe landed on the far side of the moon, the first space probe from any nation to do so.

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Chinese lunar probe on way back to Earth – FRANCE 24



Issued on: 03/12/2020 – 17:54Modified: 03/12/2020 – 17:52


Beijing (AFP)

A Chinese space probe left the surface of the Moon Thursday to return to Earth, an ambitious effort to bring back the world’s first lunar samples in four decades.

China has poured billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and eventually sending humans to the Moon.

The Chang’e-5 spacecraft, named after the mythical Chinese Moon goddess, left the Moon at 11:10 pm (1510 GMT), said state broadcaster CCTV as mission engineers who were riveted to control screens applauded at length.

A module carrying lunar rocks and soil was in orbit after activating a powerful thrust engine, the China National Space Administration said of the mission that was launched from China’s southern Hainan province.

Scientists hope the samples will help them learn about the Moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity on its surface.

If the return journey is successful, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.

This is the first such attempt since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.

The spacecraft was due to collect two kilograms (4.5 pounds) of material in a previously unexplored area known as Oceanus Procellarum — or “Ocean of Storms” — a vast lava plain, according to the science journal Nature.

The samples will be returned to Earth in a capsule programmed to land in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region, according to US space agency NASA.

Under President Xi Jinping, plans for China’s “space dream”, as he calls it, have been put into overdrive.

Beijing is looking to finally catch up with the US and Russia after years of belatedly matching their space milestones.

China launched its first satellite in 1970, while human spaceflight took decades longer — with Yang Liwei becoming China’s first “taikonaut” in 2003.

A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the Moon in January 2019 in a global first that boosted Beijing’s aspirations to become a space superpower.

The latest probe is among a slew of ambitious targets, which include creating a powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a lunar base, and a permanently crewed space station.

China’s taikonauts and scientists have also talked up crewed missions to Mars.

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