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Global extinction event led to evolution of weapon-like teeth in marine reptiles – India Today

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The discovery of a new fossil from central Colombia could shed light on the evolution of marine reptiles. The well preserved metre-long skull discovered by researchers from Canada, Colombia, and Germany is one of the last surviving ichthyosaurs — ancient animals that look like living swordfish.

The marine animal has been named Kyhytysuka, which translates to “the one that cuts with something sharp” in an indigenous language from the region in central Colombia where the fossil was found.

The animal shows the evolution of a unique arsenal of teeth to devour its prey against other ichthyosaurs that had small, equally sized teeth for feeding on small prey. The study of the marine fossil published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology states that the discovery has helped in a better understanding of the anatomy of the marine reptile.

Hans Larsson, Director of the Redpath Museum at McGill University and a lead author of the study said that the animal evolved a unique dentition that allowed it to eat large prey. “Whereas other ichthyosaurs had small, equally sized teeth for feeding on small prey, this new species modified its tooth sizes and spacing to build an arsenal of teeth for dispatching large prey, like big fishes and other marine reptiles,” he added.

Skeleton of Kyhytysuka compared to a human for scale. Known bones are shown in white. Credit: (Photo: Dirley Cortés)

Researchers said that they decided to name it Kyhytysuka, to honour the ancient Muisca culture that existed in the region where the fossil was found.

In a bid to clarify the evolution of the unique animal, researchers compared it with other Jurassic and Cretaceous ichthyosaurs and defined a new type of ichthyosaur. They concluded that the species comes from an important transitional time during the Early Cretaceous period when the Earth was coming out of a relatively cool period, had rising sea levels, and the supercontinent Pangea was splitting into northern and southern landmasses.

In a release by McGill University, researchers said that there was also a global extinction event at the end of the Jurassic that changed marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Dirley Cortés working with the skull of Kyhytysuka. (Photo: Dirley Cortés)

“We are discovering many new species in the rocks this new ichthyosaur comes from. We are testing the idea that this region and time in Colombia was an ancient biodiversity hotspot and are using the fossils to better understand the evolution of marine ecosystems during this transitional time,” Dirley Cortés, a graduate student under the supervision of Hans Larsson and Carlos Jaramillo of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute said.

Researchers concluded that the new discovery shakes up the evolutionary tree of ichthyosaurs and “lets us test new ideas of how they evolved.”

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Awesome Photo Shows James Webb Space Telescope in Deep Space Home – Futurism

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It’s amazing.

Parking Spot

Breathe easy, fellow space nerds. 

The much-anticipated James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is unfurled and parked in its final orbit, roughly one million miles away from Earth.

While we’ll likely never see it up close and personal ever again, a remotely-controlled telescope has provided us with one of the first images of the Webb in orbit — showing the JWST as a distant dot that’s virtually indistinguishable amongst the stars and galaxies in the image. 

Check out the photo for yourself below:

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Credit: Virtual Telescope Project

Robot Astronomer

The stunning image itself was captured by a 17-inch telescope dubbed “Elena.” It’s managed by the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0, which provides astronomers access to two remotely-controlled robotic telescopes in Rome, Italy. 

The photo was snapped just as the Webb arrived at its final destination at the Lagrange Point 2 (L2) — and if that’s not enough for you, they were able to cobble together a short video of it moving through the inky blackness of space. 

Webb’s Future

NASA initially estimated that the Webb had enough fuel for a roughly 10 year mission. During that time, scientists hope that it’ll provide us with the most detailed — and hopefully revealing — images of deep space we’ve ever seen.  

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However, some experts believe it’ll be able to work for a lot longer than that. 

“You’ve heard numbers around 20 years. We think that’s probably a good ballpark,” Keith Parrish, the JWST observatory commissioning manager at NASA, said in a press teleconference attended by SpaceNews  after the Webb reached L2 on Monday.  “This is capping off just a remarkable 30 days.”

So hopefully, we’ll have plenty more images of — and from — the Webb for a long time to come. 

More on James Webb Space Telescope: Famed Physicist: Soon-to-Launch Telescope Likely to Discover Alien Life

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Astronomers spy powerful deep-space object unlike anything seen before – CNET

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An artist’s impression of what the object might look like if it’s a magnetar. Magnetars are incredibly magnetic neutron stars, some of which sometimes produce radio emissions. Known magnetars rotate every few seconds, but, theoretically, “ultra-long-period magnetars” could rotate much more slowly.


ICRAR

A team led by astronomers in Australia has discovered a brand new type of object in deep space that behaves in bizarre and mysterious ways never seen before. 

Something about 4,000 light-years away, which is relatively close in our cosmic neighborhood, was seen spinning around and regularly blasting out a massive burst of energy that lasts a full a minute. Even weirder, that bright beam of radiation occurred like clockwork every 18 minutes. 

“It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there’s nothing known in the sky that does that,” astrophysicist Natasha Hurley-Walker said in a statement. 

The behavior is similar to that of a pulsar or magnetar, which spin around as they blast out pulses of energy that can be detected here on Earth. But pulsars pulse very quickly, usually every few seconds. An object that sends out longer bursts just a few times an hour has never been seen before. 

Hurley-Walker led a team from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research that made the discovery, with assistance from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory. She’s also lead author on a paper detailing the find in this week’s issue of the journal Nature. 

This odd object was originally spotted by Curtin student Tyrone O’Doherty using the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in outback Western Australia. The MWA is a radio observatory that can observe a wide swath of the sky over a wide range of frequencies. 

“It’s exciting that the source I identified last year has turned out to be such a peculiar object,” said O’Doherty, who is working on his Ph.D.

The galactic peculiarity could be the collapsed core of a star with an ultra-powerful magnetic field. Hurley-Walker explains that it has the characteristics of something astrophysicists have theorized called an “ultra-long-period magnetar.”

“It’s a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically,” she said. “But nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn’t expect them to be so bright. Somehow it’s converting magnetic energy to radio waves much more effectively than anything we’ve seen before.”

For now, the unusual object has stopped sending out pulses that we can see, but Hurley-Walker says she is continuing to monitor it with the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in case it starts up again. 

“If it does, there are telescopes across the Southern Hemisphere and even in orbit that can point straight to it,” she added.

She also plans to go back into the MWA’s archives to see if this object is just one member of a larger family that’s gone unnoticed until now. 

“More detections will tell astronomers whether this was a rare one-off event or a vast new population we’d never noticed before.” 

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SpaceX rocket booster on collision course with the moon – Globalnews.ca

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An out-of-control booster from a SpaceX rocket has been drifting through space for seven years, and astronomers say it’s now on a collision course with the moon.

The booster was originally launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral in February 2015 as part of the Falcon 9 interplanetary mission.

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The booster, also known as the second stage, was left derelict and on a shaky orbit after propelling the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep Space Climate Observatory far into space to help monitor space weather.

Here, it was left in a kind of purgatory, where it was too far from Earth to tumble back down, but not far enough to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth-moon system.

Bill Gray of space blog projectpluto.com first reported the upcoming crash, and said he believes it’s “the first unintentional case” of space junk colliding with the moon.

Gray, along with other space observers, believes the booster, which weighs approximately four metric tons, will strike the far side of the moon near its equator at 2.58 kilometres per second on March 4.

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Unlike Earth, the moon doesn’t have a thick atmosphere to help break up foreign objects, so the booster is expected to slam into the surface and add another mark to the moon’s already heavily cratered crust.

Astronomers, including Harvard University’s own Jonathan McDowell, say that there’s nothing to worry about — this won’t destroy the moon or really cause much damage.

Even still, it’s tough to predict exactly what will happen and where the booster will hit as there are many extraneous factors like sunlight “pushing” on the rocket and “ambiguity in measuring rotation periods,” which may slightly alter its orbit, according to Gray.

Because it looks like the booster will hit the far side of the moon, it will more than likely not be visible to the naked eye (or with a telescope) from Earth. Additionally, the collision is projected to take place a few days after the new moon, which means the majority of the moon will be obscured from vision anyway.

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Interestingly, while this may be the first instance of space junk hitting the moon, it’s not the first time a human-made device has collided with it; NASA launched a rocket at the moon in 2009 — on purpose — in order to detect what would emerge upon impact.

The LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission and collision, which was not visible from Earth, helped confirm that there is water on the moon.

Many space experts and enthusiasts are excited for the upcoming crash, as it could also inadvertently provide further information about our satellite neighbour.

As of this writing, SpaceX and NASA have not publicly commented on the impending collision.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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