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Neanderthal artists? Bones decorated over 50000 years ago: Discovery from Unicorn Cave in Lower Saxony sheds new light on Neanderthal cognitive abilities – Science Daily

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Since the discovery of the first fossil remains in the 19th century, the image of the Neanderthal has been one of a primitive hominin. People have known for a long time that Neanderthals were able to effectively fashion tools and weapons. But could they also make ornaments, jewellery or even art? A research team led by the University of Göttingen and the Lower Saxony State Office for Heritage has analysed a new find from the Unicorn Cave (Einhornhöhle) in the Harz Mountains. The researchers conclude that, in fact, Neanderthals, genetically the closest relative to modern humans, had remarkable cognitive abilities. The results of the study were published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Working with the Unicornu Fossile society, the scientists have been carrying out new excavations at the Unicorn Cave in the Harz Mountains since 2019. For the first time, they succeeded in uncovering well-preserved layers of cultural artefacts from the Neanderthal period in the cave’s ruined entrance area. Among the preserved remains from a hunt, an inconspicuous foot bone turned out to be a sensational discovery. After removing the soil sticking to the bone, an angular pattern of six notches was revealed. “We quickly realised that these were not marks made from butchering the animal but were clearly decorative,” says the excavation leader Dr Dirk Leder of the Lower Saxony State Office for Heritage. The carved notches could then be analysed with 3D microscopy at the Department of Wood Biology and Wood Products at Göttingen University.

To make a scientific comparison, the team carried out experiments with the foot bones of today’s cattle. They showed that the bone probably had to be boiled first in order to carve the pattern into the softened bone surface with stone tools and the work would take about 1.5 hours. The small ancient foot bone that had been discovered was identified as coming from a giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus). “It is probably no coincidence that the Neanderthal chose the bone of an impressive animal with huge antlers for his or her carving,” says Professor Antje Schwalb from the Technical University of Braunschweig, who is involved in the project.

The team of Leibniz laboratory at Kiel University dated the carved bone at over 51,000 years using radiocarbon dating technology. This is the first time that anyone has successfully directly dated an object that must have been carved by Neanderthals. Until now, a few ornamental objects from the time of the last Neanderthals in France were known. However, these finds, which are about 40,000 years old, are considered by many to be copies of pendants made by anatomically modern humans because by this time they had already spread to parts of Europe. Decorative objects and small ivory sculptures have survived from cave sites of modern humans on the Swabian Alb in Baden-Württemberg and these were found at about the same time.

“The fact that the new find from the Unicorn Cave dates from so long ago shows that Neanderthals were already able to independently produce patterns on bones and probably also communicate using symbols thousands of years before the arrival of modern humans in Europe,” says project leader Professor Thomas Terberger from Göttingen University’s Department for Prehistory and Early History, and the Lower Saxony State Office for Heritage. “This means that the creative talents of the Neanderthals must have developed independently. The bone from the Unicorn Cave thus represents the oldest decorated object in Lower Saxony and one of the most important finds from the Neanderthal period in Central Europe.”

Lower Saxony’s Minister of Science Björn Thümler says: “Lower Saxony’s archaeologists are always making discoveries that rewrite the history books. Now, research in the Unicorn Cave has revealed that the Neanderthals produced elaborate designs even before the arrival of modern humans — yet another important new finding that completely revises our picture of prehistory.”

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Materials provided by University of Göttingen. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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NASA hands SpaceX contract for first mission to Jupiter's moon Europa – Fox Business

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NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Southern California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)  has awarded SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) with the launch services contract for the Earth’s first mission to conduct detailed investigations of Europa. 

The “Europa Clipper” mission is set for October 2024 and NASA said in a Friday release that the spacecraft will launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

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The contract award is approximately $178 million dollars

Scientists at the agency will explore whether Jupiter’s icy moon, which is about 90% the size of Earth’s moon, could host conditions suitable for life. 

The world – discovered first by famed astronomer Galileo Galilei – shows strong evidence for an ocean of salty water beneath the planet’s crust, thought to contain twice as much water as Earth’s oceans combined.

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NASA believes that the moon’s ice shell is around 10 to 15 miles thick and its internal ocean is estimated to be around 40 to 100 miles deep.

The mission will send Europa Clipper to orbit around Jupiter to perform close flybys of Europa on an elliptical path. The orbiter’s suite of science instruments will help to measure the ocean’s depth and salinity and the thickness of its icy shell, map surface geology and composition, search for plumes of water vapor that could be emitted from Europa’s crust and subsurface lakes and produce high-resolution images of its surface.

This color view of Jupiter’s moon Europa was captured by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Scientists are studying processes that affect the surface as they prepare to explore the icy body. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

JPL notes that understanding Europa habitability will help astrobiologists to better understand how life developed on Earth approximately 382 million miles away, in addition to efforts to find life beyond the blue marble.

While JPL leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, NASA’s Kennedy-based Launch Services Program will manage the Europa Clipper launch service. 

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Additionally, the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will orchestrate program management of the Europa Clipper mission.

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Buck Moon rises over Oshawa harbour – insauga.com

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July’s orange- or yellow-tinted full moon – known as a Buck Moon – arrived at 10:36 p.m. Friday night.

It’s called the Buck Moon because the antlers of male deer are in full-growth mode at this time.

Indigenous people of Canada have several other names for the phenomenon, including Berry Moon (Anishinabe), Feather Moulting Moon (Cree), Salmon Moon, (Tlingit) and Raspberry Moon (Algonquin, Ojibwe).

The full moon can be viewed in all its glory until tomorrow night.

Photo: Colin Ryan

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NASA clears Boeing Starliner for July 30th test flight to ISS – Yahoo Movies Canada

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More than 18 months after its failed first attempt to make it to the International Space Station, Boeing’s Starliner is ready for a second shot. Following a flight readiness review, NASA is moving forward with the craft’s upcoming July 30th uncrewed orbital flight test. Unless there’s an unforeseen delay, the capsule will launch from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral Station mounted on an Atlas V rocket at 2:53PM ET. Should NASA postpone the flight, it will again attempt to carry out the test on August 3rd at the earliest.

The purpose of the flight is for NASA to conduct an end-to-end test of Starliner’s capabilities. It wants to know if the capsule can handle every aspect of a trip to the ISS, including launch, docking as well as atmospheric re-entry. “[Orbital Flight Test-2] will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency said.

If the flight is a success, NASA will move forward with a crewed test of the Starliner. Steve Stich, commercial crew program manager at NASA, said that could happen “as soon as later this year.” Both Boeing and NASA have a lot invested in the viability of Starliner. For the aerospace company, its decision not to conduct an end-to-end test of the craft before its failed 2019 flight left the agency “surprised,” leading to questions about the project. Meanwhile, NASA is keen to have two capsules that can ferry its astronauts to the ISS. Right now, it’s limited to just SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. “It’s very important for the commercial crew program to have two space transportation systems,” Stich told reporters.

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