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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 discovers double crater on the moon – CTV News

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The moon has a new double crater after a rocket body collided with its surface on March 4.

New images shared by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the moon since 2009, have revealed the location of the unusual crater.

The impact created two craters that overlap, an eastern crater measuring 59 feet (18 metres) across and a western crater spanning 52.5 feet (16 metres). Together, they create a depression that is roughly 91.8 feet (28 metres) wide in the longest dimension.

Although astronomers expected the impact after discovering that the rocket part was on track to collide with the moon, the double crater it created was a surprise.

Typically, spent rockets have the most mass at the motor end because the rest of the rocket is largely just an empty fuel tank. But the double crater suggests that this object had large masses at both ends when it hit the moon.

The exact origin of the rocket body, a piece of space junk that had been careening around for years, is unclear, so the double crater could help astronomers determine what it was.

The moon lacks a protective atmosphere, so it’s littered with craters created when objects like asteroids regularly slam into the surface.

This was the first time a piece of space junk unintentionally hit the lunar surface that experts know of. But craters have resulted from spacecraft being deliberately crashed into the moon.

For example, four large moon craters attributed to the Apollo 13, 14, 15 and 17 missions are all much larger than each of the overlapping craters created during the March 4 impact. However, the maximum width of the new double crater is similar to the Apollo craters.

UNCLEAR ORIGIN

Bill Gray, an independent researcher focused on orbital dynamics and the developer of astronomical software, was first to spot the trajectory of the rocket booster.

Gray had initially identified it as the SpaceX Falcon rocket stage that launched the US Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, in 2015 but later said he’d gotten that wrong and it was likely from a 2014 Chinese lunar mission — an assessment NASA agreed with.

However, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the booster was from its Chang’e-5 moon mission, saying that the rocket in question burned up on reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.

No agencies systematically track space debris so far away from Earth, and the confusion over the origin of the rocket stage has underscored the need for official agencies to monitor deep-space junk more closely, rather than relying on the limited resources of private individuals and academics.

However, experts say that the bigger challenge is the space debris in low-Earth orbit, an area where it can collide with functioning satellites, create more junk and threaten human life on crewed spacecraft.

There are at least 26,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth that are the size of a softball or larger and could destroy a satellite on impact; over 500,000 objects the size of a marble — big enough to cause damage to spacecraft or satellites; and over 100 million pieces the size of a grain of salt, tiny debris that could nonetheless puncture a spacesuit, according to a NASA report issued last year.

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7 Amazing Dark Sky National Parks – AARP

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James Ronan/Getty Images/Steve Burns

Great Basin, Arches, and Voyageurs National Park

Can’t afford to join a commercial space mission offered by Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson? Consider the next best thing: seeing a starry, starry night in a sea of darkness, unimpeded by artificial light, at one of the International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. It’s a rare treat, since light pollution prevents nearly 80 percent of Americans from seeing the Milky Way from their homes.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA) has certified 14 of the nation’s 63 national parks as dark sky destinations. So visitors can take full advantage of such visibility, many of them offer specialized after-dark programs, from astronomy festivals and ranger-led full-moon walks to star parties and astrophotography workshops. If you prefer to stargaze on your own at a park, the National Park Service recommends bringing a pair of 7-by-50 binoculars, a red flashlight, which enhances night vision, and a star chart, which shows the arrangement of stars in the sky.

Here are seven of the IDSA-certified parks where you can appreciate how the heavens looked from the Earth before the dawn of electric light.




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Join today and save 43% off the standard annual rate. Get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life. 



Award-winning travel writer Veronica Stoddart is the former travel editor of USA Today. She has written for dozens of travel publications and websites.​​

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A Mystery Rocket Left A Crater On The Moon – Forbes

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While we think of the moon as a static place, sometimes an event happens that reminds us that things can change quickly.

On March 4, a human-made object (a rocket stage) slammed into the moon and left behind a double crater, as seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.

Officials announced June 23 that they spotted a double crater associated with the event. But what’s really interesting is there’s no consensus about what kind of rocket caused it.

China has denied claims that the rocket was part of a Long March 3 rocket that launched the country’s Chang’e-5 T1 mission in October 2014, although the orbit appeared to match. Previous speculation suggested it might be from a SpaceX rocket launching the DISCOVR mission, but newer analysis has mostly discredited that.

On a broader scale, the value of LRO observations like this is showing how the moon can change even over a small span of time. The spacecraft has been in orbit there since 2009 and has spotted numerous new craters since its arrival.

It’s also a great spacecraft scout, having hunted down the Apollo landing sites from orbit and also having tracked down a few craters from other missions that slammed into the moon since the dawn of space exploration.

It may be that humans return to the moon for a closer-up look in the coming decade, as NASA is developing an Artemis program to send people to the surface no earlier than 2025.

LRO will also be a valuable scout for that set of missions, as the spacecraft’s maps will be used to develop plans for lunar bases or to help scout safe landing sites for astronauts.

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