Connect with us

Science

Researchers dig into 60-year-old Russian mystery of hiker deaths – Mirage News

Published

 on


[embedded content]

Researchers from EPFL and ETH Zurich have conducted an original scientific study that puts forth a plausible explanation for the mysterious 1959 death of nine hikers in the Ural Mountains in the former Soviet Union. The tragic Dyatlov Pass Incident, as it came to be called, has spawned a number of theories, from murderous Yeti to secret military experiments.

In early October 2019, when an unknown caller rang EPFL professor Johan Gaume’s cell phone, he could hardly have imagined that he was about to confront one of the greatest mysteries in Soviet history. At the other end of the line, a journalist from New York asked for his expert insight into a tragedy that had occurred 60 years earlier in Russia’s northern Ural Mountains – one that has since come to be known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Gaume, head of EPFL’s Snow and Avalanche Simulation Laboratory (SLAB) and visiting fellow at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, had never heard of the case, which the Russian Public Prosecutor’s Office had recently resurrected from Soviet-era archives. “I asked the journalist to call me back the following day so that I could gather more information. What I learned intrigued me.”

[embedded content]

A sporting challenge that ended in tragedy

On 27 January 1959, a ten-member group consisting mostly of students from the Ural Polytechnic Institute, led by 23-year-old Igor Dyatlov – all seasoned cross-country and downhill skiers – set off on a 14-day expedition to the Gora Otorten mountain, in the northern part of the Soviet Sverdlovsk Oblast. At that time of the year, a route of this kind was classified Category III – the riskiest category – with temperatures falling as low as -30°C. On January 28, one member of the expedition, Yuri Yudin, decided to turn back. He never saw his classmates again.

Dyatlov’s group on February 1st on their way to Kholat Syakhl. © Courtesy of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation

When the group’s expected return date to the departure point, the village of Vizhay, came and went, a rescue team set out to search for them. On 26 February, they found the group’s tent, badly damaged, on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl – translated as “Death Mountain” – some 20 km south of the group’s destination. The group’s belongings had been left behind. Further down the mountain, beneath an old Siberian cedar tree, they found two bodies clad only in socks and underwear. Three other bodies, including that of Dyatlov, were subsequently found between the tree and the tent site; presumably, they had succumbed to hypothermia while attempting to return to the camp. Two months later, the remaining four bodies were discovered in a ravine beneath a thick layer of snow. Several of the deceased had serious injuries, such as fractures to the chest and skull.

I was so intrigued that I began researching this theory more deeply

What exactly happened?

The Soviet authorities investigated to determine the causes of this strange drama, but closed it after three months, concluding that a “compelling natural force” had caused the death of the hikers. In the absence of survivors, the sequence of events on the night of 1 to 2 February is unclear to this day, and has led to countless more or less fanciful theories, from murderous Yeti to secret military experiments.

The tent as it was discovered by the rescue group, on 26 Feb 1959. © Courtesy of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation

This is the mystery that Gaume was confronted with. “After the call from the American reporter, I began writing equations and figures on my blackboard, trying to understand what might have happened in purely mechanical terms,” he says. “When the reporter rang back, I told her it was likely that an avalanche had taken the group by surprise as they lay sleeping in the tent.” This theory, which is the most plausible, was also put forward by the Russian Public Prosecutor’s Office after the investigation was reopened in 2019 at the request of the victims’ relatives. But the lack of evidence and the existence of odd elements has failed to convince a large portion of Russian society. “I was so intrigued that I began researching this theory more deeply. I then contacted Professor Alexander Puzrin, chair of Geotechnical Engineering at ETH Zurich, whom I had met a month earlier at a conference in France.”

The Dyatlov Pass mystery has become part of Russia’s national folklore. When I told my wife that I was going to work on it, she looked at me with deep respect!

Gaume, originally from France, and Russian-born Puzrin worked together to comb through the archives, which had been opened to the public after the fall of the Soviet Union. They also spoke with other scientists and experts in the incident, and developed analytical and numerical models to reconstruct the avalanche that may have caught the nine victims unaware.

Dyatlov group monument erected in 1962 in Mihaylovskoe cemetery, Sverdlovsk. © Courtesy of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation

“The Dyatlov Pass mystery has become part of Russia’s national folklore. When I told my wife that I was going to work on it, she looked at me with deep respect!” says Puzrin. “I was quite keen to do it, especially because I had started working on slab avalanches two years earlier. My primary research is in the field of landslides; I study what happens when a certain amount of time elapses between when a landslide is triggered and when it actually occurs.” According to Gaume and Puzrin, this is what happened in 1959: the hikers had made a cut in the mountain’s snow-covered slope to set up their tent, but the avalanche didn’t occur until several hours later.

One of the main reasons why the avalanche theory is still not fully accepted is that the authorities have not provided an explanation of how it happened

Bridging the gaps in the investigation

“One of the main reasons why the avalanche theory is still not fully accepted is that the authorities have not provided an explanation of how it happened,” says Gaume. In fact, there are a number of points that contradict that theory: first, the rescue team did not find any obvious evidence of an avalanche or debris. Then the average angle of the slope above the tent site – less than 30° – was not steep enough for an avalanche. Also, if an avalanche occurred, it was triggered at least nine hours after the cut was made in the slope. And finally, the chest and skull injuries observed on some victims were not typical of avalanche victims.

Configuration of the Dyatlov group’s tent installed on a flat surface after making a cut in the slope below a small shoulder. Snow deposition above the tent is due to wind transport of snow. © Gaume/Puzrin

In their investigation, published in Communications Earth & Environment – a new journal by Nature Research – onJanuary 28, Gaume and Puzrin attempt to address these points. “We use data on snow friction and local topography to prove that a small slab avalanche could occur on a gentle slope, leaving few traces behind. With the help of computer simulations, we show that the impact of a snow slab can lead to injuries similar to those observed. And then, of course, there’s the time lag between the team cutting into the slope and the triggering of the event. That’s the main focus of our article. Previous investigators have been unable to explain how, in the absence of any snowfall that evening, an avalanche could have been triggered in the middle of the night. We had to come up with a new theory to explain it,” says Gaume.

Simulation of the dynamics of a snow-slab avalanche and its impact on a human body. © Gaume/Puzrin

On the night of the tragedy, one of the most important contributing factors was the presence of katabatic winds – i.e., winds that carry air down a slope under the force of gravity. These winds could have transported the snow, which would have then accumulated uphill from the tent due to a specific feature of the terrain that the team members were unaware of. “If they hadn’t made a cut in the slope, nothing would have happened. That was the initial trigger, but that alone wouldn’t have been enough. The katabatic wind probably drifted the snow and allowed an extra load to build up slowly. At a certain point, a crack could have formed and spread, causing the snow slab to release,” says Puzrin.

Johan Gaume and Alexander Puzrin making a proof of concept of the Dyatlov case in Davos, Switzerland. © Jamani Caillet

Both scientists are nevertheless cautious about their findings, and make it clear that much about the incident remains a mystery. “The truth, of course, is that no one really knows what happened that night. But we do provide strong quantitative evidence that the avalanche theory is plausible,” Puzrin continues.

The two models developed for this study – an analytical one for estimating the time required to trigger an avalanche, created by ETH Zurich, and SLAB’s numerical one for estimating the effect of avalanches on the human body – will be used to better understand natural avalanches and the associated risks. Gaume and Puzrin’s work stands as a tribute to Dyatlov’s team, who were confronted with a “compelling force” of nature. And, although they were unable to complete their treacherous expedition, they have given generations of scientists a perplexing enigma to solve.

Of the ten experienced hikers, only Yuri Yudin, who fell sick at the outset and had to return, survived. © Courtesy of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Dusty demise for NASA Mars lander in July; power dwindling – CGTN

Published

 on


A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise. 

The InSight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off. 

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist. 

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago. 

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface – rovers Curiosity and Perseverance – are still going strong thanks to nuclear power. The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival. Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max. 

The InSight team had anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close. 

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters. 

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow 16 feet (5 meters) underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a couple of feet (a half-meter) because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Blood moon, big city: Skywatcher captures total lunar eclipse over New York (photos) – Space.com

Published

 on


The eclipsed moon burns red high above the bright lights of New York City in gorgeous photos captured by amateur astronomer Alexander Krivenyshev.

Krivenyshev, the president of WorldTimeZone.com, snapped images of the total lunar eclipse on Sunday night (May 15) from Guttenberg, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson River from the Big Apple. 

He persevered through cloudy conditions, Krivenyshev told Space.com via email, to get shots of the blood-red moon shining like a beacon in a light-polluted sky.

Related: Amazing photos of the Super Flower Blood Moon of 2022

A closeup of the eclipsed moon on May 15, 2022, as photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev. (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

The eclipse began at 9:32 p.m EDT on Sunday (0132 GMT on May 16) when the moon nosed into the light part of Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, and ended five hours later. The total eclipse phase, in which the moon was completely darkened by Earth’s heavier umbral shadow, lasted 85 minutes, the longest of any lunar eclipse in 33 years.

Earth’s nearest neighbor temporarily turns a coppery red during total lunar eclipses. This “blood moon” effect is caused by Earth’s atmosphere, which bends some red light onto the lunar surface while scattering away shorter-wavelength light. (No sunlight is hitting the moon directly at this point, of course; Earth is blocking the sun from the moon’s perspective.)

Another series of shots of the total lunar eclipse over New York City, photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev on May 15, 2022.  (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

Related stories:

Last weekend’s sky show was best observed from the Americas and parts of Western Europe and West Africa. It was the first total lunar eclipse of the year, but it won’t be the last; another one will occur on Nov. 8. The Nov. 8 lunar eclipse will be best observed from Australia, eastern Asia and the western United States. 

If you’re hoping to photograph the moon, or want to prepare for the next total lunar eclipse, check out our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. Our guides on how to photograph a lunar eclipse, and how to photograph the moon with a camera, also have some helpful tips to plan out your lunar photo session.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing lunar eclipse photo (or your own eclipse webcast) and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

NASA's Mars InSight mission coming to an end as dust covers solar panels – CBC News

Published

 on


A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise.

The Insight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off.

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist.

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago.

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

WATCH | NASA scientists discuss InSight’s goals on Mars: [embedded content]

Rethinking solar power

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface — rovers Curiosity and Perseverance — are still going strong thanks to nuclear power.

The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival.

Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max.

The InSight team anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or a dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close.

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters.

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow five metres underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a half-metre because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending