Paleontologists have uncovered a new fossil species that sheds light on the origin of mandibulates, the most abundant and diverse group of organisms on Earth, to which belong familiar animals such as flies, ants, crayfish and centipedes. Named Tokummia katalepsis by the researchers, the creature documents for the first time the anatomy of early mandibulates, a sub-group of arthropods with specialized appendages known as mandibles, used to grasp, crush and cut their food. Science Daily Earth and Climate News
Scientists have shown how earthquakes and storms in the Himalaya can increase the impact of deadly floods in one of Earth’s most densely populated areas. Science Daily Earth and Climate News
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[unable to retrieve full-text content] Space and Time News from Science Daily
How is it possible to image the surface of an Earth-sized planet outside of our solar system? Join us for this special Exoplanet hangout to find out! Deep Astronomy Fan News
Being first in a new ecosystem provides major advantages for pioneering species, but the benefits may depend on just how competitive later-arriving species are. That is among the conclusions in a new study testing the importance of ‘first arrival’ in controlling adaptive radiation of species, a hypothesis famously proposed for ‘Darwin’s Finches,’ birds from the Galapagos Islands that were first brought to scientific attention by Darwin. Science Daily Microbiology News
MERRITT ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, FL – Elon Musk’s SpaceX is primed for another significant space first; the firms first launch of a spy satellite for the US governments super secret spy agency; the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO – following today’s successful static hotfire test of the Falcon 9 launchers first stage booster.
Tuesday’s hotfire test to took place shortly after 3 p.m. this afternoon, April 25, at SpaceX’s seaside Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The successful test paves the path for launch of the NROL-76 classified payload for the NRO atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this Sunday morning, April 30 from pad 39A.
“Static fire test complete,” SpaceX confirmed via social media just minutes after finishing the brief test at 3:02 p.m. EDT (1902 GMT).
“Targeting Falcon 9 launch of NROL-76 on Sunday, April 30.”
The engine test is conducted using only the first two stages of the rocket – minus the expensive payload in case anything goes wrong as like occurred during the catastrophic AMOS-6 static fire disaster last September.
Furthermore this launch is also notable because it features the next land landing by a SpaceX Falcon 9 first booster back at the Cape for only the fourth time in history – which also makes for an extremely thrilling experience – and unforgettable space enthusiasts event.
So by all means try to witness this launch from the Florida Space Coast in person, if at all possible.
The breakfast time launch window on Sunday, April 30 opens at 7 a.m. EDT. It extends for two hours until 9.a.m. EDT.
The long range weather outlook currently looks favorable with lots of sun and little rain. But that can change on a moment’s notice in the sunshine state.
The brief engine test lasting approximately three seconds took place at 3:02 p.m. today, Tuesday, April 25, with the sudden eruption of smoke and ash rushing out the flame trench to the north and into the air over historic pad 39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center during a picture perfect sunny afternoon – as I witnessed from the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, FL.
During today’s static fire test, the rocket’s first and second stages are fueled with densified liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants like an actual launch, and a simulated countdown is carried out to the point of a brief engine ignition with the rocket firmly clamped down and held in place.
The hold down engine test with the erected rocket involved the ignition of all nine Merlin 1D first stage engines generating some 1.7 million pounds of thrust at pad 39A while the two stage rocket was restrained on the pad.
This is only the fourth Falcon 9 static fire test ever conducted on Pad 39A.
Pad 39A has been repurposed by SpaceX from its days as a NASA shuttle launch pad.
Watch this video of the April 25 static fire test from colleague Jeff Seibert:
Video Caption: Static fire test of the Falcon 9 core in preparation for NROL-76 launch scheduled for April 30, 2017. A Falcon 9 booster undergoes a captive static fire test as a step in the launch preparation for the first dedicated NRO launch by SpaceX. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Until now launch competitor United Launch Alliance (ULA) and its predecessors have held a virtual monoploy on the US military’s most critical satellite launches.
The last first stage booster during the SES-10 launch of the first recycled rocket landed on a droneship barge at sea.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite launch reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
The post SpaceX to Launch 1st NRO SpySat Sunday after Static Fire Success appeared first on Universe Today.
NASA is all about solving challenges, and the goal of having a prolonged presence in space, or a colony on Mars or some other world, is full of challenges, including the necessity of growing food. Scientists at Kennedy Advanced Life Support Research are working on the Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse Project to try and meet that challenge.
The Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse Project (PLMGP) is all about growing vegetables for astronauts during extended stays on the Moon, on Mars, or anywhere they can’t be resupplied from Earth. Beyond growing food, the Project aims to understand how food-growing systems can also be a part of life-support systems.
“The approach uses plants to scrub carbon dioxide, while providing food and oxygen.” – Dr. Ray Wheeler
“We’re working with a team of scientists, engineers and small businesses at the University of Arizona to develop a closed-loop system. The approach uses plants to scrub carbon dioxide, while providing food and oxygen,” said Dr. Ray Wheeler, lead scientist in Kennedy Advanced Life Support Research.
The prototype itself is an inflatable, deployable system that researchers call a bioregenerative life support system. As crops are grown, the system recycles, water, recycles waste, and revitalizes the air.
The system is hydroponic, so no soil is needed. Water that is either brought along on missions or gathered in situ—on the Moon or at Mars for example—is enriched with nutrient salts, and flows continuously through plant root systems. Air in the system is recycled too. Astronauts exhale carbon dioxide, which plants absorb. Through photosynthesis, the plants produce oxygen for the astronauts.
“We’re mimicking what the plants would have if they were on Earth and make use of these processes for life support,” said Dr. Gene Giacomelli, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona. “The entire system of the lunar greenhouse does represent, in a small way, the biological systems that are here on Earth.”
“The entire system of the lunar greenhouse does represent, in a small way, the biological systems that are here on Earth.” – Dr. Gene Giacomelli
A key part of a system like this is knowing what astronauts will have to bring with them, and what resources they can find at their destination. This includes which type of plants and seeds will be needed, as well as how much water might be available once astronauts reach their destination. Methods of extracting water on Mars or the Moon are also being researched and developed.
Even if the necessary water can be found in situ on Mars and the Moon, that hardly means those are easy places to grow food. Astronauts have to be protected from radiation, and so will crops. These greenhouse chambers would have to buried underground, which means specialized lighting systems are also required.
“We’ve been successful in using electric LED (light emitting diode) lighting to grow plants,” Dr. Wheeler said. “We also have tested hybrids using both natural and artificial lighting.” Solar light could be captured with light concentrators that track the sun and then convey the light to the chamber using fiber optic bundles.
These systems are not NASA’s first experience at growing crops in space. Experiments aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been an important part of the research into crop production in non-terrestrial environments. The Veggie Plant Growth System was NASA’s first attempt, and astronauts successfully harvested lettuce from that system.
Earth has well-established systems for sustaining life, and this project is all about taking some of that to distant destinations in space.
“I think it’s interesting to consider that we’re taking our terrestrial companions with us,” Wheeler said. “While there may be ways to engineer around it in terms of stowage and resupply, it wouldn’t be as sustainable. The greenhouses provide a more autonomous approach to long-term exploration on the moon, Mars and beyond.”
In a recent work (Burgarth et al 2014, Nat. Commun . 5 5173), it was shown that a series of frequent measurements can project the dynamics of a quantum system onto a subspace in which the dynamics can be more complex. In this subspace, even full controllability can be achieved, although the controllability over the system before the projection is very poor since the control Hamiltonians commute with each other. We can also think of the opposite: any Hamiltonians of a quantum system, which are in general noncommutative with each other, can be made commutative by embedding them in an extended Hilbert space, thus the dynamics in the extended space becomes trivial and simple. This idea of making noncommutative Hamiltonians commutative is called ‘Hamiltonian purification.’ The original noncommutative Hamiltonians are recovered by projecting the system back onto the original Hilbert space through frequent measurements. Here, we generalise this idea to open-system dynamics…
About 14,500 years ago, Earth began transitioning from its cold, glacial self to a warmer interglacial state. However, partway through this period, temperatures suddenly returned to near-glacial conditions. This abrupt change (known as the Younger Dryas period) is believed by some to be the reason why hunter-gatherers started forming sedentary communities, farming, and laying the groundwork for civilization as we know it – aka. the Neolithic Revolution.
For over a decade, there have been scientists who have argued that this period the result of a comet hitting Earth. Known as the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis (aka. the Clovis Comet Hypothesis), the theory is largely based on ice core samples from Greenland that show a sudden global temperature change. But according to a new study by a research team from the University of Edinburgh, archaeological evidence may also prove this hypothesis correct.
The Younger Dryas period takes its name from a species of flower known as Dryas octopetala. This plant is known to grow in cold conditions, and became common in Europe during the period. Because of the way it began abruptly – roughly 12,500 years ago – and then ended just as abruptly 1200 years later, many scientists have are convinced it was caused by an external event.
For the sake of their study – which was recently published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry under the title “Decoding Göbekli Tepe With Archaeoastronomy: What Does the Fox Say?“- the team found an astronomical link to the stone pillars at Göbekli Tepe. Located in southern Turkey, this archaeological find is the oldest known temple site in the world (dated to ca. 10,950 BCE).
This site, it should be noted, is contemporary with the Greenland ice core samples, which are dated to around 10,890 BCE. Of the sites many features, none are more famous than the many standing pillars that dot the excavated grounds. This is because of the extensive pictograms and animal reliefs that decorate these pillars, which include various representations of mammal and avian species- particularly vultures.
Pillar 43, which is also known as the “vulture stone”, was of particular interest to archeologists, as it is suspected that its representations (associated with death) could have been intended to commemorate a devastating event. The other images, they ventured, were meant to depict the constellations, and that their placement relative to each other accorded to the positions of the then-known asterisms in the night sky.
This theory was based on images they took of the site, which they then examined using the planetarium program stellarium 0.15. In the end, they found that the images bore a resemblance to constellations that would have been visible in 10,950 BCE. As such, they concluded that the temple site may have been an observatory, and that the images were a catalog of celestial events – which include the Taurid meteor stream.
As they state in their study:
“We begin by noting the carving of a scorpion on pillar 43, a well -known zodiacal symbol for Scorpius. Based on this observation, we investigate to what extent other symbols on pillar 43 can be interpreted as zodiacal symbols or other familiar astronomical symbols… We suggest the vulture/eagle on pillar 43 can be interpreted as the ‘teapot’ asterism of our present-day notion of Sagittarius; the angle between the eagle/vulture’s head and wings, in particular, agrees well with the ‘handle’,‘lid’ and ‘spout’ of the teapot asterism. We also suggest the ‘bent-bird’ with downward wriggling snake or fish can be interpreted as the ‘13th sign of the zodiac’, i.e. of our present-day notion of Ophiuchus. Although its relative position is not very accurate, we suggest the artist(s) of pillar 43 were constrained by the shape of the pillar. These symbols are a reasonably good match with their corresponding asterisms, and they all appear to be in approximately the correct relative locations.
Of course, the team fully acknowledges that an astronomical interpretation is by no means the only possibility. In addition to the possibility of them being mythological references, they could also be representations of hunting or migration patterns. It’s also entirely possible they were not meant to convey any specific meaning, and were merely a description of the local environment, which would have been rich in flora and fauna at the time.
In addition, the way vultures are commonly featured could be an indication that the site was a burial ground. This is consistent with iconography found at the archaeological sites of Çatalhöyük (in central, southern Turkey) and Jericho (in the West Bank). During the time period in question, Neolithic peoples were known to conduct sky burials, where the bodies of the deceased were left out in the open for carrion birds to pick over.
In such practices, the head was sometimes removed from the deceased and kept (for the sake of ancestor worship). This is consistent with one of the characters on Pillar 43, which appears to be a headless human. However, as the team go on to explain, they are confident that the connection between the site’s images and the Taurid meteor stream is a plausible one.
“[O]ur basic statistical analysis indicatesour astronomical interpretation is very likely to be correct,” they write. “We are therefore content to limit ourselves to this hypothesis, and logically we are not required to pursue others.” And of course, they acknowledge that further research will be necessary before any conclusions can be made.
Further Reading: MAA Journal
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