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Mysterious large mass discovered on Moon bewilders scientists: ‘Whatever it is, wherever it came from’

A large mass of unknown material has been discovered on the largest crater on the Moon and scientists aren’t sure what it is.

According to an April 2019 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the researchers believe the mass could contain metal from an asteroid that crashed into the celestial satellite, which resulted in the aforementioned crater, known as the Lunar South Pole-Aitken basin.

“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected,” lead author Dr. Peter James, assistant professor of planetary geophysics at Baylor University, said in a statement.

 

At roughly 1,550 miles in diameter, the Lunar South Pole-Aitken basin stretches across approximately one-fourth of the Moon, according to NASA. The Moon’s circumference is roughly 11,000 kilometers.

This false-color graphic shows the topography of the far side of the Moon. The warmer colors indicate high topography and the bluer colors indicate low topography. The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is shown by the shades of blue. The dashed circle shows the location of the mass anomaly under the basin. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

This false-color graphic shows the topography of the far side of the Moon. The warmer colors indicate high topography and the bluer colors indicate low topography. The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin is shown by the shades of blue. The dashed circle shows the location of the mass anomaly under the basin. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

In addition to being the largest crater on the Moon, the Pole-Aitken basin is also one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system and is thought to be approximately 4 billion years old.

James and his team looked at data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission and the changes in gravity they discovered surprised them.

“When we combined that with lunar topography data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin,” James said. “One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon’s mantle.”

The anomaly – “whatever it is, wherever it came from,” James added – is weighing down the basin floor by more than half a mile. The team of researchers ran computer simulations that show the iron-nickel core of an asteroid could have been placed into the upper mantle of the Moon following impact.

“We did the math and showed that a sufficiently dispersed core of the asteroid that made the impact could remain suspended in the Moon’s mantle until the present day, rather than sinking to the Moon’s core,” James noted.

One other possibility for the unexplained mass is that it could be an area where dense oxides compiled following the last stage of lunar magma ocean solidification.

Whatever it is, James said the basin is “one of the best natural laboratories for studying catastrophic impact events, an ancient process that shaped all of the rocky planets and moons we see today.”

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NASA will let tourists visit the International Space Station starting in 2020

NASA plans to allow tourists to visit the International Space Station from 2020 – at an estimated cost of more than $50 million (£39 million) per trip.

Until now, the floating space lab has only been accessible to astronauts representing state-level space agencies.

In a surprise announcement today, NASA confirmed that it would be “opening the International Space Station for commercial business”.

It means that private companies will be able to take “private astronauts” to the ISS for up to 30 days.

“The agency can accommodate up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year to the International Space Station,” Nasa explained.

“These missions will be privately funded, dedicated commercial spaceflights.”

Transport will be provided by both Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, who are currently developing capsules that can carry humans to the ISS.

It’s expected that a trip will likely cost around $50 million (£39 million) per astronaut, according to early estimates – but could easily rise well above that figure.

The spaceflight to the ISS will account for a large chunk of the cost.

NASA typically pays around $75 million for seats aboard a Soyuz spacecraft destined for the ISS, and even paid $82 million per seat in 2015.

However, NASA says seats aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon and/or Boeing CST-100 capsules will cost roughly $58 million per seat.

It’s these capsules that will be used to ferry astronauts up to the ISS – but the cost continues to rise after the journey.

Keeping astronauts on board the ISS is a pricey business.

For instance, regenerative life support and toilet cost $11,250 (£8,800) per astronaut each day.

And general supplies – like food and air – cost $22,500 (£17,500) per astronaut each day.

Nasa will get around $35,000 (£27,000) per night that a private astronaut spends on board the ISS.

A large bank balance won’t be enough either: you’ll have to pass Nasa’s rigorous health checks and training procedures.

As part of its “commercialization” of the ISS, Nasa will be making one space station port and utilities available for a private company to “attach a commercial module to”.

And it hopes that in the long-term, there will be lots of private space stations floating just above Earth.

“In the long-term, NASA’s goal is to become one of many customers purchasing services from independent, commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit,” NASA explained.

“A robust low-Earth orbit economy will need multiple commercial destinations, and NASA is partnering with industry to pursue dual paths to that objective that either go through the space station or directly to a free-flying destination.”

Whatever ends up going into space, it’s unlikely to get cheaper any time soon.

Even SpaceX charges $62million (£48.7million) to send commercial satellites into orbit with its relatively new Falcon 9 rocket.

And Axiom Space, a Houston-based company hoping to organize trips to the ISS, has pledged to charge $55 million (£43.2 million) for a 10-day trip to the ISS.

So why is NASA letting tourists travel to the ISS?

The main advantage seems to be keeping costs down, as the ISS is very expensive to run.

But it’s also about continuing to test space travel – to make it safer and cheaper for everyone.

“Market studies identified private astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit as a key element to demonstrate demand and reduce risk for future commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit,” NASA explained.

The long-term plan is to create space stations near Earth that can be used as stop-off points for deeper trips into space.

NASA hopes to set up several “lunar gateways” starting from 2028 that will float near the Moon, and could be used for crewed missions to Mars.

“The first Gateway is about the moon, but I think the second Gateway, being a deep-space transport, again using commercial and international partners, enables us to get to Mars,” said NASA top boss Jim Bridenstine, speaking last year.

“What we don’t want to do is go to the surface of the moon, prove that we can do it again, and then be done. We want to go to stay.

“And the Gateway, in my view – I’ve been convinced – enables us to take advantage of commercial and international partners in a more robust way so we are there to stay, it enables us to get to more parts of the moon than ever before, and it enables us to get to Mars.”

This story originally appeared in The Sun.

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Stone block with mysterious 12,000-year-old engravings discovered at prehistoric hunting site

Archaeologists in France have uncovered a mysterious carved stone block at a prehistoric hunting site.

The stone was found during excavations at Angouleme in southwestern France.  A number of engravings have been carved into the sandstone, including horses, deer and an aurochs, an extinct species of wild cattle.

Drawings on the stone block. (Denis Gliksman, Inrap)

Drawings on the stone block. (Denis Gliksman, Inrap)

“The most visible engraving, that of a headless horse turned to the right, occupies half the surface,” according to a translated statement from French national archeological research organization Inrap. “The rump and the saddle follow the curves of the natural edge of the stone. Very fine incisions may suggest the coat”.

The area where the stone was found was used as a hunting site by the prehistoric Azilian culture. Other items discovered at the site include tools for stripping carcasses.

Side face of the sandstone block.

Side face of the sandstone block. (Denis Gliksman, Inrap)

Experts think that the stone is about 12,000 years old. More research will be done to precisely date and gain more information from the artifact.

Other mysterious stones have been grabbing attention in France. A village in Brittany, for example, recently offered a reward to anyone who can decipher a strange inscription on a centuries-old rock.

Last year, archaeologists announced the discovery of 12,000-year-old cave drawings in Eastern France.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and Madeline Farber contributed to this article.  Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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June is National Men’s Health Month

 

Men’s Health Month is celebrated across the country. The goal of this national observance is to increase awareness about the preventable health problems in men and promote early detection and treatment of disease among boys and men. This month gives healthcare providers, friends, family, and the media a chance to encourage men to seek regular medical advice for disease and screenings. Please see list of exams below:
  • Physical Exam. Needed every year or more often if recommended by your provider. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine how often you should get an exam.
  • Testicular Exam. As the number one cancer for men between 15-35 years of age it is important to check your-self frequently and discuss an exam with your doctor during your physical exam.
  • Blood Pressure Screenings. Needed every 2 years unless it is elevated than it may need to be checked more frequently. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine how often you should be screened.
  • Cholesterol Screenings. Needed every 5 years unless it is elevated than it may need to be checked more frequently. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine how often you should be checked. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine how often you should be screened.
  • Diabetes Screenings. Needed if your blood pressure is above 135/80, you have a BMI of over 25 in addition to other risk factors, or you have an out of range glucose or A1C reading. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine how often you should be screened.
  • Dental Exam. Needed 1-2 times per year. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine how often you should get an exam.
  • Eye Exam. Needed every 2 years or more often if recommended by your provider. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine how often you should get an exam.
See what activities are going on in your community that relate to this month and don’t forget to wear blue on the Friday before Father’s day (6/16) to support the cause.

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Scientists issue dire warning about tomb of Jesus

Few places are more holy to Christians than what’s thought to be Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem, but scientists are now warning that there’s a “very real risk” of collapse at the site.

Researchers from the National Technical University of Athens say the Edicule, a shrine that encloses the cave where the faithful believe Jesus was buried and resurrected, faces “catastrophic” collapse if issues aren’t remedied soon, National Geographic reports.

The Edicule itself is inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Scientists discovered the decaying foundation—which they say is further destabilized by the fact that it’s built on rubble and atop a network of tunnels and channels—during a months-long, $4 million restoration project that was unveiled earlier this week.

“This is a complete transformation of the monument,” Bonnie Burnham, an ex-chief for the World Monuments Fund, said Monday at the unveiling, per the AP.

During the renovation, however, extensive structural problems were uncovered by camera bots and ground-penetrating radar. The general instability of the site has been known for almost a hundred years, but varying Christian sects have been fighting over who has custody of the site and didn’t come to a restoration agreement until March 2016.

What the NTUA says is needed now: a new $6.5 million project that could take close to another year as workers grout rotting mortar and install sewage and rainwater drainage systems around the shrine.

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Medieval sin-washing well is uncovered

(Historic England)

(Historic England)

In medieval times, pilgrims flocked to England in quest of St. Anne’s Well, which was said to cure ailments and wash away sins. Archaeologists now say they’ve rediscovered that large sandstone well on a private farm near Liverpool using only a 1983 photo and a description, reports the Liverpool Echo.

When archaeologists arrived at the site, there was little evidence of the well at all as “it had become completely filled with earth,” says a rep for Historic England.

Once excavated, however, it was “found to be in reasonable condition,” per an archaeologist. Legend has it that the supposed mother of the Virgin Mary herself descended the medieval well’s three steps and bathed in its 4-foot-deep pool, located near a priory of monks, reportedly giving the water the ability to cure eye and skin diseases, per Seeker and ScienceAlert.

 

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But the well—believed to have healing properties into the 19th century—also features in a more ominous legend suggesting it’s cursed. During a dispute over the well in the 16th century, the prior reportedly cursed the estate manager of a neighboring landowner, whom he believed had a hand in the monastery being seized by the king.

The prior said a “year and a day shall not pass ere St. Anne thy head shall bruise”—then the prior himself collapsed and died, according to an 1877 newspaper recounting of the legend.

The estate manager is said to have disappeared after a night of drinking, only to be found dead in the well with “his head crushed in.” ScienceAlert points out the discovery has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Long-hidden Winston Churchill essay on aliens surfaces

Winston Churchill is seen with his trademark cigar in this file photo.

Winston Churchill is seen with his trademark cigar in this file photo.  (AP)

A fascinating essay that lay hidden for decades reveals Winston Churchill’s views on alien life.

The never-published essay has been in the archive of the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri since the 1980s, when it was given to the museum by the wife of Churchill’s publisher, who had died. Last year the museum invited Israeli astrophysicist Mario Livio to review the essay, which he discusses in an article published in the science journal Nature.

Livio notes the British wartime leader’s passion for science and technology in the 1939 essay, as well as Churchill’s thoughts on extraterrestrials.

Apparently influenced by events unfolding at the time, Churchill voices his concern about human progress and describes the possibility of aliens. “I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures, or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time,” he wrote.

The original version of the 11-page essay is held in Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge, U.K. Churchill, however, revisited the essay in the late 1950s and made some minor typographical changes – he also changed the essay’s title from “Are we alone in space?” to “Are we alone in the universe?” This second draft, which is now in the possession of the U.S. National Churchill Museum, was reviewed by Livio.

Timothy Riley, the director and chief curator of the National Churchill Museum, told Fox News that the essay provides an incredible insight into Churchill’s personality. “I think it reveals the incredibly curious mind of Winston Churchill and the breadth and scope of his interests,” he said. “We know that he had a keen interest in science and valued science and thought that science would lead to progress.”

In the journal Nature, Livio explains that, during the 1920s and 1930s, Churchill wrote popular-science essays for newspapers and magazines on topics such as evolution and cells. He also points to the politician’s friendship with the physicist Frederick Lindemann, who later became science adviser to the British government. The prime minister also created a science-friendly environment that spurred progress in areas like molecular genetics and X-ray crystallography, according to Livio.

Copyright issues, however, are currently preventing publication of the essay, something which the National Churchill Museum hopes to eventually resolve.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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