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7 Irregularities that suggest Earth’s Moon was engineered

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Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar But Whats Inside Caught Him By Surprise

Urban explorer and photographer Ralph Mirebs found something very rare; a find unlike anything we’ve seen before. While venturing around Kazakhstan, Ralph came across an enormous abandoned building.

At first, the building looked similar to a large airport hangar but much larger. After breaking into it, he realized that this was a very special building with some of the most historical items in the world.

In fact, two of the most historical items in the world! Scroll down to see these spectacular images for yourself.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise

The abandoned hangar is located at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Cosmodrome is miles away and still in operation today. Because the NASA Space Program was recently shut down, this is the only area that astronauts can make their way up to the International Space Station via Russian Soyuz space shuttles.

This hangar in particular is from a previous time when the Russians and the Americans were competing in a race for space exploration.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (1)

The hangar was erected in 1974 for the Buran Space Shuttle Program where technology and design would fuse to create some of the most incredible exploration vessels ever conceived. The Buran Shuttle Program was halted in 1988 but the hangar was operational until 1993 and was the home to three of the most advanced pieces of technology of their time.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (2)

The collapse of the Soviet Union caused the demise of this facility in 1993. Sadly, only one shuttle of three ever partook in a mission. The shuttle completed one unmanned orbit before it was grounded and destroyed in a different hangar that collapsed on top of it.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (3)

There are two shuttles from the Buran Space Program left and they sit in idle, turning into historic relics, within a forgotten and abandoned building located in Kazakhstan.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (4)The facility was an incredibly advanced building with atmospheric pressure control systems in place to keep dust and debris outside of its thick walls. Those systems have been turned off and now nature is slowly reclaiming this incredibly massive place.

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The shuttles are being covered with dust and bird droppings more and more every day. The ceramic tiles that wrap the shuttles are starting to fall off and shatter on the floor below. It’s only a matter of time before these two pieces of space exploration history are gone forever.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (8)

Surprisingly only a few windows have been broken out but there is not much damage at all from vandals, which is a very rare sight when it comes to almost anything abandoned these days. It’s a good thing that urban explorers live by the motto, “Leave only footprints, take only photographs.”

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (10)

These two shuttles never made it to launch. One shuttle was actually a mock-up shuttle that was used to test fit everything that would be used to build the two fully functioning shuttles. Of those two shuttles, only one made it to launch for an un-manned orbit. It was grounded soon after and destroyed when the hangar it was being stored in collapsed.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (11)

The facility used to build these shuttles is absolutely massive. We can’t imagine how massive this would be standing on the floor looking up. Isn’t it strange that there is an abandoned relic, completely forgotten about, that contains vehicles our civilization used to travel through space?

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (12)

It seems like just yesterday we were sending robots to Mars and now we have forgotten space vehicles left abandoned.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (13)

These two shuttles need to be sitting in a museum. It’s not like you see space shuttles every day, let alone space shuttles that have been abandoned and left to rot.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (14)

The yellow platforms show the sheer size of this facility. They are on pneumatic rollers that can move around the shuttles and platforms in unison in order to work on them. You would think that all of this would be highly sought after and extremely valuable.

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The paint is starting to peel and the walls are starting to rust now that the climate control systems are dead. It’s only a matter of time before this entire building crumbles to the ground, crushing two iconic pieces of history.

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It looks as if the working shuttle was just about ready for its maiden voyage before it was grounded during the fall of the Soviet Union. With the Russian Space Program still in full effect, it surprises us that these can be left abandoned.

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But what a sight to see. Can you imagine walking into an abandoned building not fully knowing what to expect when you enter? We think that two full space shuttles sitting completely lifeless would be quite a shock.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (18)

Some of the ceramic tiles have fallen off but for the most part these shuttles are in great shape. They’re just covered in years and years of dust and bird droppings.

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This is the nose of the operational prototype shuttle while the shuttle sitting in the front of the building is the test mock-up shuttle.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (21)

They are still surrounded by the working platforms which are still in excellent condition. The paint has just started to peel which means the deterioration process has just been expedited.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (22)

This is the type of thing you would expect to see in a James Bond movie but never in real life.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (23)

It seems like it would make an incredible museum in itself. This is one of the biggest technological advances of our short time on this planet so far.

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Seeing something so beautiful and important falling apart slowly breaks my heart. That being said, seeing it in this state is bittersweet and actually very beautiful. These images are somewhat surreal.

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Just imagine seeing this place in its heyday. Russian scientists and engineers racing to press into the future of space exploration to discover the unknown and make history! It must have been spectacular.

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Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (27)

Hopefully this article spreads some attention and these shuttles are restored and placed in a museum.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (28)

The holes on the front of the nose cone are actually thrusters that would be used to slightly steer the shuttle as it is in space. The ceramic tiles that cover the shuttle were used to protect the shell from the insane temperatures that the shuttle would be exposed to.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (29)

The small round opening on the side of the shuttle is the entry hatch leading the Russian astronauts into the cockpit. It’s funny to think that this small piece of metal and tile is the only thing separating these people from the vastness of space as we know it.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (30)

From this facility, the shuttles would have been transported to the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome which is quite a few miles away. The Cosmodrome is still used today. In fact, American astronauts head to the International Space Station from this location.

Man Noticed This Abandoned Hangar. But What's Inside Caught Him By Surprise (32)

At the time the computer power of this shuttle was less than that of the cell phone in your hand. You would have to be a seriously brave person to take on a challenge like that.

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The cockpit of the shuttle has been stripped of some of its equipment but most of it is still there.

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The amount of equipment that is systematically placed throughout the fuselage is impressive!

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The best part is that it’s all still there and photographer Ralph Mirebs was able to capture it all.

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It looks like someone had a party in here at one point. Our guess is it was a few employees who found out their most impressive project was just canned.

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The hatch and pressure control systems look like they would turn right on and start working immediately.

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There is so much to salvage here. This door leads into the back half of the fuselage where satellites or other space equipment would be stored and launched into the sky.

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Inside you can see air tanks as well as the giant hatch above that would open allowing space astronauts to release their equipment into orbit.

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Being sealed off from the elements outside, the interior is relatively dust free and in amazing shape.

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Past the rear storage compartment is a huge equipment room.

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The other shuttle contains something inside that we can’t really tell whether that’s a satellite or not.

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Two completely forgotten space shuttles that are sitting to rot and over time they will be crushed by the building that once protected them. These are incredible pieces of history that should be placed in a museum. Stumbling across some epic find when exploring abandoned or forgotten places is inspiring. But what Ralph Mirebs found, makes this the most awesome urban exploration we’ve seen yet!

Credits:

Ralph Mirebs

Slip Talk

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www.whydontyoutrythis.com

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Scientists seek to pinpoint source of mysterious mass of methane hovering over Southwest

Methane Hot Spot Things to Know-1.jpg

File photo – undated handout image. (AP Photo/NASA, JPL-Caltech, University of Michigan)

Scientists are working to pinpoint the source of a giant mass of methane hanging over the southwestern U.S., which a study found to be the country’s largest concentration of the greenhouse gas.

The report that revealed the methane hot spot over the Four Corners region — where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona meet — was released last year.

Now, scientists from the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA are conducting a monthlong study to figure out exactly where it came from.

The answer could help reduce methane emissions that contribute to global warming. Here are some key things to know:

HOT SPOT

 Last year’s study by NASA and the University of Michigan was based on images from a European satellite captured between 2003 and 2009. They showed the methane hot spot as a red blip over the area, which is about half the size of Connecticut.

The study found the concentration of methane detected there would trap more heat in the atmosphere than all the carbon dioxide produced each year in Sweden.

Methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but it’s far more potent for capturing heat in the short term.

POSSIBLE SOURCES

Methane occurs naturally and also is emitted by landfills and the agricultural and oil and natural gas industries.

One possible source of the hot spot is methane released from the region’s coal deposits.

The releases can happen naturally, especially where coal seams reach the earth’s surface. They also occur deliberately when energy companies extract methane — the primary component of natural gas — from coal beds.

The region is home to the San Juan Basin, North America’s most productive area coal bed methane extraction area.

Methane also is released by coal mining and oil and gas drilling systems, and cattle produce large amounts of the gas. Scientists can pinpoint the kind of methane created by fossil fuels by looking for the presence of associated hydrocarbons.

HEALTH EFFECTS

The methane emissions pose no direct safety or health risks for Four Corners residents, although the hot spot does factor into overall global warming.

Also, methane emitted from traditional oil and gas operations usually is accompanied by hydrocarbon emissions that can create ozone, a pollutant that leads to smog and is linked to asthma and respiratory illness.

INVESTIGATING THE MYSTERY

For the next month, scientists based in Durango will fly in planes with a variety of instruments that can sense methane in the San Juan Basin. Crews in vans will follow up on their leads on the ground.

The European satellite that captured the hot spot is no longer in use, but Japan’s GOSAT satellite plans to focus in on the Four Corners when it passes over the area.

It’s possible methane levels over the Four Corners have changed since 2009, said Gabrielle Petron, a scientist at the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences who is working on the latest study. Coal bed methane operations have declined since then, but oil production has increased.

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Edinburgh’s Mysterious Miniature Coffins

In 1836, three Scottish boys discovered a strange cache of miniature coffins concealed on a hillside above Edinburgh. Who put them there—and why?

smithsonian.com
April 15, 2013
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It may have been Charles Fort, in one of his more memorable passages, who described the strange discovery best:

London Times, July 20, 1836:

That, early in July, 1836, some boys were searching for rabbits’ burrows in the rocky formation, near Edinburgh, known as Arthur’s Seat. In the side of a cliff, they came upon some thin sheets of slate, which they pulled out.

Little cave.

Seventeen tiny coffins.

Three or four inches long.

In the coffins were miniature wooden figures. They were dressed differently in both style and material. There were two tiers of eight coffins each, and a third one begun, with one coffin.

The extraordinary datum, which has especially made mystery here:

That the coffins had been deposited singly, in the little cave, and at intervals of many years. In the first tier, the coffins were quite decayed, and the wrappings had moldered away. In the second tier,  the effects of age had not advanced so far. And the top coffin was quite recent looking.

Fort’s short account is accurate, so far as it goes—and for more than a century not much more was known about the origin or purpose of the strange miniature coffins. Fewer than half of them survived; the Scotsman, in the first known published account, explained that “a number were destroyed by the boys pelting them at each other as unmeaning and contemptible trifles.” Those that were brought down from the hillside eventually found their way into the collection of Robert Frazier, a South Andrews Street jeweler, who put them on display in his private museum. When, after Frazier’s retirement in 1845, the collection was auctioned off, this lot, described in the sale catalogue as “the celebrated Lilliputian coffins found on Arthur’s Seat, 1836,” sold for just over £4. The coffins thus passed into unknown private hands, and remained there until 1901, when a set of eight, together with their contents, were donated to the National Museum of Scotland by their then-owner, Christina Couper of Dumfriesshire.

Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that these coffins were the same group as the one Frazier obtained in 1836, but few more details are available. The first newspaper reports appeared some three weeks after the initial discovery, and none named any of the boys. One much later account, which is unreferenced and which appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News as late as 1956—but which is so detailed that it may have been based on some otherwise unknown contemporary source—adds that the find was made on June 25, 1836, and notes that the niche, which was “about a foot in height and about 18 inches wide,” was opened up with trowels: tools it seems reasonable to suppose a group of boys out rabbiting might have had about their persons.

Another intriguing detail in the same account states that the surviving coffins were retrieved the “next day” by the boys’ schoolmaster, one Mr. Ferguson, who was a member of a local archaeological society. The coffins were still unopened at this point, the reporter Robert Chapman added, but “Mr. Ferguson took them home in a bag and that evening he settled down in his kitchen and began to prise the lids up with a knife…. Mr. Ferguson took them to the next meeting of his society and his colleagues were equally amazed.” Where Chapman got this information remains unknown, but a search of the contemporary street directories shows that two schoolmasters named Ferguson were working in Edinburgh in 1836–George Ferguson as a classics master at Edinburgh Academy, and Findlay Ferguson as a teacher of English and math at Easter Duddingston.

The Chapman account at least explains how the surviving coffins found their way from the boy discoverers into the hands of the city’s learned gentlemen. In these murky circumstances, it is unsurprising that the precise spot where the find was made is only vaguely known. The Scotsman reported that the boys who unearthed the coffins had been “searching for rabbit burrows on the north-east range of Arthur’s seat” when one spotted “a small opening in the rocks, the peculiar appearance of which attracted their attention.” Another account, which appears to have circulated orally in Edinburgh at this time, and which was put in writing by a correspondent to Notes & Queries under the headline, “A Fairy’s Burial Place,” puts it a good deal more dramatically:

While I was a resident at Edinburgh, either in the year 1836 or 1837, I forget which, a curious discovery took place, which formed the subject of a nine days’ wonder, and a few newspaper paragraphs. Some children were at play at the foot of Salisbury Craigs, when one of them, more venturesome than the others, attempted to ascend the escarpment of the cliff. His foot slipped, and to save himself from a dangerous fall, he caught at a projecting piece of rock, which appeared to be attached to the other portions of the cliff. It gave way, however, beneath the pressure of his hand, and although it broke his fall, both he and it came to the bottom of the craig. Nothing daunted, the hardy boy got up, shook himself, and began the attempt a second time. When he reached the point from whence the treacherous rock had projected, he found that it had merely masked the entrance to a large hole, which had been dug into the face of the cliff.

Salisbury+Crags+and+Aurthur's+Seat

The mouth of this little cave was closed by three thin pieces of slate-stone, rudely cut at the upper ends into a conical form, and so placed as to protect the interior from the effects of the weather.The Scotsman‘s account is, I think, to be preferred here—Notes & Queries adds various other details which are known to be untrue, such as the statement that the coffins had “little handles, and all the other embellishments which the undertakers consider necessary to respectability” —but it is actually broadly in line with N&Q‘s with regard to location. Conversely, another Edinburgh paper, the Caledonian Mercury, describes the spot as lying “at the back of Arthur’s Seat”–that is, on the south side of the hill. Given the relative accessibility of the northern face, and the length of time that appears to have separated the burials from their discovery, it is perhaps marginally more likely that the exact site of the find was neither Salisbury Crags nor the north range of Arthur’s Seat, but a spot to the south, in a relatively remote location on the far side of the Seat from Edinburgh itself. This ties in rather intriguingly with the notion that Findlay Ferguson of Easter Duddingston may have been the schoolmaster associated with the find, since Duddingston lies directly beneath the southern face of Arthur’s Seat. Whatever the facts, it seems clear from the contemporary sources that the coffins were found not in a substantial “cave” on the hillside, as is sometimes supposed, but in a small gap in the rocks. The Scotsman, again, has the clearest description:

According to one later account, in a record in the so-called “Continuation Catalogue” of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, at least one of these slates was “rudely shaped like the headstone of a grave.” As for what the boys found when the slates had been removed, it was “an aperture about twelve inches square in which were lodged seventeen Lilliputian coffins, forming two tiers of eight each, and one on a third, just begun!” Each of the coffins, the Scotsman added,

contained a miniature figure of the human form cut out in wood, the faces in particular being pretty well executed. They were dressed from head to foot in cotton clothes, and decently laid out with a mimic representation of all the funereal trappings which usually form the last habiliments of the dead. The coffins are about three or four inches in length, regularly shaped, and cut out from a single piece of wood, with the exception of the lids, which are nailed down with wire sprigs or common brass pins. The lid and sides of each are profusely studded with ornaments, formed with small pieces of tin, and inserted in the wood with great care and regularity.

So much for the circumstances of the discovery. The greater mystery, as the Scotsman was swift to point out, was what exactly the coffins were, who had placed them in their hiding place, and when. Several potential explanations were advanced, the most popular being that the burials were part of some spellwork, or that they represented mimic burials, perhaps for sailors lost at sea. Most of these solutions, however, assumed that the newspapers of the day were correct to state that the burials had been made over a considerable period of time. According to the Edinburgh Evening Post, for instance,

in the under row the shrouds were considerably decayed and the wood rotten, while the last bore evident marks of being a very recent deposit.

This assumption is, however, hard to prove. The discovery was made not by some trained archaeologist, who made a painstaking examination before moving a single piece of wood, but by a group of boys who appear to have thoroughly mixed up the coffins by hurling them at each other, and who never gave any first-person account of their find. The best that can be said is that several of the surviving coffins display considerably more decay than the others—the most obvious sign being the rotten state (or complete absence) of the figurines’ grave clothes—but whether the decay was the product of time or simply weathering is not now possible to say. It may be that the decayed coffins were simply those that occupied the lower tier in the burial nook, and so were most exposed to water damage. If that’s the case, there is no need to assume that the burials stretched over many years.

This matters, because the only comprehensive study yet made of the “fairy coffins” strongly indicates that all postdate 1800, and that the odds favor a deposit or deposits made after about 1830—within about five years, in other words, of the discovery of the cache. The work in question was carried out by Allen Simpson, a former president of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts and currently a member of the faculty of History and Classics at Edinburgh University, and Samuel Menefee, senior associate of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia, and it was published, regrettably obscurely, in the journal of the city’s local history society: The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club.

Simpson and Menefee began their work by describing the eight surviving artifacts (which can still be seen today, on display in the National Museum of Scotland). Two, they note, were originally painted pink or red; the interior of one is lined with paper, made with rag fiber and datable to the period after 1780. As for the details of the construction:

Each coffin contains an ‘occupant’ and has been hollowed from a solid piece of wood. Each also has a lid which has been held in place by pins of various sizes, driven down through the sides and ends of the coffin base. In many instances the pin shafts are still in place, though some are bent over; when the lids were prised off the coffins most of the hand-wound pin heads became detached…. Although the type of wood has not previously been commented on, it has now been identified as Scots pine. Coffin dimensions vary…those now accessible for study are 3.7 to 4.1 inches long, 0.7 to 1.2 inches wide, and 0.8 to 1.0 inches deep with their lids in place….

Judging by the longitudinal scoring on the base of the recess, a sharp knife—probably a hooked knife—has been used. The fact that the surfaces at the ends of the recess are so cleanly cut indicates that the knife has been very sharp; but the user has apparently not been a woodworker by trade because he has not had access to an edged tool such as a chisel to cut out the base of the recess, and has had difficulty in controlling the depth of the cuts (which have even penetrated the base of coffin No.5).

There are two types of external shape. Five of the coffins (Nos 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8) have been carved with square-cut corners and edges, although most have slightly bowed sides so that the coffin has a taper at each end. However, the remaining three (Nos 3, 5 and 7) have a pronounced rounding of the edges and ends of the coffin; this suggests a different manual approach…and may indicate that the coffins could have been carved by two different individuals.

image: http://blogs.forteana.org/system/files/Soldier+sideview.jpg

Arthur's Seat coffins - fiogurine side view

A side view of one of the figurines found on Arthur’s Seat, showing how one arm has been removed to allow it to fit inside its coffin. Photo: National Museum of Scotland.

As to who did the carving, Simpson and Menefee point out that “the most striking visual feature of the coffins is the use of applied pieces of tinned iron as decoration.” Analysis of this metal suggests that it is very similar to the sort of tin used in contemporary shoe buckles, and this in turn opens the possibility that the coffins were the work of shoemakers or leatherworkers, who would have had the manual skills to make the coffins but would have lacked the specialist carpentry tools needed to make a neater job of it.

The figurines found within the coffins were also studied. Each of the eight is neatly carved from close-grained white wood, and they share almost identical proportions, varying in height by no more than 5 millimeters—about a fifth of an inch. Some have arms, but several dolls have had them removed, apparently to allow the figure to fit neatly into its coffin. This suggests that the figures were not carved specifically for the purpose of burial, but have been adapted from an existing set; Simpson and Menefee—noting their “rigidly erect bearing,” indications that they originally wore hats, and their carefully carved lower bodies “formed to indicate tight knee breeches and hose, below which the feet are blackened to indicate ankle boots”—believe they are the remnants of a group of toy soldiers, and note that each is made to stand upright with the addition of a slight weight on its front, which might have been supplied by the addition of a model musket. (There would have been no need to ensure carvings intended simply as corpses would stand upright.) The features are very similar, and “it seems unlikely that the figures were ever intended to represent particular individuals.” Moreover, “the open eyes of the figures suggest that they were not carved to represent corpses.”

Based on their appearance, the authors tentatively date the group to the 1790s; no dendrochronological analysis or carbon dating, however, has been done on the collection. Several of the surviving figurines are still clad in well-preserved “grave clothes.” As Simpson and Menefee point out, “single-piece suits, made from fragments of cloth, have been moulded round the figures and sewn in place. With some figures there is evidence of adhesive under the cloth. The style of dress does not relate to period grave clothes, and if it is intended to be representational at all then it is more in keeping with everyday wear…. The fact that the arms of figure No.8 were already missing when the figure was clothed suggests that the fabric was merely intended to cover the figures decently and not to represent garments.” All the fabrics are cheap, made of plain woven cotton, though one of the figures is clad in checks and three “seem to have commercially inked patterns applied to the cloth.”

image: http://blogs.forteana.org/system/files/Stitching.jpg

Arthur's Seat coffins - figurine clothing and stitching

Two more figurines, showing details of the stitching and clothing, crucial clues to their likely origin. Photo: National Museum of Scotland.

The evidence of the figurines makes dating the burials much easier. According to Naomi Tarrant, curator of European textiles at the National Museum of Scotland, the good condition of the surviving vestments suggests they were buried in the 1830s. More revealingly, one of the figures has been sewn into its grave clothes with a three-ply thread. Cotton thread replaced linen in Scotland from about 1800; “almost certainly,” Simpson and Menefee assert, “such thread would have been manufactured in the thread mills of Paisley, where tradition has it that cotton thread was not made before 1812.” Three-ply thread, according to Philip Sykas of Manchester Art Galleries–the leading expert on that topic – came into use in about 1830. Sykas believes that the mixture of one-, two- and three-ply threads found on the Arthur’s Seat figures “indicates a date in the 1830s.”

Now, none of this proves all the burials took place at so late a date as 1830; it is possible that the decayed surviving figurines represent interments that took place earlier than this, and also that the figurines sewn with one- or two-ply thread predate 1830. Nonetheless, it does seem possible to suggest that all the burials took place, at the outside, between about 1800 and 1830, and it is entirely likely that Simpson and Menefee are correct to state that all took place during the 1830s. This in turn suggests it is possible that all 17 figurines were interred at the same time, and the fact that the coffins seem to have been carved by at most two people and that the figurines apparently originally formed part of a single set implies that the burial(s) were carried out by the same person, or small group of people “over a comparatively short period.”

If this is true, write Simpson and Menefee, “the significant feature of the burial is that there were seventeen coffins,” and “it is arguable…”

that the problem with the various theories is their concentration on motivation, rather than on the event or events that caused the interments. The former will always be open to argument, but if the burials were event-driven—by, say the loss of a ship with seventeen fatalities during the period in question—the speculation would at least be built on demonstrable fact. Stated another way, what we seek is an Edinburgh-related event or events, involving seventeen deaths, which occurred close to 1830 and certainly before 1836. One obvious answer springs to mind—the West Port Murders by William Burke and William Hare in 1827 and 1828.

image: http://blogs.forteana.org/system/files/William+Burke.jpg

William Burke

William Burke, one half of the infamous pair of “resurrection men” responsible for 17 murders in the Scottish capital during the late 1820s.

Simpson’s and Menefee’s solution to the mystery is certainly dramatic— so much so it seems that nobody has actually asked whether the pair searched for news of any Scottish shipwreck from the early 1830s, as they suggest it might be wise to do. (It would appear that they did not.) The West Port murders, after all, were and remain notorious: They were committed in Edinburgh by two Irish laborers, Burke and Hare, to profit by supplying corpses to Edinburgh’s medical school, where they were in great demand for dissection. The pair’s victims, mostly indigents who, they supposed, would not be missed, numbered 17, of whom one expired of natural causes while the rest were murdered. The killers’ trial, in which Hare turned King’s evidence and Burke was convicted and later hanged, was one of the sensations of the age. Crucially, in the authors’ view, the fact that all of the 17 victims were dissected, and consequently had no decent burial, may have inspired a “mimic burial” on Arthur’s Seat:

Considering beliefs such as the alleged mimic burial given to Scottish sailors lost at sea, it would not be unreasonable for some person or person, in the absence of the seventeen dissected bodies, to wish to propitiate these dead, the majority of whom were murdered in atrocious circumstances, by a form of burial to set their spirits at rest. While it is always possible that other disasters could have resulted in an identical casualty list, the West Port murders would appear to be a logical motivating force.

Since Simpson and Menefee first reported their findings in 1994, their thesis has been elaborated. The Edinburgh Evening News reported in 2005 that George Dalgliesh, principal curator of Scottish history at the National Museum of Scotland, believes “the most credible theory is that were made by someone who knew Burke and Hare,” and so had a strong motive to make amends for their crimes. Attempts to suggest that Burke himself may have manufactured and buried the pieces in an agony of contrition seem to fail on the problem that the murderers were arrested almost immediately after committing their 17th killing, leaving little or no time for any burial to be made; a DNA sample for Burke has been obtained from the murderer’s skeleton, which is preserved at Edinburgh University, but no traces of DNA could be recovered from the buried figurines.

There is, moreover, one potentially fatal objection to the theory that the Arthur’s Seat coffins are connected to the West Port murders: no fewer than 12 of Burke and Hare’s victims were female, yet the clothed bodies found in the coffins were uniformly dressed in male attire.

Without knowing more about burial customs in early 19th-century Scotland it is hard to know how worrying this objection is, but certainly it would appear no more difficult to clothe a figurine in a miniature dress than it would be to stitch on trousers. In the absence of firm evidence of any connection to the activities of Burke and Hare, I would suggest the first step in any future investigation should be to examine Scottish newspapers published between, say, 1820 and 1836, for evidence of any other disasters involving the deaths of 17 people—ideally, none of them women. Two titles, the Scotsman and the Caledonian Mercury, have now been digitized, and could be searched by a determined researcher. We await further developments.

Sources

Caledonian Mercury, August 5, 1836; Charles Fort. Complete Books. New York: Dover, 1975; Edinburgh Evening News, October 16, 1956 and December 2, 2005; Edinburgh Evening Post, August 20, 1836; Samuel Pyeatt Menefee and Allen Simpson, ‘The West Port murders and the miniature coffins from Arthur’s Seat,’ The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, new series vol.3 (1994); Notes & Queries, 3S. III, April 4, 1863; Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 36 (1901-02); The Scotsman, July 16, 1836.

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Strange lights on dwarf planet Ceres have scientists perplexed

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Two strange reflective patches spotted on Ceres.
IMAGE: NASA, JPL
A dwarf planet is shining two bright lights at a NASA spacecraft right now, and our smartest scientists are unsure what they are.

As bizarre as that sentence sounds, that’s the situation with Ceres — the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, officially designated as a dwarf planet (the same category as Pluto).

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is approaching Ceres ahead of a March 6 rendezvous. The picture above was taken February 19, from a distance of just under 29,000 miles, and shows two very shiny areas on the same basin on Ceres’ surface.

Previous Dawn images from further away showed a single light on Ceres, which was just as mysterious. Then, to the amazement of every astronomy geek, the one light turned out to be two — reflecting roughly 40% of the light hitting them.

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The lights on Ceres in earlier photos from the Dawn spacecraft.

IMAGE: NASA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us,” said Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, in a NASA statement. “The brightest spot [of the two] continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres.”

So what could the bright spots be, other than alien castaways signaling at us with flashlights?

The most obvious contender is ice, although ice would reflect more than 40% of all light hitting it. The difference may be accounted for by the resolution limit of Dawn’s camera at this distance. Scientists have previously detected water vapor coming from the surface of the dwarf planet, making ice a more likely option.

Scientists have also suggested the bright areas could be patches of salt. On the other hand, the location of the two bright spots so close together may be an indication that they have a geologic origin, such as some sort of volcanic process, possibly even ice volcanoes.

According to Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, the positioning of the bright spots within the same area may indicate “a volcano-like origin of the spots,” but scientists will have to wait for higher resolution images before making such interpretations. Scientists don’t think the spots comprise lava similar to that seen on Earth, since that would shine more brightly.

We’ll find out more as Dawn approaches Ceres next week and more imagery comes in during the next 16 months, according to NASA. In the meantime, here’s more on Dawn and its eight-year mission:

http://mashable.com/2014/12/30/dawn-ceres/

 

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2 planets may lurk in solar system beyond Pluto, study says

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March 26, 2014: A newly discovered planet-like object, dubbed “Sedna” is seen in this artist’s concept released by NASA. (AP)

There is evidence of at least two planets larger than Earth lurking in our solar system beyond Pluto, a new analysis of “extreme trans-Neptunian objects” reveals.

After studying 13 of these “extreme trans-Neptunian objects,” or ETNOs, the obits of these objects are different from a theory that predicts the orbits.

“The exact number is uncertain, given that the data that we have is limited, but our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system,” Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, scientist at the UCM and co-author of the study, said in a statement Friday.

Theory says these objects should have an average distance to the sun of 150 astronomical units. These orbits should also have an inclination of 0 degrees, Space.com says.

However, the orbits of the ETNOs have semi-major axes ranging from 150-525 astronomical units and inclinations of about 20 degrees.

These potential worlds would be bigger than Earth and would lie nearly 200 astronomical units from the sun. Earth is one astronomical unit from the sun.

The new results may give way to evidence of the existence of Planet X, which is a rumored object as far away as 250 astronomical units from the sun and 10 times larger than Earth.

With the current instruments available to scientists, it is nearly impossible to spot these objects.

Click for more from Space.com.

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Curiosity Rover Drills Into Mars Rock, Finds Water

Space.com
Miriam Kramer
The hole drilled into this rock target, called "Cumberland," was made by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on May 19, 2013.
© NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS The hole drilled into this rock target, called “Cumberland,” was made by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on May 19, 2013.NASA’s Curiosity rover is continuing to help scientists piece together the mystery of how Mars lost its surface water over the course of billions of years.The rover drilled into a piece of Martian rock called Cumberland and found some ancient water hidden within it. Researchers were then able to test a key ratio in the water with Curiosity’s onboard instruments to gather more data about when Mars started to lose its water, NASA officials said. In the same sample, Curiosity also detected the first organic molecules it has found. Mission scientists announced the discovery in a news conference today (Dec. 15) at the American Geophysical Union’s convention in San Francisco, where they also unveiled Curiosity’s first detection of methane on Mars.

“It’s really interesting that our measurements from Curiosity of gases extracted from ancient rocks can tell us about loss of water from Mars,” Paul Mahaffy, Curiosity’s SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. [Photos: The Search for Water on Mars]

Curiosity measured the ratio of deuterium (heavy hydrogen) to “normal” hydrogen. This D-to-H ratio can help scientists see how long it takes for water molecules to escape, because the lighter hydrogen molecules fly toward the upper atmosphere more freely than deuterium does.

The D-to-H ratio in Cumberland is about half the ratio found in the Martian atmosphere’s water vapor today, NASA officials said. This suggests that the planet lost much of its surface water after the Cumberland rock formed, space agency officials added in the same statement.

But the water sample is also about three times “heavier” than Earth’s oceans. This means that if Mars’ surface water started off with a D-to-H ratio like Earth’s, then most of the Martian water likely disappeared before Cumberland formed about 3.9 billion to 4.6 billion years ago.

The Cumberland measurement fills in a gap for scientists studying different epochs of Martian geological evolution. This sampling marks the first time scientists have been able to measure what the water on Mars may have been like during the Hesperian period, when this rock was formed, said Mahaffy, who is the lead author of a Mars water study published in the journal Science this week.

Previously, scientists have used Martian meteorites on Earth to sample Martian water; however, none of those space rocks date back to the Hesperian period.

“You have the whole period from 2.5 billion to 4 billion years old, and there’s no data that we have from Mars meteorites just because we haven’t found any yet, I guess,” Mahaffy told Space.com. “So, it’s very gratifying to be able to fill in that picture a little bit.”

Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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