Science is Cool!
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Science is Cool!
Check out all the amazing things being discovered through science!
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Astronomers confirm there are two potentially habitable planets orbiting Gilese 581

Astronomers confirm there are two potentially habitable planets orbiting Gilese 581 | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it
Remember Gliese 581g? The potentially habitable "second Earth" 20 light years away, also known as Zarmina? It's been looking dicey for a while, as many astronomers questioned its very existence.

But now, Gilese 581g has been re-added to the top five list of exoplanets considered prime candidates for harboring of life. New data from Steven Vogt of UC Santa Cruz clearly shows that it's quite real. And what's just as exciting is the realization that there are now two potentially habitable planets orbiting the same star.
Gilese 581g was originally discovered by astronomers of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet survey in 2010, but subsequent surveys were unable to detect it.


The planet is about 1.5 times the size of Earth and it receives a similar amount of sunlight. Though it orbits a red dwarf, it resides within its sun's habitable zone and is considered the best exoplanetary candidate for life yet discovered.
 

As Abel Torres of Planetary Habitability Laboratory notes, "These factors combine to make Gliese 581g the most Earth-like planet known with an Earth Similarity Index, a measure of Earth-likeness from zero to one, of 0.92 and higher than the previously top candidate Gliese 667Cc, discovered last year."
 

And indeed, the Gilese system, with its two potentially life-friendly planets, may be our best bet when considering our first interstellar mission. At 20 light-years away, it's clearly the most exciting solar system in our immediate vicinity.
 

Other planets suspected of harboring life include Kepler-22b, HD85512, and Gliese 581d.
 

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Hubble has spotted an ancient galaxy that shouldn't exist

Hubble has spotted an ancient galaxy that shouldn't exist | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it
This galaxy is so large, so fully-formed, astronomers say it shouldn't exist at all. It's called a "grand-design" spiral galaxy, and unlike most galaxies of its kind, this one is old.
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New Moon for Pluto: Hubble Telescope Spots a 5th Plutonian Satellite: Scientific American

New Moon for Pluto: Hubble Telescope Spots a 5th Plutonian Satellite: Scientific American | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

As humankind's first robotic visitor to Pluto approaches its destination, astronomers working to understand what it will find there have uncovered a tiny moon orbiting the dwarf planet.
 

The moon is the fifth known natural satellite of Pluto and has been informally labeled P5. It was discovered Saturday, July 7, in images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as part of a campaign to identify possible hazards to the New Horizons spacecraft, now en route to Pluto for a 2015 flyby. Dust rings encircling Pluto, or small moons shedding unseen debris, could endanger the $700-million mission. So far, the search has not identified any dangerous dust bands around Pluto, but it has turned up two newfound moons—a small object called P4 last year, and now P5.
 

P5 is incredibly faint—half as bright as P4, and roughly one one-hundred-thousandth as bright as Pluto—and orbits relatively close to the dwarf planet. The newfound moon's faintness implies that it has a diameter of just 10 to 25 kilometers. "They're very close, and this is a very small object," says Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who led the campaign. "So that's what Hubble can do."
 

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"Big Bang or the Big Bounce?" -- New Science Points to a Continuum

"Big Bang or the Big Bounce?" -- New Science Points to a Continuum | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

The big bang may not have been the beginning of the universe, but merely the beginning of one of an infinite series of universes. Two fundamental concepts in physics, both of which explain the nature of the Universe in many ways, have been difficult to reconcile with each other. European researchers have developed a mathematical approach to do so that has the potential to explain what came before the Big Bang. The big bang singularity --the single point from which the entire universe is supposed to have sprung-- is the major sticking point in the big bang theory; the calculations just can't account for such a singularity. Without evidence associated with the earliest instant of the expansion, the Big Bang theory does not provide any explanation for such an initial condition.

 

According to Einstein’s (classical) theory of general relativity, space is a continuum. Regions of space can be subdivided into smaller and smaller volumes without end. The fundamental idea of quantum mechanics is that physical quantities exist in discrete packets (quanta) rather than in a continuum. Further, these quanta and the physical phenomena related to them exist on an extremely small scale (Planck scale). So far, the theories of quantum mechanics have failed to ‘quantise’ gravity. Loop quantum gravity (LQG) is an attempt to do so. It represents space as a net of quantised intersecting loops of excited gravitational fields called spin networks. This network viewed over time is called spin foam.

 

Not only does LQG provide a precise mathematical picture of space and time, it enables mathematical solutions to long-standing problems related to black holes and the Big Bang. Amazingly, LQG predicts that the Big Bang was actually a ‘Big Bounce’, not a singularity but a continuum, where the collapse of a previous universe spawned the creation of ours.

 

European researchers initiated the ‘Effective field theory for loop quantum gravity’ (EFTFORLQG) project to further develop this exciting candidate theory reconciling classical and quantum descriptions of the Universe.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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"We Are Star Dust" - Symphony of Science

mp3:http://bit.ly/IIUVRB We are star dust, reaching out to the universe. The 15th Symphony of Science video featuring Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman and Lawrence Krauss.
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RHIC creates "The Perfect Liquid" out of gold-gold collisions

Evidence to date suggests that gold-gold collisions the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven are indeed creating a new state of hot, dense matter, but one quite different and even more remarkable than had been predicted. Instead of behaving like a gas of free quarks and gluons, as was expected, the matter created in RHIC's heavy ion collisions appears to be more like a "perfect" liquid.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Astronomers spot first evidence of dark galaxies | The Raw Story

Astronomers spot first evidence of dark galaxies | The Raw Story | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

Astronomers in Chile using a powerful telescope have observed what appears to be evidence of the existence of dark galaxies, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced Wednesday.

Dark galaxies are small, gas-rich galaxies from the early universe that are believed to be the building blocks of today’s bright, star-filled galaxies, said the ESO, an intergovernmental organization supported by 15 countries.
 

“For the first time, dark galaxies — an early phase of galaxy formation, predicted by theory but unobserved until now — may have been spotted,” the ESO said in a statement.

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Bulgaria: Important Christian Archaeology Site Pops Up in Bulgaria - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

An ancient Christian burial site with preserved murals has been uncovered during excavation work for the electricity network of the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv.
 

The archaeological find, provisionally dated 4th c. AD, is part of the southern necropolis of ancient Philippopolis and measures 1 by 2 metres.
 

Its two large walls are covered with a depiction of the Resurrection of Lazarus, painted in five colours.
 

The two short walls are covered with a number of Christian symbols, but the Lazarus murals are believed to be unique for Bulgaria, said archaeologist Maya Martinova.
 

The burial site has actually been uncovered in early May, but the process of study has lasted till now due to the complicated urban infrastructure it is entangled in.
 

The cemetery popped up during excavations by electricity utility EVN, and is also located close to modern-day natural gas and sewerage pipes in the center of Bulgaria's second-largest city.

For now, provisional plans would see the murals removed and exhibited in one of Plovdiv's museums.

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The more gray matter you have, the more altruistic you are

The more gray matter you have, the more altruistic you are | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

The volume of a small brain region influences one's predisposition for altruistic behavior.

 Why are some people very selfish and others very altruistic? Previous studies indicated that social categories like gender, income or education can hardly explain differences in altruistic behavior. Recent neuroscience studies have demonstrated that differences in brain structure might be linked to differences in personality traits and abilities. Now, for the first time, a team of researchers from the University of Zurich headed by Ernst Fehr, Director of the Department of Economics, show that there is a connection between brain anatomy and altruistic behavior.

The aim of the study, however, was to find out why there are such differences. Previous studies had shown that a certain region of the brain -- the place where the parietal and temporal lobes meet -- is linked to the ability to put oneself in someone else's shoes in order to understand their thoughts and feelings. Altruism is probably closely related to this ability. Consequently, the researchers suspected that individual differences in this part of the brain might be linked to differences in altruistic behavior. And, according to Yosuke Morishima, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich, they were right: "People who behaved more altruistically also had a higher proportion of gray matter at the junction between the parietal and temporal lobes."

The participants in the study also displayed marked differences in brain activity while they were deciding how to split up the money. In the case of selfish people, the small brain region behind the ear is already active when the cost of altruistic behavior is very low. In altruistic people, however, this brain region only becomes more active when the cost is very high. The brain region is thus activated especially strongly when people reach the limits of their willingness to behave altruistically. The reason, the researchers suspect, is that this is when there is the greatest need to overcome man's natural self-centeredness by activating this brain region.

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Skulls shed new light on the evolution of the cat

Skulls shed new light on the evolution of the cat | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it
Modern cats diverged in skull shape from their sabre-toothed ancestors early in their evolutionary history and then followed separate evolutionary trajectories, according to new research.
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New Section of Inca Trail Discovered in Peru - Hispanically Speaking News

New Section of Inca Trail Discovered in Peru - Hispanically Speaking News | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

A section of the Peru’s Inca Trail was recently discovered in the Cusco region on the country’s southeast side after having been abandoned for about 500 years.

 

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Yoko-o Site, Oita City, Kyushu Island, Japan–Evidence of Obsidian Trade, including some found in a Basket, covered in a Volcanic Eruption over 7000BP | NewsWARP

Yoko-o Site, Oita City, Kyushu Island, Japan–Evidence of Obsidian Trade, including some found in a Basket, covered in a Volcanic Eruption over 7000BP | NewsWARP | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

Professor Akira Matsui provides breaking news about another 7000+ BP site with wood and basketry preserved on Kyushu Island, southern Japan (also see his report on the Higashimyo Wet Site dating to this time period below). His newly reported site is the Yoko-o Site and was covered by eruptions of volcanic ash during these early time periods. The site is an interesting location for trade exchange, involving obsidian. An abandoned basket was found full with Himeshiman obsidian which must have been brought to this transport center by boat across the sea. His report is attached here: Yoko-o Site, Oita City, Japan 2 8-26-10

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Wellcome Image Awards 2012: the winning images - Telegraph

Wellcome Image Awards 2012: the winning images - Telegraph | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it
The Wellcome Collection's 2012 award-winning photos celebrate the most visually striking and technically impressive images in modern medical photography.
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Ancient Mayan ‘night sun’ temple found in Guatemala | The Raw Story

Ancient Mayan ‘night sun’ temple found in Guatemala | The Raw Story | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

Archeologists have uncovered a 1,600-year-old Mayan temple dedicated to the “night sun” atop a pyramid tomb in the northern Guatemalan forest near the border with Mexico.
 

“The sun was a key element of Maya rulership,” lead archeologist Stephen Houston explained in announcing the discovery by the joint Guatemalan and American team that has been excavating the El Zotz site since 2006.
 

“It’s something that rises every day and penetrates into all nooks and crannies, just as royal power presumably would,” said Houston, a professor at Brown University, Rhode Island.
 

“This building is one that celebrates this close linkage between the king and this most powerful and dominant of celestial presences.”

Archeologists say the temple was likely built to honor the leader buried under the Diablo Pyramid tomb, the governor and founder of the first El Zotz dynasty called Pa’Chan, or “fortified sky.”

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Prehistoric Poop Dispels Long-Standing Theory About First Americans

Prehistoric Poop Dispels Long-Standing Theory About First Americans | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it
GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Stone tools and human DNA from ancient caves in Oregon offer new evidence of how some of the first Americans spread through the continent: Quite apart from the better-known Clovis culture, a separate group occupied the West.
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Ancient Tartar, Other Dental Clues Reveal Unexpected Diet of Early Human Relative | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

Ancient Tartar, Other Dental Clues Reveal Unexpected Diet of Early Human Relative | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

Last fall, on a reporting trip to Johannesburg for a story on the discovery of fossils representing a previously unknown member of human family called Australopithecus sediba, the researchers I met with were buzzing with excitement about, of all things, tartar. That’s right, the crusty deposits that the dentist scrapes off your teeth when you go for a cleaning. Except in this case, it was the tartar on the teeth of the nearly two-million-year-old A. sediba, which has been held up as a candidate ancestor for our genus, Homo. No one had ever found tartar in an early hominin (a creature on the line leading to humans, after the split from the line leading to chimps) before—the oldest samples came from much younger Neandertals and anatomically modern humans. And in analyzing the ancient tartar, the researchers had recovered evidence of what A. sediba ate. It wasn’t at all what they expected.
 

I had hoped to be able to report on the findings in the cover story of the April issue, but the scientists had yet to publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal and so I had to keep mum until now. In a paper published online by Nature on June 27, Amanda Henry of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and their colleagues report on the tartar analysis, as well as their analyses of A. sediba’s tooth chemistry and dental wear marks. (Scientific American is part of the Nature Publishing Group.) Their results offer the clearest view yet of what an early human ancestor ate, and deepen the mystery surrounding this species.
 

The team conducted their studies on the two most complete A. sediba individuals recovered thus far, an adult female and a subadult male found at a site just outside Johannesburg. Analyses of the wear on their molars showed that the two hominins ate hard foods shortly before they died. And their tooth chemistry—specifically the carbon ratios—revealed that, over their lifetime, they dined mostly on so-called C3 foods, which include trees, shrubs, some herbs and the animals that eat those kinds of plants. This is surprising, because other hominins of similar antiquity relied more heavily on C4 foods—most tropical grasses and sedges and the animals that eat those plants. Furthermore, paleoenvironmental evidence from the site that yielded the fossils attests to a setting dominated by C4 plants, not C3 ones. Among early hominins only the much older Ardipithecus ramidus from Ethiopia comes close to A. sediba’s carbon isotope composition; compared to the tooth chemistry of modern creatures, A. sediba’s looks like a savanna chimpanzee’s or a giraffe’s.

 

Even more startling, when the researchers examined the tartar, they found traces of plant foods no one thought our ancient kin ate, such as bark. The tartar contained silica crystals called phytoliths that plants make as a means of self-defense, some of which the investigators could attribute to particular kinds of plants on the basis of their distinctive shapes. The phytoliths indicate that in addition to bark, A. sediba also probably ate C3 grasses and sedges, as opposed to the more common C4 varieties. According to the authors, together the three lines of evidence suggest that A. sediba foraged for C3 foods in habitats similar to gallery forests surrounded by C4 grasslands.

 

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Alzheimer's disease can be detected 25 years in advance with new blood and spinal fluid tests

Alzheimer's disease can be detected 25 years in advance with new blood and spinal fluid tests | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

Scientists have created an ‘early signs timeline’ for Alzheimer’s disease that they believe could help experts detect the condition up to 25 years before it strikes. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 128 people with a family history of early Alzheimer’s.

 

The participants were all selected from the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Network, a research centre for those who are genetically predestined to develop the degenerative disease, and considered to have (at least) a 50% chance of inheriting one of three gene mutations that cause the disease.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Symphony of Science - the Quantum World!

mp3: http://bit.ly/oRYyiV A musical investigation into the nature of atoms and subatomic particles, the jiggly things that make up everything we see. Featuring Morgan Freeman, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Brian Cox, Richard Feynman, and Frank Close.

 

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Meteorological variations in the atmosphere of the exoplanet HD 189733b

Meteorological variations in the atmosphere of the exoplanet HD 189733b | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

Located 63 light years from Earth, HD 189733b is a gas giant planet with a hazy atmosphere mainly composed of hydrogen. Due to close proximity to its star – about 1/30th of the distance from the Earth to the Sun – its upper atmosphere receives a huge amount of energy in the form of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation.

 

The researchers initially observed the star in order to confirm a result obtained in 2003 with the Hubble for another exoplanet, HD 209458b, located in a different planetary system. They discovered that the hydrogen making up the topmost layer of the planet’s atmosphere was spreading out in a huge plume, providing evidence that its atmosphere was evaporating into space.

 

In fact, the researchers observed HD 189733b on two occasions. In April 2010 they saw nothing unusual. However, in September 2011 they detected a huge cloud of gas six times larger than the planet itself. This shows that the state of the atmosphere had changed in the meantime, and that the scientists had found a meteorological difference on HD 189733b.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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NewsDaily: From a vial of mom's blood, a fetus's entire genome

NewsDaily: From a vial of mom's blood, a fetus's entire genome | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

The days of pregnant women having a 3-inch-long (8-centimetre-long) hollow needle jabbed into their abdomens may be numbered.

For the second time in a month, scientists have announced that a simple blood test, rather than more invasive tests such as amniocentesis, can determine a fetus's genetic make-up, identifying mutations causing any of about 3,000 inherited disorders that arise from a glitch in a single gene, such as cystic fibrosis.

"We're really on the verge of an enormous increase in our ability to understand what an infant will be like," said Dr Michael Katz, a senior adviser to the March of Dimes, a foundation that supports research on pregnancy and birth defects. Katz was not involved in the study. "You'll be able to detect any kind of abnormality early, quickly, without distress and safely. This is the way of the future."

Determining a fetus's genome might give women more reasons to end a pregnancy. But it would also let physicians identify conditions that can be treated before birth or immediately after, said Stephen Quake of Stanford University in California, who led the new study: "The way it's done now, parents wait until a newborn gets sick and suffers in the first weeks of life, and only then does the doctor start figuring out the baby has a metabolic or immune disorder."
 

With prenatal genetic testing, in contrast, the parents would know by the end of the first trimester (12 to 13 weeks) if the fetus has a genetic or chromosomal defect. That way, they can be ready if the baby has special needs, which can be as simple as a certain diet.

Knowing so early that something has gone wrong might also allow physicians to treat a fetus. Prenatal surgery, introduced 30 years ago, is currently performed at a few specialized hospitals to correct just a few heart, bladder or other defects.
 

"Now we can challenge our colleagues in surgery and pharmacology," said Quake. "We'll soon be able to diagnose all these genetic disorders; what are you going to do about them?" 

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Insights into primate diversity: Lessons from the rhesus macaque

Insights into primate diversity: Lessons from the rhesus macaque | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

The rhesus macaque has three times as much genetic variation as humans. However despite much of this extra variation within genes, protein function is not affected.

 Humans and rhesus macaques shared a common ancestor approximately 25 million years ago. Although there are now over seven billion humans on the planet only 100,000 years ago the human population was as low as one million. The effective human population, the number of people required to explain current genetic variation rate, was until recently less than 8,000.

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Native American populations descend from three key migrations, scientists say

Native American populations descend from three key migrations, scientists say | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

Scientists have found that Native American populations -- from Canada to the southern tip of Chile -- arose from at least three migrations, with the majority descended entirely from a single group of First American migrants that crossed over through Beringia, a land bridge between Asia and America that existed during the ice ages, more than 15,000 years ago.

By studying variations in Native American DNA sequences, the international team found that while most of the Native American populations arose from the first migration, two subsequent migrations also made important genetic contributions. The paper is published in the journal Nature July 11.

"For years it has been contentious whether the settlement of the Americas occurred by means of a single or multiple migrations from Siberia," said Professor Andres Ruiz-Linares (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment), who coordinated the study. "But our research settles this debate: Native Americans do not stem from a single migration. Our study also begins to cast light on patterns of human dispersal within the Americas." 

In the most comprehensive survey of genetic diversity in Native Americans so far, the team took data from 52 Native American and 17 Siberian groups, studying more than 300,000 specific DNA sequence variations called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms to examine patterns of genetic similarities and differences between the population groups.

The second and third migrations have left an impact only in Arctic populations that speak Eskimo-Aleut languages and in the Canadian Chipewyan who speak a Na-Dene language. However, even these populations have inherited most of their genome from the First American migration. Eskimo-Aleut speakers derive more than 50% of their DNA from First Americans, and the Chipewyan around 90%. This reflects the fact that these two later streams of Asian migration mixed with the First Americans they encountered after they arrived in North America.

"There are at least three deep lineages in Native American populations," said co-author David Reich, Professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. "The Asian lineage leading to First Americans is the most anciently diverged, whereas the Asian lineages that contributed some of the DNA to Eskimo-Aleut speakers and the Na-Dene-speaking Chipewyan from Canada are more closely related to present-day East Asian populations."
The team also found that once in the Americas, people expanded southward along a route that hugged the coast with populations splitting off along the way. After divergence, there was little gene flow among Native American groups, especially in South America.

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Engineering technology revealing secrets of Roman coins

Engineering technology revealing secrets of Roman coins | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it

Archaeologists and engineers are examining buried Roman coins using the latest X-ray imaging technology.

Originally designed for the analysis of substantial engineering parts, such as jet turbine blades, the powerful scanning equipment at Southampton's µ-VIS Centre for Computed Tomography is being used to examine Roman coins buried in three archaeological artefacts from three UK hoards.

The centre's equipment can scan inside objects -- rotating 360 degrees whilst taking thousands of 2D images, which are then used to build detailed 3D images. In the case of the coins, the exceptionally high energy/high resolution combination of the Southampton facilities allows them to be examined in intricate detail without the need for physical excavation or cleaning. For those recently scanned at Southampton, it has been possible to use 3D computer visualisation capabilities to read inscriptions and identify depictions of emperors on the faces of the coins -- for example on some, the heads of Claudius II and Tetricus I have been revealed. 

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Archeologists find water canal exits of Persepolis

Archeologists find water canal exits of Persepolis | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it
Archeologists have found water canal exits of Persepolis in the south wing of the Achaemenid complex.
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Mars' Tyrrhena Terra --Proof of Ancient Water

Mars' Tyrrhena Terra --Proof of Ancient Water | Science is Cool! | Scoop.it
The 621 mile-by-1,240 mile (1,000 by 2,000-kilometer) region of Tyrrhena Terra (outlined by the white box in the inset) sits between two regions of low altitude in Mars' southern hemisphere, as shown in this global topography map. Hydrated minerals were found in 175 locations associated with impact craters in Tyrrhena Terra.

 

In a new study, ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter zoomed in on craters in on these ancient southern highlands to learn more about the history of water in this region.


By studying rocks blasted out of impact craters, ESA’s Mars Express has found evidence that underground water persisted at depth for prolonged periods during the first billion years of the Red Planet’s existence. Impact craters are natural windows into the history of planetary surfaces – the deeper the crater, the further back in time you can probe. Rocks blasted out during the impact offer a chance to study material that once lay hidden beneath the surface.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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