No Wonder Martians want to come Here.

We might not be able to get there yet, but as NASA says, ‘this is the next best thing’.

From fresh rover tracks to an impact crater blasted billions of years ago, a newly completed view from the panoramic camera on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows the ruddy terrain where the voyaging robot spent the Martian winter.

Scenes recorded from the mast-mounted color camera include the rover’s own solar arrays and deck in the foreground, provides a sense of sitting on top of the rover and taking in the view.

This full-circle scene combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. It shows the terrain that surrounded the rover while it was stationary for four months of work during its most recent Martian winter.

Opportunity’s Pancam took the component images between the 2,811th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s Mars surface mission (Dec. 21, 2011) and Sol 2,947 (May 8, 2012).

Opportunity spent those months on a northward sloped outcrop, ‘Greeley Haven,’ which angled the rover’s solar panels toward the sun low in the northern sky during southern hemisphere winter.

The outcrop’s informal name is a tribute to Ronald Greeley (1939-2011), who was a member of the mission team and who taught generations of planetary scientists at Arizona State University, Tempe. The site is near the northern tip of the ‘Cape York’ segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater.

Bright wind-blown deposits on the left are banked up against the Greeley Haven outcrop. Opportunity’s tracks can be seen extending from the south, with a turn-in-place and other maneuvers evident from activities to position the rover at Greeley Haven. The tracks in some locations have exposed darker underlying soils by disturbing a thin, bright dust cover.

Other bright, dusty deposits can be seen to the north, northeast, and east of Greeley Haven. The deposit at the center of the image, due north from the rover’s winter location, is a dusty patch called ‘North Pole’. Opportunity drove to it and investigated it in May 2012 as an example of wind-blown Martian dust.

The Endeavour Crater  spans 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.

Opportunity’s solar panels and other structures show dust that has accumulated over the lifetime of the mission. Opportunity has been working on Mars since January 2004.

During the recent four months that Opportunity worked at Greeley Haven, activities included radio-science observations to better understand Martian spin axis dynamics and thus interior structure, investigations of the composition and textures of an outcrop exposing an impact-jumbled rock formation on the crater rim, monitoring the atmosphere and surface for changes, and acquisition of this full-color mosaic of the surroundings.

The panorama combines exposures taken through Pancam filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). The view is presented in false color to make some differences between materials easier to see.

Its release coincided with two milestones: Opportunity completing its 3,000th Martian day on July 2, and NASA continuing past 15 years of robotic presence at Mars on July 4.

The new panorama is presented in false color to emphasise differences between materials in the scene.

It was assembled from 817 component images taken between Dec. 21, 2011, and May 8, 2012, while Opportunity was stationed on an outcrop informally named ‘Greeley Haven’. on a segment of the rim of ancient Endeavour Crater.

Pancam lead scientist Jim Bell said: ‘The view provides rich geologic context for the detailed chemical and mineral work that the team did at Greeley Haven over the rover’s fifth Martian winter, as well as a spectacularly detailed view of the largest impact crater that we’ve driven to yet with either rover over the course of the mission.’

Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, landed on Mars in January 2004 for missions originally planned to last for three months. NASA’s next-generation Mars rover, Curiosity, is on course for landing on Mars next month.

Opportunity’s science team chose to call the winter campaign site Greeley Haven in tribute to Ronald Greeley (1939-2011), a team member who taught generations of planetary science students at Arizona State University.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Later this year, the car-sized Curiosity Rover will land on Mars.

Unlike earlier rovers, Curiosity carries equipment to gather samples of rocks and soil, process them and distribute them to onboard test chambers inside analytical instruments.

It has a robotic arm which deploys two instruments, scoops soil, prepares and delivers samples for analytic instruments and brushes surfaces.

Its assignment is to investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.

The goal of the mission is to assess whether the landing area has ever had or still has environmental conditions favorable to microbial life.

Curiosity will land near the foot of a layered mountain inside Gale crater, layers of this mountain contain minerals that form in water.

The portion of the crater floor where Curiosity will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments.

Curiosity will also carry the most advanced load of scientific gear ever used on Mars’ surface, a more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers.

Curiosity is about twice as long and five times as heavy as NASA’s twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003.

Attribution: Mail Online

World’s Oldest Handbag

Excavators have unearthed what they believe to be the world’s oldest handbag, a Stone Age purse dated between 2,500 and 2,200 BC which is decorated in over 100 canine teeth.

The incredible discovery – the first of its kind – was made in a grave which forms part of an ancient burial ground on a 250-acre excavation site near Leipzig, Germany.

More than 100 tightly packed dog teeth were found inside the grave on the site at Profen, and Susanne Friederich, the archaeologist who managed the dig, believes they originally formed the decorative outer flap of a Stone Age handbag.

Ms Friedrich, of the Sachsen-Anhalt State Archaeology and Preservation Office, said: ‘Over the years the leather or fabric disappeared, and all that’s left is the teeth.

‘They’re all pointing in the same direction, so it looks a lot like a modern handbag flap.

‘It’s the first time we can show direct evidence of a bag like this.’

The dig is just one phase of an enormous excavation project being undertaken before the Profen site is turned into an open-pit coal mine, due to take place in 2015.

So far the team has uncovered evidence of Stone and Bronze Age settlements, including more than 300 graves, hundreds of stone tools, spear points, ceramic vessels, bone buttons and an amber necklace.

There have also been thousands of finds from later periods, including the 50BC grave of a woman who was buried with half a kilogram of gold jewelry.

While the dog-tooth handbag is extremely rare, canine teeth are actually a fairly common find in Stone Age burial sites in northern and central Europe, Friederich told the National Geographic.

In fact, so many teeth have been excavated from graves around the region that it suggests dogs were as much livestock to Stone Age man as they were pets – the handbag’s decorative panel alone required the teeth of dozens of animals.

Most commonly, dog teeth were used as hair ormaments and in necklaces for both men and women.

In other Stone Age burial sites, dog and wolf teeth – as well as shells – have been uncovered in patterns suggesting corpses were covered with studded blankets, the material of which has long since disintegrated.

‘It seems to have been very fashionable at the time,’ said Harald Staueble, senior archaeologist at Germany’s Saxon State Archaeology Office.

‘Not everyone was buried with such nice things—just the really special graves.’

Attribution: Mail Online, Archaeology.org

Giraffe

When this unlikely guest took a dip in a club house swimming pool, he had no trouble keeping his head above the water… which is not surprising since he’s a giraffe.

In fact, three-and-a-half-year-old Monduli is a regular sight at the Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate in Tanzania.

The leggy swimmer is the only giraffe at the estate after being rescued as a baby by the anti-poaching unit of the Wildlife Department of the Tanzanian Government.

Workers at the estate said Monduli thinks he’s a cross between a guest and a horse and is often up to mischief trying to play football, polo and taking a dip in the pool.

Monduli is well over 13ft tall (4m) and will reach 18ft when fully grown at around six years old.

Zummi Cardoso, general manager at the estate, said Monduli was quite lonely as the only member of his species there.

He said: ‘He has been with us for about three years and we bottle and bucket-fed him milk for more than a year.

‘He is accompanied by lots of zebra, wildebeest and gazelles but he thinks he is a human being, hence the dip in the pool.

‘Monduli sometimes joins in football games at the polo club and regularly scares visiting polo ponies. He loves to take part in any activities at the club and even if he’s not welcome he cannot be easily dissuaded.’

Zummi said as well as being a lively character around the estate, Monduli also acted as a gardener.

He said: ‘He regularly trims all the plants around the club when he has had enough of the ample acacias we have on the estate.

‘He’s also a bit of a pervert when it comes to cars. One or two seem to get his attention and he has attempted to mount those chosen ones.

‘He got his leg caught between the bumper of our pick-up and dragged it for more than a meter to get dislodged.’

The Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate is located near the town of Usa River, approximately 30 minutes’ drive from both Arusha and Kilimanjaro International Airport.

The estate provides spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru to the north and over the vastness of the Maasai Steppe to the south.

Attribution: Mail Online

No Surfing at This Beach

Tucked away in a lush green meadow, this is quite possibly the weirdest beach you’re ever likely to see.

Gulpiyuri beach is an extraordinary stretch of shoreline near the town of Llanes in northern Spain, which boasts stunning crystal-clear salt waters that are even fully tidal.

Incredibly there are even waves lapping up against the 130 foot stretch of golden sand making the whole experience even more magical so it’s almost impossible to resist taking a dip, although the temperatures can be rather cold.

The beach is fed by salt water from the Bay of Biscay on the Cantabrian Sea. Over millions of years the waves eroded a series of tunnels under the cliffs which connect to the beach.

Gulpiyuri is hidden away in a series of gentle hills over 320 feet away from the sea. Despite it being hard to find it has become a mecca for tourists on weekends.

Attribution: Mail Online

Millennium Falcon Found?

Sceptics expected that a deep-water dive would debunk the slew of extra-terrestrial theories surrounding an unidentified object sitting at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

But the Swedish expedition team that took the plunge surfaced with more questions than answers and certainly no solution to its origins.

The divers found that the object, which some have likened to the Millennium Falcon because of its unusual round outline, was raised about 10 to 13ft above the seabed and curved in at the sides, giving it a mushroom shape.

They added that the object has ’rounded sides and rugged edges’

‘First we thought this was only stone, but this is something else,’ diver Peter Lindberg said in a press release.

At the center of the object, which has a 60-meter (197 feet) diameter, it has an “egg shaped hole leading into it from the top”.

Surrounding the hole, they found a strange, unexplained rock formation. Adding fuel to the speculative fire, they said that the rocks looked “like small fireplaces” and the “stones were covered in something resembling soot”.

“Since no volcanic activity has ever been reported in the Baltic Sea the find becomes even stranger”, Mr Lindberg continued.

“As laymen we can only speculate how this is made by nature, but this is the strangest thing I have ever experienced as a professional diver.”

The soot also proved cause for concern for Mr Lindberg’s colleague on the Ocean X explorer team, Stefan Hogeborn.

“During my 20-year diving career, including 6,000 dives, I have never seen anything like this. Normally stones don’t burn”, Mr Hogeborn said in the release.

“I can’t explain what we saw, and I went down there to answer questions, but I came up with even more.”

Another find that they saw in person for the first time was the 985-foot trail that they described “as a runway or a downhill path that is flattened at the seabed with the object at the end of it”.

The object was first found in June last year, but because of a lack of funding and bad timing, they have were not able to pull a team together to see for themselves – just the strange, metallic outline, and a similar disk-shaped object about 650 feet away.

As it was before the recent dive, the story behind the object is anyone’s guess.

“We’ve heard lots of different kinds of explanations, from George Lucas’s spaceship – the Millennium Falcon – to ‘it’s some kind of plug to the inner world,’ like it should be hell down there or something”, Mr Lindberg said.

Speaking to Fox News, he said: “We don’t know whether it is a natural phenomenon, or an object. We saw it on sonar when we were searching for a wreck from World War I. This circular object just turned up on the monitor.”

While the Ocean Explorer team is understandably excited about their potentially earth-shattering find, others are slightly more sceptical and are questioning the accuracy of the sonar technology.

In the past, such technology has confused foreign objects with unusual- but natural- rock formations.

Part of the trouble they face, however, is that they have no way of telling what is inside the supposed cylinder- whether it is filled with gold and riches or simply aged sediment particles.

They’re hoping for the former, and history seems to be in their favor.

The Baltic Sea is a treasure trove for shipwreck hunters, as an estimated 100,000 objects are thought to line the cold sea’s floor.

The company have created a submarine that they hope will appeal to tourists and wannabe shipwreck hunters who will pay to take a trip down to the bottom of the Baltic Sea to see for themselves.

Attribution: Mail Online

Simply Incredible

These are the breathtaking underwater pictures captured by marine life photographer David Doubilet on the wildest parts of the planet.

The vibrant photographs range from cute Australian sea lions peering inquisitively into the lens to a terrifying Great White Shark opening its jaws in South Africa.

Attribution: Mail Online

Simply Breathtaking

These incredible pictures capture the stunning moment waves roll on to a tropical beach.

The breath-taking images show the split-second in which each one breaks and crashes on to the sand, and are the work of two photographers who wish to remind people just how beautiful Mother Nature can be.

Photographers Nick Selway, 28, and CJ Kale, 35, position themselves in the clear Hawaiian surf and wait for the waves to roll over them.

Their only equipment are standard cameras – but a waterproof case means they do not need to sacrifice their cameras for their art.

Enjoy!

Attribution: Mail Online

There Be Pirates

Once known as the wickedest city in the world when it was the playground of British buccaneers and explorers in the 17th century, little now remains of Port Royal.

However, a campaign supported by the Jamaican government was launched this week to secure UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) world heritage status for the sunken city to put it firmly back on the map.

Surveys by a team of experts are under way to mark the land and sea boundaries of what is regarded as one of the most important archeological sites in British history as part of the bid to UNESCO.

A seven-mile spit of golden sand arcs around Kingston bay protecting the capital. At the far end lies the small fishing village of Port Royal (of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame), which was once a bustling city and key British outpost in the 1600s.

The port, which boasted a population of 7,000 and was comparable to Boston during the same period, was a playground for buccaneers like Henry Morgan, who docked in search of rum, women and boat repairs.

England seized Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655 under the orders of Oliver Cromwell with the aim of establishing a trading base in the Spanish New World.

Merchants and pirates flocked to the new settlement and Port Royal soon became synonymous for excess. There was one tavern for every 10 residents and boasted a thriving prostitution trade.

The city became known as “the Sodom of the New World”, with contemporary writer Charles Leslie noting in his history of Jamaica of the buccaneers: “Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked.”

However, on June 7, 1692, an earthquake and tsunami decimated the coastline, submerging two-thirds of the city and killing an estimated 2,000 people.

The port remained a key strategic British naval base, but the debauchery was washed away with the tsunami. Fort Charles, where Lord Nelson was once stationed, sank three and a half feet during the earthquake but remains standing to this day.

Despite the village being littered with remnants of British military installations, many of the historic colonial buildings are dilapidated.

The algae-covered remnants of the city are under water in an archaeological preserve closed to divers without a permit.

But in recent decades, underwater excavations have turned up artifacts including cannonballs, wine glasses, ornate pipes, pewter plates and ceramic plates dredged from the muck just offshore. The partial skeleton of a child was found in 1998.

At a press conference on Tuesday, experts said it is among the top British archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere and should be protected for future generations.

“There is outstanding potential here. Submerged towns like this just do not exist anywhere else in the Americas,” said Robert Grenier, a Canadian underwater archaeologist who has worked closely with UNESCO.

Donny Hamilton, Texas A&M University nautical archaeologist, said the consulting team has completed the fieldwork for the world heritage assessment and is working on a management plan.

Port Royal could become a sustainable attraction for tourists but first “there’s got to be something above the ground that people are going to want to come and see,” Mr Hamilton said.

Jamaican officials and businessmen have announced various strategies to renovate the ramshackle town over the years, including plans for modern cruise liners and a Disney-style theme park featuring actors dressed as pirates.

Some area businessmen have grown exasperated with the slow pace of development.

Attribution: UK Telegraph

Full Body Exposure

The enduring image in the public’s mind of the mysterious heads on Easter Island is simply that – heads.

So it comes as quite a shock to see the heads from another angle – and discover that they have full bodies, extending down many, many feet into the ground of the island.

The Easter Island Statue Project (EISP) has been carefully excavating two of 1,000-plus statues on the islands – doing their best to uncover the secrets of the mysterious stones, and the people who built them.

Project director Jo Anne Van Tilburg said: “Our EISP excavations recently exposed the torsos of two 7meter (23 feet) tall statues.”

“Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors to the island have been astonished to see that, indeed, Easter Island statues have bodies!”

“More important, however, we discovered a great deal about the Rapa Nui techniques of ancient engineering.”

Among their discoveries, the team have discovered:

  • The dirt and detritus partially burying the statues was washed down from above and not deliberately placed there to bury, protect, or support the statues
  • The statues were erected in place and stand on stone pavements
  • Post holes were cut into bedrock to support upright tree trunks
  • Rope guides were cut into bedrock around the post holes
  • Posts, ropes, stones, and different types of stone tools were all used to carve and raise the statues upright

The remote island – one of the remotest in the world, tucked away in the South Pacific Ocean – was once home to a Polynesian population, whose history remains mysterious.

They likely sailed to the islands in canoes – a 1,500-mile journey over the open waters, and then, once they landed, they began relentessly carving the stone statues.

This led to their own downfall: By the time Europeans discovered the island in the 1700s, the population had decimated nearly all the trees in the island to help with the statue construction, and the effect on the island’s ecology led to their decline.

The team also discovered that ceremonies were certainly associated with the statues.

On the project website, Van Tilburg said: “We found large quantities of red pigment, some of which may have been used to paint the statues.”

“Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, we found in the pavement under one statue a single stone carved with a crescent symbol said to represent a canoe, or vaka.”

“The backs of both statues are covered with petroglyphs, many of which are also vaka. A direct connection between the vaka symbol and the identity of the artist or group owning the statue is strongly suggested.”
Attribution: Mail Online