NASA Mars probes discover billion-year-old dune fields frozen in time

The HiRise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped these dune fields in Valles Marineris. They’re estimated to be a billion years old


NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars has a roughly 4.5-billion-year history. Thanks to our robotic explorers, we have a good sense of its current climate and atmosphere. A new study of ancient sand dunes points to what it might have been like a billion years ago on the red planet. 

A team led by Planetary Science Institute (PSI) research scientist Matthew Chojnacki took a close look a wind-driven dune fields in Valles Marineris, an area of Mars known for its extensive canyons. The dunes appear to have been preserved through lithification, a geologic process that turns sediments into rock.

The team published a study on this window into the martian past in the journal

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Scientists discover bacterium linked to deadly childhood disorder — ScienceDaily

Scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health have discovered bacteria linked to post-infectious hydrocephalus (PIH), the most common cause of pediatric hydrocephalus worldwide. Results of the study led by Pennsylvania State University with CII scientists and clinical colleagues in Uganda are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Hydrocephalus is the most common indication for neurosurgery in children. Of the estimated 400,000 new cases each year, about half are estimated to be post-infectious, with the largest number of cases in low- and middle-income countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Neonatal sepsis often precedes PIH, although the manifestations of hydrocephalus typically emerge in the months following the neonatal period as cerebrospinal fluid accumulates so that cranial expansion garners medical attention. These infants typically die in early childhood without advanced surgical management.

Study co-first author Brent L. Williams, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology

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AI is helping scientists discover fresh craters on Mars

AI is helping scientists discover fresh craters on Mars
The HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image of a crater cluster on Mars, the first ever to be discovered AI. The AI first spotted the craters in images taken the orbiter’s Context Camera; scientists followed up with this HiRISE image to confirm the craters. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Sometime between March 2010 and May 2012, a meteor streaked across the Martian sky and broke into pieces, slamming into the planet’s surface. The resulting craters were relatively small—just 13 feet (4 meters) in diameter. The smaller the features, the more difficult they are to spot using Mars orbiters. But in this case—and for the first time—scientists spotted them with a little extra help: artificial intelligence (AI).


It’s a milestone for planetary scientists and AI researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who worked together to develop the machine-learning tool that helped make the discovery. The

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In a field where smaller is better, researchers discover the world’s tiniest antibodies — ScienceDaily

Researchers at the University of Bath in the UK and biopharma company UCB have found a way to produce miniaturised antibodies, opening the way for a potential new class of treatments for diseases.

Until now, the smallest humanmade antibodies (known as monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs) were derived from llamas, alpacas and sharks, but the breakthrough molecules isolated from the immune cells of cows are up to five times smaller. This is thanks to an unusual feature of a bovine antibody known as a knob domain.

The potential medical implications of the new antibodies’ diminutive size are huge. For instance, they may bind to sites on pathogens that regular antibody molecules are too large to latch on to, triggering the destruction of invasive microbes. They may also be able to gain access to sites of the body which larger antibodies can’t.

Antibodies consist of chains of amino acids (the building blocks

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Astronomers discover supermassive black hole caught in a cosmic ‘spider’s web’

The bright galaxies are trapped in a cosmic web of gas that surrounds the quasar  SDSS J103027.09+052455.0


ESO/L. Calçada

The first billion years of the universe was about as chaotic as Tuesday’s first presidential debate. Galaxies were forming, gas was flowing… It was a real time. While we won’t want to look back on Tuesday too often, we do like to look back in time. And, in a cosmic sense, Earth is perfectly positioned to do so. Because of how long it takes light to travel across the universe, our telescopes can pick up the faint signals of what life was like in the universe’s very early days. 

On Thursday, astronomers announced the discovery of a massive, intriguing structure from when the universe was just 900 million years old. The structure, about 300 times the size of the Milky Way, contains a supermassive black hole that has ensnared six

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Could Life Exist On Mars? Scientists Discover Multiple Underground Salty Ponds

KEY POINTS

  • Researchers say they have discovered a group of lakes hidden under Mars’ icy surface
  • This follows the detection of another subsurface lake in the same region in 2018
  • The findings revived the debate on whether the Red Planet has alien life or can house microorganisms

A team of Italian scientists discovered a group of three salty ponds beneath Mars’ south pole. The findings revived the debate on whether the Red Planet has alien life or at least can house microorganisms. 

The discovery of these ponds raised the possibility that microbial organisms could survive on Mars but the only hindrance was the high amount of salt concentration, which could be keeping the waters frozen, scientists said in a report published on Sept. 28 in Nature Astronomy.   

The discovery of the salty ponds was significant because their locations were close to another lake discovered in 2018. The largest of them

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Gold miners discover 100 million-year-old meteorite crater Down Under

Gold miners in the Australian Outback recently discovered a gigantic meteorite crater dating to about 100 million years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Found near the Western Australian town of Ora Banda, the newly dubbed Ora Banda Impact Crater is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) across. This huge hole was likely created by a meteorite up to 660 feet (200 meters) wide, or longer than the length of two American football fields, according to Resourc.ly, a Western Australia news outlet.

When geologists at Evolution Mining, an Australian gold mining company, came across some unusual rock cores at Ora Banda, they called Jayson Meyers, the principal geophysicist, director and founder of Resource Potentials, a geophysics consulting and contracting company in Perth. Meyers examined the geologists’ drill core samples, as well as rock samples from the site, and he immediately noticed the shatter cones — telltale signs of a

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Astronomers Discover ‘Pi Earth’ With 3.14-Day Orbit

Astronomers have discovered a charming coincidence of mathematics in the heavens: An exoplanet that orbits its star every 3.14 days. The Earth-sized planet has been dubbed the “pi Earth” due to its orbiting period being close to the mathematical constant of pi (π).

Technically known as K2-315b, the planet has a radius 95% that of Earth’s and orbits a cool star that is much smaller than our sun, at about one-fifth of the size. A year there lasts only a few days as it orbits very close to its star, moving at a wild speed of 181,000 miles per hour.

“The planet moves like clockwork,” said lead author Prajwal Niraula, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a statement.

 Caption: Scientists at MIT and elsewhere have discovered an Earth-sized planet that zips around its star every 3.14 days.
Scientists at MIT and elsewhere have discovered an Earth-sized planet that zips around its star every 3.14 days. NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, Christine Daniloff, MIT

The planet was first

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Scientists discover why tarantulas come in vivid blues and greens — ScienceDaily

Why are some tarantulas so vividly coloured? Scientists have puzzled over why these large, hairy spiders, active primarily during the evening and at night-time, would sport such vibrant blue and green colouration — especially as they were long thought to be unable to differentiate between colours, let alone possess true colour vision.

In a recent study, researchers from Yale-NUS College and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) find support for new hypotheses: that these vibrant blue colours may be used to communicate between potential mates, while green colouration confers the ability to conceal among foliage. Their research also suggests that tarantulas are not as colour-blind as previously believed, and that these arachnids may be able to perceive the bright blue tones on their bodies. The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on 23 September, and is featured on the front cover of the current (30 September 2020) issue.

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Indian astronomers discover 70 new variable stars

Indian astronomers discover 70 new variable stars
The finding chart for the 70 variable stars identified in the observed field of NGC 559 in the V band. The variables belonging to the cluster are shown with circles while variables belonging to the field population are shown by squares. Credit: Joshi et al., 2020.

Astronomers from India have conducted a long-term photometric variability survey of an open cluster known as NGC 559. As a result, they detected 70 new variable stars in the field of this cluster. The finding is presented in a paper published September 15 on the arXiv pre-print repository.


Star clusters offer excellent opportunities to study stellar evolution as they are collections of stars with similar properties, for instance, age, distance and initial composition. In particular, astronomers often search for variable stars in young and intermediate-age clusters, which could be crucial in advancing the understanding of pre-main-sequence (PMS) stars, and therefore the initial phases of

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