Stunning photo captures ‘dinosaur lightning’

Lightning in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on July 26, 2013.

Lightning in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on July 26, 2013. (NPS/Hallie Larsen)

The U.S. Department of Interior has shared a stunning photo on their Twitter feedthat shows a jagged bolt of lightning that evokes the shape of a tyrannosaurus rex.

A spokesperson for the department tells that the photo was taken on July 26, 2013, in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park.

Credit goes to the National Park Service’s Hallie Larsen, who took the striking photograph.

Monster black hole’s powerful jets reveal galactic secrets

  • The galaxy Cygnus A, which played a prominent role in Carl Sagan's 1985 novel "Contact," is shown here in multiple wavelengths, including X-ray, radio and visible. A new study looks at the powerful magnetic

    The galaxy Cygnus A, which played a prominent role in Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel “Contact,” is shown here in multiple wavelengths, including X-ray, radio and visible. A new study looks at the powerful magnetic (X-ray image: NASA/CXC/SAO; visible light image: NASA/STScI; radio waves image: NSF/NRAO/AUI/VLA.)

Cygnus A, an elliptical galaxy located about 600 million light-years from Earth, is one of the brightest sources of radio waves in the night sky. The prominent galaxy took center stage in renowned astronomer Carl Sagan’s 1985 science-fiction novel “Contact.”

Now, thanks to the CanariCam instrument on the Gran Telescopio Canarias — a giant telescope in Spain’s Canary Islands — scientists have new information about the monster black hole at the heart of this famous galaxy, and the powerful magnetic fields it produces.

The astronomers took advantage of CanariCam’s polarimetric capability — which measures the polarization, or orientation, of light waves — as well as its ability to see infrared light, to peek at the supermassive black hole at the center of Cygnus A, according to a statement from the Astrophysics Institute of the Canaries (IAC). [Images: Black Holes of the Universe]

The galaxy is what’s known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN), meaning the black hole is sucking in material from its surroundings and emitting high levels of light. It’s also shooting out large jets of particles at nearly the speed of light that travel beyond the edge of the galaxy.

Detecting the polarization of the light waves lets scientists ignore all of the light that is not affected by the magnetic field in the galactic nucleus, meaning they can filter out background sources, including stars and other light sources from the galaxy itself, according to the statement.

“This gives us a much higher contrast when we observe the jets and the dust in the galaxy, while studying the influence of the magnetic field on both of them,” Enrique López Rodríguez, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin and the first author of the new study, said in the statement.

Previously, scientists had difficulty seeing through the cloud of interstellar dustthat surrounds Cygnus A because visible light cannot penetrate it. CanariCam, however, can observe light in the middle infrared wavelength range, which is not blocked by interstellar dust, according to the statement.

With both the ability to see infrared light and the polarization of the waves, López Rodríguez and his team found that the plasma emitted from the active nucleus spirals around the magnetic field of the jets of matter that shoot out from the center of the galaxy toward its edges. The spiraling of this plasma creates “synchrotron radiation,” a process wherein light is produced by the acceleration of electrons by a magnetic field, according to the statement.

Scientists say detecting synchrotron radiation in the middle infrared wavelength confirms that the charged gas in the jets emitted by Cygnus A is “highly confined by the effect of the magnetic field” around the black hole, according to the statement. Essentially, the finding gives scientists a better look at the magnetic field inside this extremely bright, active region. Astronomers hope that this new information will help them understand what causes activity in supermassive black holes like the one at the center of Cygnus A.

Joseph Goebbels’ secretary: Working for Nazi ‘just another job’

Magda Goebbels, left, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels in 1938.

Magda Goebbels, left, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels in 1938.

Even 71 years after she last typed a letter for one of the most infamous monsters of the Adolf Hitler regime, a former secretary for Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels refers to the murder of six million people as “the matter of the Jews” and says telling her life story has nothing to do with “clearing my conscience.”

Brunhilde Pomsel, 105, spoke to The Guardian shortly after a film about her time as a Nazi aide, “A German Life,” was released at the Munich Film Festival. Pomsel was one of Goebbels’ six secretaries, hired by the ministry of propaganda in 1942 when she was 31 years old.

She described Goebbels – who rallied Germany to Hitler’s cause and covered up the German ruler’s crimes – in glowing terms, commenting on his “gentlemanly countenance” and remarking about his well-kept nails.

“He had well-groomed hands – he probably had a manicure every day,” Pomsel told The Guardian, laughing. “There was really nothing to criticize about him.”

She said her work for the Nazi regime was “just another job” and scoffed at those who questioned how so many people – including someone such as Pomsel – could have gone along with Hitler’s genocidal agenda.

“Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis – I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have,” Pomsel said.

Historians said Goebbels killed himself the day after Hitler did the same, as Allied forces closed in on Berlin in the spring of 1945.

Click for more from The Guardian.

Does an Earth-like alien planet orbit the Sun’s closest neighbor?

Hubble Space Telescope image of the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, which lies just 4.25 light-years from the sun.

Hubble Space Telescope image of the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, which lies just 4.25 light-years from the sun.(ESA/Hubble & NASA)

Astronomers have found a rocky and possibly Earth-like planet circling the star closest to the sun, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

On Aug. 12, Der Spiegel reported that the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile had spotted evidence of a rocky, potentially habitable world orbiting Proxima Centauri, a small, dim star that lies just 4.25 light-years from the sun.

Scientists with the ESO will announce the find later this month, according to Der Spiegel, which cited an unnamed astrophysicist on the discovery team as its source. [In Images: The 1st Earth-Size Alien Planets Ever Found]

ESO officials neither confirmed nor denied the report.

“We were surprised to see the article in Der Spiegel and do not know the source,” ESO spokesman Richard Hook told via email. “ESO has no further comment to make at present.”

Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, a star much smaller and cooler than the sun. About three-quarters of all stars in the Milky Way galaxy are red dwarfs.

Proxima Centauri lies just 0.24 light-years from the two stars of Alpha Centauri, and many astronomers regard the red dwarf as part of the latter system.

In 2012, astronomers announced that La Silla’s High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher instrument, or HARPS, had spotted a rocky, roughly Earth-size planet around Alpha Centauri B. This world, known as Alpha Centauri Bb, circles its host star once every 3.2 days, and is therefore much too hot to support life, discovery team members said at the time.

However, a 2015 study found that the detected signal of Alpha Centauri Bb was merely an artifact and that the planet almost certainly does not exist.

To date, astronomers have discovered more than 3,200 confirmed alien planets, with NASA’s Kepler space telescope responsible for about two-thirds of the finds. Kepler’s work suggests that, on average, every star in the Milky Way hosts at least one planet.

Scientists may have found ‘fifth force of nature’

(ESA/Hubble & NASA)

(ESA/Hubble & NASA)

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), believe they have identified a “fifth force of nature.”

“If true, it’s revolutionary,” said Jonathan Feng, professor of physics and astronomy, in a press release. “For decades, we’ve known of four fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter.”

The physicists cite a “protophobic X boson” recently found by physicists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The mysterious particle, which interacts only with electrons and neutrons at a very limited range, dazzled scientists. “There’s no other boson that we’ve observed that has this same characteristic,” said Timothy Tait, professor of physics and astronomy at UCI. “Sometimes we also just call it the ‘X boson,’ where ‘X’ means unknown.”

The Hungarian physicists found the “protophobic X boson” during a search for “dark photons.” notes that dark photons are hypothetical indicators of dark matter, which is thought to make up 85 percent of all matter in the universe. However, dark matter’s inability to absorb or emit light makes it undetectable.

The 2015 study by the Hungarian physicists revealed a mysterious “radioactive decay anomaly that points to the existence of a light particle just 30 times heavier than an electron,” according to UCI.

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At the time of its discovery, the Hungarian researchers couldn’t claim that they had found a new force, according to Feng. “They simply saw an excess of events that indicated a new particle, but it was not clear to them whether it was a matter particle or a force-carrying particle,” he said.

The team at UCI updated the discovery using data from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences reseach and all previous experiments. After the evidence went against matter particles and dark photons they proposed a new theory that indicates a fifth fundamental force.

Feng added that there could be a separate dark sector with its own matter and forces. “It’s possible that these two sectors talk to each other and interact with one another through somewhat veiled but fundamental interactions,” he said.

The team’s initial analysis was published in late April on the public arXiv online server. An update was released Friday on the same website.

Newfound glow-in-the-dark fish identified

Two species of a bioluminescent deep-sea fish nicknamed "barreleyes" have been identified.

Two species of a bioluminescent deep-sea fish nicknamed “barreleyes” have been identified. (Poulsen et al. (2016))

With distinct tubular eyes and a natural glow, two species of bioluminescent deep-sea fish nicknamed “barreleyes” have been identified.

The newly described species are part of the family Opisthoproctidae. Barreleye fish are not well-described, due to the rareness and fragility of specimens, the researchers said.

These fish are “one of the most peculiar and unknown fish groups in the deep-sea pelagic realm, with only 19 morphologically disparate species,” the scientists wrote in their new study. [Bioluminescent: A Glow in the Dark Gallery]

However, the scientists were able to determine the two newfound species through comparisons of pigment patterns on the fish’s “sole.” This organ, found along the belly of some bioluminescent species, controls the light emitted from a different, internal organ. These two organs give the fish their glowing properties.

“The entire external surface of the sole is covered with large, thin scales showing gradually increasing pigmentation toward the distal parts, thereby functioning as a light screen when the reflector is contracted (no light emission) or expanded (light passes through the thin, transparent parts of the scales),” the researchers wrote in the study.

The fish scales’ pigment patterns show variation among species. The researchers took four specimens of a sole-bearing barreleye caught during recent research cruises near American Samoa and New Zealand and compared them to long-preserved specimens caught near the mid-Atlantic ridge and Australia. In doing so, the scientists found three different pigment patterns, suggesting three distinct species.


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Differences in mitochondrial DNA, the genetic material of the structure within cells that generates energy, supported this conclusion. This revealed that two of the specimen were, in fact, two previously unknown species in the resurrected genus Monacoa — a formerly removed genus name because only two sole-bearing fish were known, rendering the distinction trivial. The newfound species, M. niger and M. griseus, are found only in the Pacific, whereas the previously known species can be found only in the Atlantic, according to the study.

The researchers suggested that the light emitted via the sole may be used as a communication system, as well as for camouflage when the fish are in waters where sunlight penetrates.

“This new study on the deep sea has shown unknown biodiversity in a group of fishes previously considered teratological [abnormal] variations of other species,” Jan Poulsen, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “The different species of mirrorbelly-tube eyes can only be distinguished on pigmentation patterns that also constitute a newly discovered communication system in deep-sea fishes.”

The new findings were published Aug. 10 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Original article on Live Science. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Ancient Greek skeleton may be remains of human sacrifice to Zeus

The 3,000-year-old skeletal remains of a teenage male were found buried at an altar used for sacrifice on Mount Lykaion. Part of the skeleton's skull is missing, according to archaeologists.

The 3,000-year-old skeletal remains of a teenage male were found buried at an altar used for sacrifice on Mount Lykaion. Part of the skeleton’s skull is missing, according to archaeologists. (Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs)

A 3,000-year-old skeleton has been discovered at an altar dedicated to Zeus at Mount Lykaion in Greece, and archaeologists say the new finding may be the remains of a human sacrifice offered to the Greek god.

The discovery was announced Wednesday (Aug. 10) in a statement from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs.

Archaeologists from the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project excavated the skeleton, which appears to be that of a male teenager, this summer. Mount Lykaion is known to be the site of a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, the ancient Greek god of sky and thunder. [The 7 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

Since 2007, these researchers have been excavating a massive “ash altar” containing the remains of drinking cups, animal and human figurines, vases, coins, and a vast quantity of burnt animal offerings, most of which come from sheep and goats.

“Several ancient literary sources mention rumors that human sacrifice took place at the altar, but up until a few weeks ago, there has been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site,” excavation leader David Gilman Romano, a professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona, told the Associated Press.

The ancient writer Pausanias (A.D. 110-180) told of a legend he heard of a king named Lycaon who was turned into a wolf while sacrificing a child.


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“Lycaon brought a human baby to the altar of (Zeus) and sacrificed it, pouring out its blood upon the altar, and according to the legend, immediately after the sacrifice, he was changed from a man to a wolf,” Pausanias wrote in a book on the geography of Greece (translation from a “Description of Greece with an English Translation” by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, Harvard University Press, 1918).

Archaeologists told the Associated Press that they don’t know whether the teenager they found was sacrificed and that much of the altar has yet to be excavated.

“Whether it’s a sacrifice or not, this is a sacrificial altar … so it’s not a place where you would bury an individual. It’s not a cemetery,” Romano told the news agency, adding that the upper part of the teenager’s skull is missing.

Original article on Live Science. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A sixth success! SpaceX again lands rocket on a ship at sea

The first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket rests on the deck of a robotic ship called "Of Course I Still Love," seconds after touching down on Aug. 14, 2016.

The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rests on the deck of a robotic ship called “Of Course I Still Love,” seconds after touching down on Aug. 14, 2016. (SpaceX)

SpaceX has done it again.

The private spaceflight company landed its Falcon 9 rocket for the sixth time in the last eight months early Sunday morning, pulling off the feat during the successful launch of the JCSAT-16 commercial communications satellite.

The two-stage Falcon 9 lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:26 a.m. EDT Sunday, carrying JCSAT-16 toward a distant geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). [Photos: SpaceX Launches JCSAT-16 Satellite, Lands Rocket at Sea]

Less than 9 minutes later, the rocket’s first stage came back for a pinpoint landing on the deck of a robotic ship called Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.

A textbook touchdown had been anything but guaranteed.

“Given this mission’s GTO destination, the first stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing challenging,” SpaceX representatives wrote in a pre-launchJCSAT-16 press kit.

SpaceX first landed a Falcon 9 in December, during the launch of 11 satellites for the company Orbcomm. The company scored four more successes, along with three failures, through July; Sunday’s touchdown marked success number six.

These attempts are part of SpaceX’s effort to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets. Such technology could eventually cut the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 100, helping spur humanity’s spread out into the solar system, according to company founder and CEO Elon Musk. (Musk has said repeatedly that he started SpaceX back in 2002 primarily to help humanity colonize Mars.)

Four of the Falcon 9 landings have occurred on the “drone ship,” while the other two came down on terra firma, back at Cape Canaveral. The touchdown destination depends on the mission profile: Rockets that blast payloads toward distant destinations like GTO cannot carry enough fuel to make it all the way back to the launch site, so the ship is the only option, SpaceX representatives have said.

SpaceX has yet to re-fly any of the landed Falcon 9 first stages, but that milestone could happen as early as this autumn, Musk has said.

SpaceX’s rocket landings, while dramatic, have all been secondary objectives; the main goal of each mission has always been to get the payload to orbit. That was no different Sunday morning, as SpaceX was chiefly concerned with sending JCSAT-16 on its way.

The spacecraft was built by Space Systems Loral and will be used as an in-orbit backup by Sky Perfect JSAT Corp., a Tokyo-based satellite-communications provider.

SpaceX launched the JCSAT-14 satellite this past May, a liftoff that also featured a successful landing at sea.

Painting taken from Hitler’s wall by US soldier up for auction

The painting by Ernst Friedrich (Henry Aldridge and Son).

The painting by Ernst Friedrich (Henry Aldridge and Son).

A painting taken from the wall of Adolf Hitler’s headquarters in the Bavarian Alps by a U.S. soldier is up for auction in the U.K. later this month.

The oil painting by Ernst Friedrich was recovered from Hitler’s Berghof residence in May 1945 by Sgt. Herson Whitley of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division. “He obtained it by taking it off a wall in Hitlers [sic] retreat in Berchtesgaden at the end of the war,” explained Whitley’s daughter, in a letter that accompanies the painting. “Note there is a crack along the upper corner which my father said occurred during shipping it home from Europe.”


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Measuring 18 inches by 13 inches, the artwork depicts Wawel castle and cathedral in Krakow, Poland. The painting, which has a pre-sale estimate of $7,777 to $12,962, will be auctioned by Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, U.K., on Aug. 20.

Whitley was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and the Croix de Guerre for his wartime service.

In addition to the letter from Whitley’s daughter, the “provenance package” accompanying the picture includes the soldier’s medals, Dog Tags, patches and letters from his time serving in Europe.

“To be offering a piece of World War Two history of this calibre that hung in the residence of Adolf Hitler that was recovered by a decorated war hero with such superb provenance represents a rare opportunity for a collector,” auctioneer Andrew Aldridge of Henry Aldridge and Son, told

The auction house notes that Krakow was the administrative center of Nazi-occupied Poland. Hans Frank, Hitler’s lawyer and friend, was Governor General of Occupied Poland and lived at the Wawel castle. Frank was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials and executed.

Other artworks recovered from the Nazis during World War II have sparked controversy recently. Earlier this year research alleged that when artworks rescued by the famous Monuments Men were returned to the Bavarian state after the war, they were sold, including to some Nazi families, instead of being returned to the original Jewish owners.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Study gets to truth of one of ‘greatest scientific crimes ever’

A image of the Piltdown Man, supposedly a missing link in human evolution but actually a scientific hoax perpetrated in 1912.

A image of the Piltdown Man, supposedly a missing link in human evolution but actually a scientific hoax perpetrated in 1912. (AP Photo/Natural History Museum)

In 1912, an ambitious lawyer named Charles Dawson discovered a fossilized skeleton with the skull of a man but the jaws of an ape in a British gravel pit, theTelegraph reports.

For the next three decades, Eoanthropus dawsoni—better known as Piltdown Man, named for the location it was discovered—was seen as an important step in human evolution, a “missing link” between apes and humans.

In reality, it was “arguably the greatest scientific crime ever committed in Britain,” paleoanthropologist Isabelle De Groote writes in Scientific American. In a study published Wednesday in Royal Society Open Science, De Groote and her team believe they’ve finally solved once and for all who faked Piltdown Man by combining, carving, and dyeing human and orangutan bones.

After new scientific methods proved Piltdown Man was a fake in 1953, blame was placed alternately at the feet of Dawson, a British paleontologist, a priest who helped with the excavation, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes—or some combination thereof, Science reports.

An expert says Conan Doyle’s motivation would have been to get revenge on “the scientists who mocked him for expressing a belief in spiritualism.” But De Groote’s research puts the blame solely on Dawson, who likely worked alone.

She says Piltdown Man shows “evidence of one hand, one maker, one signature.” That maker is probably Dawson, who was found to have committed at least 38 forgeries and desperately wanted to be recognized by the scientific community.

(These real-life hobbit fossils are almost certainly not hoaxes.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Study Names Man Behind One of Great Scientific Hoaxes