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 FoxNews.com.

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

Perseid meteor shower will be a rare, intense ‘outburst’ this year

An outburst of Perseid meteors lights up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image. Stargazers expect a similar outburst during next week’s Perseid meteor shower, which will be visible overnight on Aug. 11 and 12.

An outburst of Perseid meteors lights up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image. Stargazers expect a similar outburst during next week’s Perseid meteor shower, which will be visible overnight on Aug. 11 and 12. (NASA/JPL)

Astronomers are predicting that this year’s Perseid meteor shower should be a dramatic one.

That means that stargazers away from bright city lights should head outdoors Thursday night and very early Friday morning to recline and catch a glimpse of natural fireworks that could feature as many as 200 shooting stars each hour, according to NASA. The show is supposed to really kick off after midnight Friday morning.

The night spanning Friday, August 12 into Saturday, August 13, is also a good time to catch them, NASA says.

Want to see some “shooting stars?” You’re in luck! The Perseid meteor shower peaks Aug 11-12 http://go.nasa.gov/2bhmpHc 

While the Perseid meteor shower occurs annually in August, this one should be more intense than usual. Scientists describe it as an “outburst,” the last of which happened in 2009.

“Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of Aug. 11-12,” Bill Cooke, a meteor expert at NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement earlier this month. “Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”

The meteors are tiny, but are cruising at 132,000 miles per hour, NASA says. That means they burn up brightly— a sizzling 3,000 to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The particles were left behind by a comet called Swift-Tuttle.

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This year is expected to have such a bright display because the Earth is traveling through more debris from the comet, according to the space agency. The last time that comet passed proximate to Earth was in 1992, according to the Royal Astronomical Society, which said this year will be a “surge in activity” for the annual meteor shower.

On Thursday, #PerseidMeteorShower was even trending topic on Twitter.

NASA advises that people who want to catch the shooting star display should allow their eyes 45 minutes to adjust.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger

Greenland shark could have lived for up to 400 years, scientists say

Aug. 11, 2016: This undated photo shows a Greenland shark slowly swimming away from a boat, returning to the deep and cold waters of the Uummannaq Fjord in northwestern Greenland during a tag -and- release program in Norway and Greenland.

Aug. 11, 2016: This undated photo shows a Greenland shark slowly swimming away from a boat, returning to the deep and cold waters of the Uummannaq Fjord in northwestern Greenland during a tag -and- release program in Norway and Greenland. (Julius Nielsen via AP)

In the cold waters of the Arctic, a denizen of the deep lurked for centuries. Now scientists calculate that this female Greenland shark was the Earth’s oldest living animal with a backbone.

They estimated that the gray shark, part of the species named after Greenland, was born in the icy waters roughly 400 years ago, and died only recently. That conclusion puts the entire species at the top of the longevity list.

Using a novel dating technique, an international team of biologists and physicists estimated the age of 28 dead female Greenland sharks based on tissue in their eyes. Eight of the sharks were probably 200 years or older and two likely date back more than three centuries, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Until now, that record holder was a bowhead whale that hit 211 years old, according to study lead author Julius Nielsen and AnAge, an animal longevity database .

The oldest of the Greenland sharks examined was nearly 16.5 feet long (5 meters) and estimated to be 392 years old when it was caught around four years ago. But that calculation comes with a huge margin of error — plus or minus 120 years — due to the newness of the dating technique, said Nielsen, a marine biologist at the University of Copenhagen.

That means the shark was probably born sometime between 1500 and 1740 with the most likely birth year 1620.

“It’s an estimate. It’s not a determination,” Nielsen said. “It is the best we can do.”

Even at the lowest end of the margin error, the shark would have been 272 years old when it died, and still would be the longest-living animal with a backbone, Nielsen said. Other experts agreed.

Joao Pedro Magalhaes, a University of Liverpool aging researcher, said because the study is based on an indirect measurement he wouldn’t necessarily concentrate on exact numbers, especially when they exceed 400 years, where the upper end of the margin of error goes.

“But the study is convincing enough for us to say that these animals live way longer than human beings and possibly longer than any other vertebrate,” said Magalhaes, who runs the longevity database and wasn’t part of Nielsen’s team.

Some animals without backbones live longer. An ocean quahog, a clam, lived 507 years and two different types of sponges are said to survive for 15,000 and 1,500 years.

While not surprised that Greenland sharks live a long time, “I’m really shocked by the magnitude of that longevity,” wrote Christopher Lowe, director of the shark lab at California State University Long Beach. He wasn’t part of the study, but praised it as creative and compelling.

Greenland sharks love cold water — preferring temperatures near freezing — and are all over the Arctic. The cold water and the slow metabolism that comes with it might have something to do with their long lives, Nielsen said. Lowe, in an email, said “the rule of thumb is deep and cold = old when it comes to fishes.”

“I don’t know why they get as old, but I hope someone will find out,” Nielsen said.

For the age estimates, he uses a complex and indirect system that combines chemical tracking, mathematical modeling and growth measurements. He focuses on the shark eye lens. Those form while the shark is still developing inside the mother’s uterus and measures of carbon in them won’t change after birth, so it gives a good, rough sense of when the shark was born.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shark expert Allen Andrews said the dating method “is novel and is likely robust” but he said there are still a number of uncertainties.

Rare ‘whale fall’ spotted by deep-sea scientists

 Scientists aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus spotted these whale bones on the seafloor.

Scientists aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus spotted these whale bones on the seafloor. (NOAA)

A rare sight was recently captured by scientists aboard a deep-sea exploration vessel: the skeleton of a fallen whale. Researchers say these bony remains provide a feast of nutrients for sea creatures, including bone-eating “zombie worms.”

Newly released video footage from the Exploration Vessel Nautilus shows the whale bones on the seafloor, in what researchers term a natural “whale fall.”

“Coming across a natural whale fall is pretty uncommon,” a Nautilus researcher said in the video. “Most of the ones that have been studied have been sunk intentionally at a certain spot.” [Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Creatures]

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The ecological impacts of a whale fall are far-reaching. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whale carcasses provide a “sudden, concentrated food source and a bonanza for organisms in the deep sea.” Scavengers arrive on the scene first, consuming the soft tissue over the course of a few months, and the remaining detritus can enrich the ocean floor sediment for more than a year, NOAA said.

The whale skeleton itself is also a rich supplier of resources — particularly for a type of parasitic creature often referred to as zombie worms (Osedax roseus) because they feast on the dead.

“They burrow down into the bone and digest the lipids,” a Nautlius researcher said in the video.

According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the species was discovered feasting on a rotting gray whale carcass in 2002. In what could be considered an evolutionary hack to avoid searching for a mate, only female worms perform the necessary drilling to get to the fat within the bones.

“The males live inside the females — sometimes 100 males to one female,” Nautilus researchers said.

Skeletons from whale falls also serve as a hard substrate for invertebrate colonization. “It almost looks like a type of anemone,” the Nautlius researchers said, while observing a mysterious white orb on the whale’s jawbone.

Upon further inspection, though, the scientists said the orb was likely a coral making use of the surface.

Based on the shape of the whale jaw, the researchers speculated it was a baleen species, and could have been a juvenile, based on its relatively small size.

The new footage offers insights into the fate of a peculiar object that was spotted recently by an Australian fisherman. The strange, floating object turned out to be a bloated whale carcass, which scientists say will eventually result in a whale fall after it deflates and sinks to the seafloor.

The Exploration Vessel Nautilus, a 210-foot-long (64 meters) research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, is investigating the Southern California continental margin from July 24 to Aug. 12.

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

Stunning NASA video shows megarocket booster test in extreme slo-mo

NOW PLAYINGNASA shares stunning slow-mo video of massive rocket booster

You’ve never seen a rocket test quite like this. A new NASA video captures the eerie beauty of a massive rocket motor test in extreme slow-motion using an innovative new camera.

The video offers a spectacular view of the QM-2 test by the company Orbital ATK on June 28, which test-fired a full-scale version of the solid rocket booster that will help launch NASA’s new Space Launch System megarocket on missions into deep space. To capture the booster test in extreme detail, NASA engineers and scientists used what they call a High Dynamic Range Stereo X camera (or HiDyRS-X for short).

“Traditional high speed video cameras are limited to shooting in one exposure at a time, but HiDyRS-X can record multiple high speed video exposures at once, combining them into a high dynamic range video that adequately exposes all areas of the video image for comprehensive analysis,” NASA officials said in a video description. [How NASA’s SLS Megarocket Will Fly (Infographic)]

And the results are haunting.

When Orbital ATK test-fired the QM-2 solid rocket booster, the event lasted only 2 minutes. NASA’s HiDyRS-X video of the test, however, lasts 3 minutes. The test is already underway as the clip starts and is still going strong at the end. Brilliant swirls of superhot flame can be seen dancing about inside the rocket motor’s exhaust plume.

Orbital ATK’s QM-2 booster test was the second (and final) full-scale test of the solid rocket boosters to be used for NASA’s Space Launch System. The first test of QM-1 occurred in March 2015. Two of the boosters will be used to help launch the SLS rocket (which will have four main engines of its own) on missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

NASA plans to use the SLS rocket to launch its new Orion spacecraft on missions that will send astronauts on deep-space voyages to an asteroid, Mars and beyond. The first test flight of SLS and Orion is sheduled for launch in fall of 2018.

In our galaxy’s center, scientists see a void

An artist's conception of the implied distribution of young stars, represented here by Cepheids shown as blue stars, plotted on the background of a drawing of the Milky Way. With the exception of a small clump in the Galactic center, the central 8,000 light years appear to have very few Cepheids, and hence very few young stars.

An artist’s conception of the implied distribution of young stars, represented here by Cepheids shown as blue stars, plotted on the background of a drawing of the Milky Way. With the exception of a small clump in the Galactic center, the central 8,000 light years appear to have very few Cepheids, and hence very few young stars. (The University of Tokyo)

The Milky Way has a huge region that is evidently no place for youngsters. The center of our galaxy has an enormous void that surprisingly lacks young stars, astronomers announced last week.

Using a telescope in South Africa, the astronomers focused their study on a type of star called cepheids. These are youthful stars— just between 10 and 300 million years old, compared to the 4.6 billion years our Sun has under its belt. Cepheids are a key type of star for scientists to study, because they pulsate, and the pulsation time is linked to their brightness, allowing astronomers to figure out how far away the star is.

But when the scientists studied the inner part of our galaxy, they discovered a dearth of these young stars in a huge portion of the Milky Way’s center outside of its core.

“We already found some while ago that there are Cepheids in the central heart of our Milky Way (in a region about 150 light years in radius),” Noriyuki Matsunaga, a professor at the University of Tokyo and the leader of the team behind the discovery, said in a statement. “Now we find that outside this there is a huge Cepheid desert extending out to 8000 light years from the centre.”

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The finding gives scientists more information about the structure of our galaxy— an enormous spiral, made up of billions of stars, that measures about 100,000 light years across. The Earth is located about 26,000 light years from the center.

“The current results indicate that there has been no significant star formation in this large region over hundreds of millions years,” Giuseppe Bono, a coauthor of the new study, said in the statement. “The movement and the chemical composition of the new Cepheids are helping us to better understand the formation and evolution of the Milky Way.”

The study was published in the journal the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger

Whale as old as the Titanic spotted in Pacific

File photo of orcas off the coast of Washington. Neither is 'Granny,' but photos of her leaping from the water are at the Orca Network link in the summary.

File photo of orcas off the coast of Washington. Neither is ‘Granny,’ but photos of her leaping from the water are at the Orca Network link in the summary. (NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center via AP)

Whale watchers off the coast of Washington saw a welcome sight last week—a killer whale nicknamed “Granny” who is believed to be an astonishing 105 years old, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Granny’s more formal name among scientists who have studied her for decades is J2, and a post at the Orca Network uses both names in the original post about her sighting: “J2 Granny (oldest southern resident orca) looking gorgeous. She and J27 spent more time out of the water than in it!” The link includes multiple photos of her leaping from the water.

Female orcas typically live about 50 years, notes a post at the NOAA, but a rare few have been been known to reach 100. Granny appears to be in this category, or at least close to it.

As the Chronicle explains, researchers who first spotted her in 1971 pegged her age at 60. The Orca Network tells KIRO-TV that the margin of error is 12 years, meaning she could be a youthful 90.

Given the playful new images, she’s doing pretty well for a creature who, if the older figure is correct, entered the ocean around the same time as the Titanic and made it through two world wars, notes the Charlotte Observer.

Why, she’s even the honorary mayor of Eastsound, Washington, and you can read her June “mayoral address” here. (Researchers have found humpback whales deliberately save other creatures from killer whales.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Whale as Old as the Titanic Spotted in the Pacific