PHOTO: NASA shows dramatic picture of massive new Antarctic iceberg

Multiple NASA satellites have captured images of the dramatic and long-awaited birth of one of the largest icebergs ever recorded, which broke off an Antarctic ice shelf this week.

The enormous iceberg contains more than 1.1 trillion tons (1 trillion metric tons) of water and is about the size of Delaware. Its separation from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf occurred sometime between July 10 and today (July 12), and was first reported by scientists with the U.K.-based Project Midas, an Antarctic research group. The calving was confirmed by satellite images from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission. [How Satellites Watched the New Iceberg’s Birth Over Time]

Now, images from NASA satellites show the iceberg’s gradual separation from the ice shelf. The crack in the ice shelf that formed the iceberg was first observed in the early 1960s, but remained dormant for decades, according to a statement from NASA. The animation above includes images going back to 2006, collected by NASA and the United States Geologic Survey’s Landsat satellites.

The rift in the ice shelf began to spread northward at a significant rate in 2014, and its progress accelerated in 2016, leading scientists to assume it would eventually create a separate iceberg. Between June 24 and 27, the speed of rift tripled, according to scientists with the Midas Project.

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In November 2016, the rift was estimated to be about 300 feet (91 m) wide and 70 miles (112 km) long. Measurements from this summer put the rift at 124 miles (200 km) long.

The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite use thermal data to show temperature differences in the ice and seawater. In a false-color image taken today (July 12), the crack that created the iceberg is visible as a thin, pink line down the mostly purple ice sheet. The warmer temperature of the crack indicates that ocean water lies not far below the surface.

The Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) on the Landsat 8 satellite also captured temperature data on June 17. The false-color image shows the slightly warmer crack (light blue) running through the very cold ice shelf (mostly white). The image shows warmer areas in orange, including regions of very thin sea ice. [Landsat: Four Decades of Images and Data]

The Larsen C ice shelf is a floating ice shelf, which means the separation of the iceberg will not cause ocean levels to rise, unlike icebergs that calf from land-based ice shelves. Scientists with the Midas Project said they have not found evidence that the iceberg’s formation was directly caused by climate change. However, the scientists said in a statement that this is the farthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history, and they are “going to be watching very carefully for signs that the rest of the shelf is becoming unstable.”

Follow Calla Cofield @callacofield . Follow us @Spacedotcom , Facebook and Google+ . Original article on Space.com .

Dazzling auroras dance on the southern horizon in astronaut’s photo

The southern lights appear to dance on the horizon off the southern coast of Australia in a stunning new photo taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

The eye-catching image was taken on June 19, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory, and the shot captures a gorgeous cosmic interplay: a curved sliver of blue dawn light and the more diffuse green glow of the southern lights (also called the aurora australis), sliced through by one of the space station’s solar-panel-covered wings.

As is the case for its northerly counterpart, the aurora borealis (or northern lights), the otherworldly glow of the aurora australis is caused by collisions of particles high up in the atmosphere. Though most of these particles, which have been blasted off from the sun, are deflected by Earth’s magnetic field, some enter the South Pole. Once there, the particles smash into atmospheric gas, injecting the latter with a burst of extra energy. Then, the gas releases this extra energy in the form of light. [Aurora Photos: See Breathtaking Views of the Northern Lights]

But not all auroras glow green. Two factors determine their hue: the type of atmospheric gas that is smashed into, and the altitude at which these collisions occur. The aurora captured here is a result of oxygen gas releasing light 60 to 250 miles (100 to 400 kilometers) up, according to NASA. Nitrogen struck at higher altitudes makes the sky blaze red, while lower down, this results in a breathtaking blue-purple haze, as was the case in New Zealand skies in 2015, reported Yahoo News.

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But although they represent a spectacular scientific phenomenon, these sky spectacles have also inspired mystical explanations. For example, the Maori people of New Zealand’s North Island believe the red aurora australis is fire lit by spirits — a message that they’re returning home, ABC science reported in 2013.

Original article on Live Science.

Monster alligator steals fish off kid’s line in viral video

Bummer…

Everyone has lost a fish, but I’ll hazard a guess that few anglers have lost one like the kid in this video.

In the clip—first published in February—a boy named Connor has hooked a large redfish, and at first, everything seems to be going to plan. But then the man standing next to him says, “He’s right here.” Then the cameraman repeats, “He’s right here!” And the men were not referring to the redfish.

As Connor reels the fish toward the dock, a huge alligator suddenly appears in frame, swims up, and casually snatches the redfish.

Turning slightly, the gator moseys toward the far shore, with the hooked redfish hanging from its jaws. Finally, one of the men tells Connor, “Dude, you need to cut your line,” as the gator continues across the lake.

Ancient Roman concrete outperforms our own, and science only just worked out why

The Roman Empire may be long gone, but its architecture has stood the test of time — most notably, its insanely durable concrete, which has been hailed as the world’s strongest. The building material, which still remains intact and stronger than ever in many places, has long puzzled scientists who couldn’t fully explain why it was so remarkably strong, or why modern efforts to duplicate its strength have fallen flat. Now, new research suggests that the ancient concrete’s unique mixture had a little help from Mother Nature in becoming one of the best building materials humanity has ever known.

Roman concrete was typically made with a mixture of volcanic ash, rock, and lime, and while that recipe has been known for several years, scientists couldn’t pinpoint what it was that caused the combination to be so well suited for construction, especially on harbors and piers where modern concrete would deteriorate rather rapidly. By studying samples of the concrete and putting it through various tests, scientists working on the Roman Maritime Concrete Study were able to determine that a chemical reaction between the concrete and seawater was the missing piece.

When the seawater filtered through tiny cracks in the concrete it reacted with the concrete’s volcanic ingredients and produced a rare crystal called tobermorite. These crystals helped to further fuse the concrete together, adding strength and durability that modern concrete simply lacks.

The researcher is significant for a couple of reasons. First, finding a way to reliably produce tobermorite — which has a variety of industrial applications — is a huge plus. And, second, finally cracking the mystery of the concrete means that we’re one step closer to reproducing it, and in places where concrete is used in seawater, it would be the ideal material to use.

Human remains unearthed in biblical city, 3,200 years after it was destroyed by ancient Egyptians

Archaeologists in Israel discovered the ancient bodies in the biblical city of Gezer, more than 3,000 years after its destruction by ancient Egyptians.

The 33-acre Tel Gezer archaeological site is located in the foothills of the Judean Mountains in central Israel and continues to fascinate experts. The ancient city of Gezer is mentioned in the biblical account of King Solomon’s fortifications, as well as in several ancient Egyptian and Assyrian texts.

Excavations this summer revealed the remains of three people in a building destroyed by an ancient Egyptian army. “This past season we uncovered a building dating to the end of the 13th century BC that was violently destroyed,” explained Prof. Steven Ortiz, Professor at the Tandy Institute for Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in an email to Fox News.

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The destruction is associated with the “Merneptah campaign,” when the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah attacked Gezer, according to Ortiz, who co-directed the excavation with Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority. At the time of the attack, Gezer was part of the ancient Canaanite civilization.

The Israeli website Haaretz reports that the remains of two adults and a child, the latter wearing earrings, were discovered in a building in the south of the ancient city.

One adult and the child were found under a 3.3-foot layer of ash and burnt bricks in a room of the building, according to Haaretz. The adult, who was so badly burnt that the sex could not be determined, was lying on its back with its arms above its head.

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Other artifacts found in the room include a table, storage jars, a grinding stone and a large earthenware jar.

The skeletal remains of the second adult were found beneath rubble in another room within the complex, Haaretz reports. Other items in that room included a 13th century B.C. amulet and cylinder seals.

The finds, Ortiz says, show the importance of the ancient city of Gezer and provide evidence of Egyptian military campaigns at the end of the late Bronze Age. The city was strategically located at a crucial crossroads guarding the pass from the coast up to Jerusalem.

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The Tandy Institute for Archaeology has made 10 excavations at the site, starting in 2006, and  uncovered a King Solomon-Era palace last year.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Archaeologists find tunnel that may emulate underworld

What would make the discovery of a secret passageway under Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Moon even more intriguing? A theory that the tunnel was used to emulate the underworld, to start.

CT scans performed by archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History in June indicate that a tunnel about 30 feet underground spans from the pre-Aztec pyramid to the middle of its outer central square, reports Live Science.

They say it’s possible the tunnel was used for ritualistic purposes, such as ceremonies marking the different agricultural cycles. “The function of the tunnel may have been to reproduce the underworld, a world where life, animals, and plants originated,” says archaeologist Verónica Ortega, per the International Business Times. Construction began on the Pyramid of the Moon in 100 BC; it was initially a small platform that grew in stages over roughly 500 years to a height of 150 feet. The pyramid is believed to have been the site of human sacrifices and other grisly rituals, indicated by its tombs holding human and animal remains. Researchers believe the tunnel below it may contain artifacts that reveal more about the ancient civilization, but further investigation is needed to confirm the tunnel’s existence before it can be explored. A passageway below the Temple of the Sun, Teotihuacan’s largest pyramid, was discovered in the ’70s but had been looted several centuries prior. An interesting side note from the AP: In contrast to other ancient Mexican sites, no remains believed to belong to Teotihuacan’s rulers have ever been uncovered. (Meanwhile, a 3,000-year-old prosthetic toe was found in Egypt).

This article originally appeared on Newser: Archaeologists Find Tunnel That May Emulate Underworld

Early church discovered on UK Holy Island, may be linked to medieval saints

Archaeologists have discovered an early medieval church on the remote Holy Island of Lindisfarne that could be linked to key figures in the history of British Christianity.

“We’re just really excited because, potentially, it’s evidence of the earliest church on the island and it’s linked to historical figures like St. Aidan and St. Oswald,” Sara Rushton, conservation manager of Northumberland County Council, told Fox News.

Rushton explained that the church may have been built as early as the mid-seventh century A.D., possibly around the year 650. The island off the coast of North East England is an important site in British Christianity – St. Aidan established a monastery on the island in 635 A.D, which became an international center for learning and craftsmanship before it was ransacked by Viking raiders in the late 8th Century. The monastery was re-established in the 11th century.

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Rushton explained that, while the church could date from the seventh to the ninth centuries, there are plenty of hints that it was built in the early part of the island’s history. A stone, possibly an altar stone, was found at the east end of the church, a feature of northern British churches before 671 A.D, according to Rushton. “The other reason we think it might be earlier is because of the style of the stonework – it’s very crude” she said, noting that it lacks the refinement seen in later churches.

The church’s location on a steep, rocky narrow ridge that runs across the northern end of the island also provides a clue. “It’s the type of location that appealed to the Celtic church,” said Rushton.

Additionally, the church’s position may have been chosen to face Bamburgh Castle on the nearby coast. Bamburgh was the royal court of St. Oswald of Northumbria, a Saxon king credited with helping spread Christianity in the region.

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“Because it’s high they looked across to Bamburgh castle,” said Rushton, who believes that the potential church discovery cements Holy Island as one of the most important early medieval sites in Britain.

Until this summer archaeologists thought that the early churches on the island were located elsewhere. Like Holy Island’s monastery, it was thought that the churches were in the shelter of the rocky narrow ridge, known as ‘The Heugh.’

Last year excavations on the western part of the ridge revealed a massive foundation wall that archaeologists speculate is part of a watch tower.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Ancient land-dwelling crocodile had T. rex sized teeth, study shows

A new study has finally shed light on a mysterious, jaw fragment discovered on Madagascar years ago. It is from an ancient crocodile, nearly 24-feet in length, with teeth like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The study, published in the journal PeerJ, highlights the creature, identified as Razanandrongobe sakalavae, as an enormous crocodile ancestor. The ancient croc likely walked on land, hunting its prey with its massive teeth and jaws.

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Put together by researchers Cristiano Dal Sasso​​, Giovanni Pasini, Guillaume Fleury and Simone Maganuco​, the study notes that the teeth are “remarkably large [i.e., even larger than the largest denticles in large-bodied theropods, Tyrannosaurus rex included].”

The longest tooth found was 15 cm (5.9 inches) in length. By comparison, the longest T. rex tooth ever found was 12 inches, though they often vary in length.

R. sakalavae means “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region.”

“Razanandrongobe sakalavae is the largest terrestrial carnivore from this Middle Jurassic terrestrial ecosystem and was perhaps one of the top predators in Madagascar at the time,” the study’s conclusion reads. “Its jaws were extremely robust and high, but possibly short, and bore large teeth with serrated edges resembling those of theropod dinosaurs. Many features of this species strongly suggest that it fed also on hard tissue such as bone and tendon.”

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It is the oldest and largest known “notosuchian,” a suborder of Gondwanan mesoeucrocodylian crocodylomorphs that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. It predates other members of the species by 42 million years.

The fossils are from the mid-Jurassic period, approximately 166 million years ago. They were first found in the early 1970s, with other parts of the Razana skull found later. The findings were made after the fossils were made available to the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Toulouse, France, where they were then analyzed and reconstructed. They had been previously part of a private collection.

The skull was reconstructed using a CT scan, as well as using 3-D printers to print out missing bone fragments, using mirror images of existing fragments.

Moon has a close encounter with Saturn on Thursday night

Skywatchers have a rare chance to easily locate Saturn as it passes close by the moon Thursday night (July 6), its famous rings wide open to our line of sight.

Next to the moon, the object that most people want to see in a telescope is the ringed planet Saturn, I’ve found — yet even folks who own a telescope often express in somewhat exasperated tones that they have yet to see it. Their chief problem is making a positive identification. Certainly, there is no such problem in finding the moon and some of the other bright naked-eye planets.

Case in point: Right now Jupiter can be immediately identified high in the west-southwest sky soon after sunset; it’s by far, the brightest star-like object in our current evening sky. There is no mistaking Venus’ great brilliance , now glowing low in the east just before sunrise. And when Mars is close to Earth and bright (as will be the case at this time next year), skywatchers can immediately recognize it by its distinctive fiery orange color.[ The Brightest Planets in July’s Night Sky: How to See them (and When) ]

Yet to the naked eye there really isn’t anything distinctive about Saturn.

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The ringed planet appears as a bright “star” shining with a steady, sedate yellow-white glow, but it isn’t as eye-catching as Venus or Jupiter. Indeed, I suspect that many neophytes to astronomy likely have passed over it visually without knowing exactly what it is. Some nearby benchmark would certainly help to guide one to it.

Well…Thursday is “benchmark night!”

About 1 hour after sunset, look toward the south-southeast sky. Roughly one-quarter up from the horizon to the point overhead will be a nearly full moon , 96 percent illuminated by the sun. (The moon will officially turn full during the overnight hours late next Saturday night, July 8.)

Hovering less than 3 degrees below the moon you’ll see a bright, yellowish-white “star” shining with a steady glow. And that will be Saturn.

How easy is that?

With Saturn properly identified, if you have a telescope and have never seen the “lord of the rings,” you can finally catch a glimpse. Any telescope magnifying more than 30-power will show the rings. They consist of billions of particles ranging in size from sand grains to flying mountains, which are made of — or covered by — water ice. This would account for their very high reflectivity. The reason that “rings” is plural and not singular is that gaps of brightness differences define distinct sets of rings.

Right now, the north side of the rings is tilted 26.7-degrees toward Earth. They haven’t been this wide open since June of 2003, so now is a great time to check them out.

And if clouds hide your view of Saturn and the moon, don’t fret. You’ll have another chance to see moon near to Saturn (though not as close as on Thursday) on Wednesday evening (Aug. 2).

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for Fios1 News in Rye Brook, New York. Follow us @Spacedotcom , Facebook and Google+ . Original article on Space.com .

Texas alligator lassoed after trespassing on cattle ranch

East Texas cowboys are seen in a video roping a monster-size alligator threatening livestock.

Cattle rancher Hal Canover rounded up a group of friends when the 10-foot creature wandered onto his land in Hawkins last week, Fox 4 Dallas reports.

“He was a dangerous one,” Conover said. “But he was leaving the place — dead or alive.”

Canover and his buddies lassoed the beast and then waited for help.

Licensed alligator trappers showed up to haul it away.

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The alligator wasn’t willing to go easy.

During the struggle to get the alligator into a trailer one of the trappers was bitten.

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Conover said the man’s injury was only a flesh wound.

The alligator was driven Gator Farms in Grand Saline, according to the station.