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.”

THE RISE OF THE DINOSAURS MAY HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY VOLCANOES, NEW STUDY FINDS

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.

Rare woolly dog hair found in blanket

A tear in an ancient blanket has revealed a rare piece of local history.

Researchers with Seattle’s Burke Museum recently discovered a museum blanket containing extinct woolly dog fur.

Woolly dogs were raised by the endemic Coast Salish people for more than a thousand years. The Salish people raised the small, long-haired dogs as a source of hair for textile production. The dogs were raised in pens and kept from breeding with other dogs.

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The woolly dog’s hair was thick, and spun into yarn in a sophisticated practice, researchers with the Burke Museum said.

The dogs became extinct less than 150 years after the first European explorers landed on the Northwest Coast due to inbreeding, and the prevalence of easier weaving material.

Most objects containing the rare fur were lost or destroyed, researchers with the museum said. The blanket containing the fur would have remained obscure, researchers said, if not for a tear that revealed some of the hair.

“As soon as I saw the warp yarns exposed by the tear, I knew this was an unusual blanket,” said Liz Hammond-Kaarremaa, a Coast Salish spinning expert.

The blanket is made of multiple different materials, including woolly dog hair. It is the only object known in a Northwest museum confirmed to be made with the hair, researchers said.

This article first appeared in Q13Fox.

Lightning is more powerful over oceans

A new study shows lightning over the ocean--such as this strike in 2015 in California--can be much more powerful than that over land.

A new study shows lightning over the ocean–such as this strike in 2015 in California–can be much more powerful than that over land.  (Vern Fisher/The Monterey County Herald via AP)

It’s a popular myth that golfers account for most deaths from lightning strikes. In fact, the Palm Beach Post reports more than three times as many fishermen die from lightning strikes than golfers.

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters in February and recently getting some attention may explain why. Researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology found that lightning strikes over the ocean can be much more powerful than strikes over land.

It’s the first independent study to show what others have long believed, according to a press release. Researchers studied lightning over Florida and its coasts from 2013 to 2015, measuring the peak currents of the strikes.

They found strikes over the ocean carried more charge than those over land. In fact, they estimated that lightning with peak currents of more than 50 kilo amperes is more than twice as likely to occur over the ocean.

This could mean people living on or near the ocean may be at greater risk from lightning. Worth noting: Deaths from lightning strikes in Florida—a state with a whole lot of coastline—regularly outpace those in the rest of the country.

SpaceX’s Mars colony plan: How Elon Musk plans to build a million-person Martian city

Artist's illustration of a SpaceX colony ship arriving at Mars. The company aims to help establish a million-person city on the Red Planet.

Artist’s illustration of a SpaceX colony ship arriving at Mars. The company aims to help establish a million-person city on the Red Planet.  (SpaceX)

Elon Musk has put his Mars-colonization vision to paper, and you can read it for free.

SpaceX’s billionaire founder and CEO just published the plan, which he unveiled at a conference in Mexico in September 2016, in the journal New Space. Musk’s commentary, titled “Making Humanity a Multi-Planetary Species,” is available for free on New Space’s website through July 5.

“In my view, publishing this paper provides not only an opportunity for the spacefaring community to read the SpaceX vision in print with all the charts in context, but also serves as a valuable archival reference for future studies and planning,” New Space editor-in-chief (and former NASA “Mars czar”) Scott Hubbard wrote in a statement. [ SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport for Mars in Images ]

Musk’s Mars vision centers on a reusable rocket-and-spaceship combo that he’s dubbed the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). Both the booster and the spaceship will be powered by SpaceX’s Raptor engine, still in development, which Musk said will be about three times stronger than the Merlin engines that power the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

The booster, with its 42 Raptors, will be the most powerful rocket in history, by far. It will be capable of launching 300 metric tons (330 tons) to low Earth orbit (LEO), or 550 metric tons (600 tons) in an expendable variant, Musk said. For comparison, NASA’s famous Saturn V moon rocket, the current record holder, could loft “just” 135 metric tons (150 tons).

ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down for a pinpoint landing about 20 minutes later. And “pinpoint” is not hyperbole: “With the addition of maneuvering thrusters, we think we can actually put the booster right back on the launch stand,” Musk wrote in his New Space paper, citing SpaceX’s increasingly precise Falcon 9 first-stage landings .

The ITS boosters will launch many spaceships and fuel tankers (which will top up the spaceships’ tanks) to orbit over the course of their operational lives; the rockets will be designed to fly about 1,000 times each, Musk wrote. The spaceships, meanwhile, will hang out in orbit, and then depart en masse when Earth and Mars align favorably. This happens once every 26 months.

Eventually, Musk wrote, he envisions 1,000 or more ITS spaceships, each carrying 100 or more people, leaving Earth orbit during each of these Mars windows. The architecture could conceivably get 1 million people to Mars within the next 50 to 100 years, he has said.

The ships would also fly back from Mars, using their nine Raptor engines and methane-based propellant that was manufactured on the Red Planet. Each ITS ship would probably be able to make 12 to 15 deep-space journeys during its operational life, Musk wrote, and each fuel tanker could likely fly to Earth orbit 100 or so times.

The ITS’ reusability is key to making Mars colonization affordable . This reusability — combined with other measures, such as fueling the spaceships in Earth orbit and making propellant on Mars — could bring the price of a Red Planet trip down to $200,000 or so per person, from an estimated $10 billion using conventional spaceflight systems, Musk said.

ITS spaceships could begin flying to Mars about 10 years from now, if everything goes well, Musk added. But he acknowledged that success is far from guaranteed.

“There is a huge amount of risk. It is going to cost a lot,” Musk wrote. “There is a good chance we will not succeed, but we are going to do our best and try to make as much progress as possible.”

And SpaceX has a history of overcoming long odds. When Musk founded the company in 2002, he wrote, “I thought we had maybe a 10 percent chance of doing anything — of even getting a rocket to orbit, let alone getting beyond that and taking Mars seriously.”

You can download a free copy of Musk’s Mars paper here: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/space.2017.29009.emu

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+ . Follow us@Spacedotcom , Facebook or Google+ . Originally published on Space.com.

Ancient Aztec temple and ball court uncovered in Mexico City

Archaeologists have uncovered the remnants of a Aztec temple and ceremonial ball court in the heart of Mexico City, according to media reports.

According to Reuters, the discoveries were made on a side street behind a Roman Catholic cathedral off the Zocalo plaza. Included in the discovery was the foundation of a circular temple, which was dedicated to the Aztecian wind god Ehecatl, as well as a ball court, which confirmed the existenced of Spanhish conquerors.

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“Due to finds like these, we can show actual locations, the positioning and dimensions of each one of the structures first described in the chronicles,” said Diego Prieto, head of Mexico’s main anthropology and history institute told Reuters.

In addition, there were human remains found, as archaeologists uncovered 32 severed male neck vertebrae. Archaeologist Raul Barrer said that the remains came from victims “who were sacrificed or decapitated.”

The temple was built between 1486 and 1502, when Aztec Emperor Ahuizotl, the predecessor of Moctezuma, ruled the ancient civilization.

Once the excavation is completed, a museum will be built on the site.

Rare alligator gar caught in Indiana

An Indiana angler was surprised to reel in a prehistoric fish more than five feet long earlier this month.

One glance at the thick-scaled alligator gar in question could easily lead many to believe gators have moved beyond their storied home of Florida. But while an alligator gar is something entirely different than the reptile of the same name, it carries its own legend.

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So-called because of its toothy mouth and broad snout, the alligator gar is a fish that bears a   remarkable resemblance to four-legged alligators. According to National Geographic, they can grow to a length of up to 10 feet and weigh nearly 300 pounds. The fish captured was just over 5 feet and weighed 55 pounds.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says the fish aren’t normally found in Indiana waters. More common to the state are shortnose, longnose and spotted gar.

The rare catch is the first alligator gar verified by Indiana biologists in recent history. Indiana is at the northern edge of the fish’s historic range which includes much of the coastal U.S Southeast.

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A National Geographic profile states alligator gar “inhabit waters as far west as Texas and Oklahoma, as far north as the Mississippi River Basin and the lower Ohio and Missouri river systems, and southern drainages well into Mexico.”

The DNR is examining the fish to determine its age and source—nearby states Illinois and Kentucky have current alligator gar stocking programs. Indiana does not currently have a restoration program in place.

Despite the unusual catch, the bowfisherman who seized the alligator gar faces no legal action since Indiana has “no regulations on take of alligator gar.”

Who first saw the Ring Nebula? 238-year-old mystery is solved

A composite image of the Ring Nebula captured using data from the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona.

A composite image of the Ring Nebula captured using data from the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona.  (C. Robert O’Dell (Vanderbilt University)/David Thompson (LBTO)/NASA/ESA)

It turns out the iconic Ring Nebula was actually discovered by 18th century comet-hunter Charles Messier, a new study shows.

Until now, history has credited the discovery of this well-known nebula, also known as Messier 57 or NGC 6720, to 18th-century French astronomer Antoine Darquier. However, astronomers Donald Olson, a physics professor at Texas State University, and Giovanni Maria Caglieris of Italy re-evaluated the observation notes taken by Messier and Darquier, revealing a small discrepancy 238 years later.

The researchers found that Messier’s observation notes from Jan. 31, 1779, said that he spotted a “small patch of light” near the path of Bode’s comet, according to a statement from Texas State. [50 Amazing Deep-Space Nebulas (Photos)]

“In comparing the comet to β Lyrae on this morning, I observed in the telescope a small patch of light … this patch of light was round and was located between γ & β Lyrae,” Messier wrote in his notes, according to the statement. This patch of light was the same nebula Darquier later observed in February 1779.

Although Messier was the first to detect the Ring Nebula, history has credited Darquier as the founder, since Messier’s Catalogue states, “Darquier in Toulouse discovered this nebula, while observing the same comet,” in the description of M57, according to the statement. This description is what caused the discrepancy over who first discovered the Ring Nebula, researchers said.

“The confusion stems from language creep and lack of context,” Texas State representatives said in the statement. “Messier’s statement appears to be an endorsement of Darquier being the first person to spot the Ring Nebula. In the 18th century, however, ‘discover’ more commonly meant to simply discern something, a use that is almost obsolete today.”

“Alternatively, Messier could have used ‘discover’ to qualify Darquier’s observations as a later, independent discovery,” they added.

Darquier’s observation notes, along with a letter sent to Messier in September 1779, confirm that he was not the first to observe and record M57, as he wrote to Messier saying “he did not begin to observe the sky near the path of Bode’s comet until the second week of February,” according to the statement. Darquier began observing the region between stars β & γ Lyrae only after reading about Messier’s comet observations, the statement said.

The Ring Nebula is among Messier’s list of 110 deep-sky objects, which at the time was used to provide a list of objects for 18th century comet hunters to avoid. This nebula is located just over 2,000 light-years from Earth in the Lyra constellation and measures 1 light-year (about 6 trillion miles, or 10 trillion kilometers) across.

The researchers were able to determine who exactly discovered the iconic Ring Nebula using historical documents that only recently became widely available online. Their findings were published in the June 2017 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.

Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13 . Follow us @Spacedotcom , Facebook and Google+ . Original article on Space.com .