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SpaceX launches 14th batch of Starlink internet satellites in fast-growing fleet - CBS News
It was the first of two planned Starlink launchings in just three days.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fired 60 more Starlink internet relay satellites into orbit Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center with another set awaiting launch Wednesday from the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. With Sunday's flight, SpaceX has now launched 835 Starlinks in a rapidly-expanding global network that eventually will feature thousands of commercial broadband beacons delivering high-speed internet to any point on Earth. To reach that goal, the company plans to launch at least 120 new Starlinks every month. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center early Sundayt carrying another 60 Starlink internet satellites to orbit. William Harwood/CBS News The latest Starlink mission, SpaceX's 14th, got underway at 8:26 a.m. EDT when the Falcon 9's nine first stage engines ignited with a burst of flame, pushing the slender rocket away from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center atop 1.7 million pounds of thrust. Making it's sixth flight, the first stage propelled the rocket out of the dense lower atmosphere and then fell away and headed for landing an offshore droneship. Touchdown marked SpaceX's 62nd successful booster recovery since December 2015, its 42nd at sea. Less than a minute after stage separation, the two halves of the rocket's nose cone fairing, both veterans of two earlier missions, fell away for parachute descents to capture netting aboard waiting recovery ships. Both were successfully recovered, although one appeared to break through its netting, possibly hitting the deck of its ship. The second stage, meanwhile, pressed ahead to orbit and after two firings of its vacuum-rated Merlin engine, all 60 Starlinks were released to fly on their own about an hour after liftoff. None the worse for six trips to space and back, a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage carried out a pinpoint landing on a company droneship after helping launch another batch of Starlink internet satellites. SpaceX Sunday's launch marked SpaceX's second Falcon 9 flight since October 2 when a last-second abort blocked launch of a Space Force Global Positioning System navigation satellite. That flight remains on hold while company engineers assess an apparent issue with engine turbopump machinery. SpaceX has not provided any details about how the engines used Sunday and those used during a Starlink flight October 18 might be different from those used for the GPS mission. Likewise, there's been no word from SpaceX or NASA on whether the engine issue poses any threat to the planned launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station atop a Falcon 9 next month. Sunday's launch was the 18th Falcon 9 flight so far this year, the 95th since the rocket's debut in 2010, the 98th counting three launches of the triple-core Falcon Heavy. The Falcon 9 has suffered two catastrophic failures, one in flight and one during pre-launch testing.
Studies find COVID-19 coronavirus can survive 28 days on some surfaces, 11 hours on skin - CBS News
Research shows the virus can remain "extremely robust" for longer than thought on some items, but infected people, not things, are still deemed the biggest threat.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can survive on items such as banknotes and phones for up to 28 days in cool, dark conditions, according to a study by Australia's national science agency. Researchers at CSIRO's disease preparedness centre tested the longevity of SARS-CoV-2 in the dark at three temperatures, showing survival rates decreased as conditions became hotter, the agency said Monday. The scientists found that at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, SARS-CoV-2 was "extremely robust" on smooth surfaces — like cell phone and other touch screens — surviving for 28 days on glass, steel and plastic banknotes. At 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the survival rate dropped to seven days and plunged to just 24 hours at 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Alarming spike of COVID-19 cases across the U...01:37 The virus survived for shorter periods on porous surfaces such as cotton — up to 14 days at the lowest temperatures and less than 16 hours at the highest — the researchers said. This was "significantly longer" than previous studies which found the disease could survive for up to four days on non-porous surfaces, according to the paper published in the peer-reviewed Virology Journal. A separate piece of research published this week by Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan found the new coronavirus is unusually durable on human skin, too, surviving for up to 11 hours. That compares to about two hours of expected longevity for the influenza A (flu) virus on skin. The Japanese researchers said this durability "may increase the risk of contact transmission… thus accelerating the pandemic." The authors said in their study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, that the findings underscore the importance of hand-washing and disinfecting. Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, said their study involved drying samples of the virus on different materials before testing them, using an "extremely sensitive" method that found traces of live virus able to infect cell cultures. "This doesn't mean to say that that amount of virus would be capable of infecting someone," he told public broadcaster ABC. He added that if a person was "careless with these materials and touched them and then licked your hands or touched your eyes or your nose, you might well get infected upwards of two weeks after they had been contaminated." Critical for "risk mitigation" Drew said there were several caveats including that the study was conducted with fixed levels of virus that likely represented the peak of a typical infection, and there was an absence of exposure to ultraviolet light, which can rapidly degrade the virus. Humidity was kept steady at 50 percent, the study said, as increases in humidity have also been found as detrimental to the virus. According to the CSIRO, the virus appears to primarily spread through the air but more research was needed to provide further insights into the transmission of the virus via surfaces. CDC says COVID-19 is "sometimes" airborne04:15 "While the precise role of surface transmission, the degree of surface contact and the amount of virus required for infection is yet to be determined, establishing how long this virus remains viable on surfaces is critical for developing risk mitigation strategies in high contact areas," CSIRO's Debbie Eagles said. The main message remains that "infectious people are far, far more infectious than surfaces", Drew told the ABC. "But nevertheless, it may help to explain why even when we got rid of the infectious people, we do occasionally get these breakouts again, sometimes even in a country which is considered to be free," he said.
NASA expert identifies mystery object once thought an asteroid - CBS News
Asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, appears to be a Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA's Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded.
The jig may be up for an "asteroid" that's expected to get nabbed by Earth's gravity and become a mini moon next month. Instead of a cosmic rock, the newly discovered object appears to be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing mission 54 years ago that's finally making its way back home, according to NASA's leading asteroid expert. Observations should help nail its identity. "I'm pretty jazzed about this," Paul Chodas told The Associated Press. "It's been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I've been doing it for decades now." Chodas speculates that asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, is actually the Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA's Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded. The lander ended up crashing into the moon after one of its thrusters failed to ignite on the way there. The rocket, meanwhile, swept past the moon and into orbit around the sun as intended junk, never to be seen again — until perhaps now. This September 20, 1966, photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum shows an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP A telescope in Hawaii last month discovered the mystery object heading our way while doing a search intended to protect our planet from doomsday rocks. The object promptly was added to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center's tally of asteroids and comets found in our solar system, just 5,000 shy of the 1 million mark. The object is estimated to be roughly 26 feet based on its brightness. That's in the ballpark of the old Centaur, which would be less than 32 feet long including its engine nozzle and 10 feet in diameter. What caught Chodas' attention is that its near-circular orbit around the sun is quite similar to Earth's — unusual for an asteroid. "Flag number one," said Chodas, who is director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The object is also in the same plane as Earth, not tilted above or below, another red flag. Asteroids usually zip by at odd angles. Lastly, it's approaching Earth at 1,500 mph, slow by asteroid standards. As the object gets closer, astronomers should be able to better chart its orbit and determine how much it's pushed around by the radiation and thermal effects of sunlight. If it's an old Centaur — essentially a light empty can — it will move differently than a heavy space rock less susceptible to outside forces. That's how astronomers normally differentiate between asteroids and space junk like abandoned rocket parts, since both appear merely as moving dots in the sky. There likely are dozens of fake asteroids out there, but their motions are too imprecise or jumbled to confirm their artificial identity, said Chodas. Sometimes it's the other way around. A mystery object in 1991, for example, was determined by Chodas and others to be a regular asteroid rather than debris, even though its orbit around the sun resembled Earth's. Asteroid hunter Carrie Nugent of Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, said Chodas' conclusion is "a good one" based on solid evidence. She's the author of the 2017 book "Asteroid Hunters." "Some more data would be useful so we can know for sure," she said in an email. "Asteroid hunters from around the world will continue to watch this object to get that data. I'm excited to see how this develops!" Chodas predicts the object will spend about four months circling Earth once it's captured in mid-November, before shooting back out into its own orbit around the sun next March. He doubts the object will slam into Earth — "at least not this time around."
Astronomers find "northern lights" surrounding Rosetta's famous comet for the first time - CBS News
Scientists have found a glowing aurora surrounding the famous comet Chury.
Astronomers have previously spotted glowing auroras surrounding planets, as well as Jupiter's moons — but now, for the first time, they've found the dancing light show on a comet. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — Chury for short — which was studied by the Rosetta comet hunter from 2014 to 2016, appears to have its own far-ultraviolet aurora, NASA said Monday. It marks the first time such electromagnetic emissions have been detected on a celestial object that is not a planet or moon, scientists wrote in a new study in the journal Nature Astronomy. Aurora, known as the northern and southern lights, are created on Earth from electrically charged particles zooming from the sun to the upper atmosphere — generating a stunning multicolored glow in the sky. Jupiter and some of its moons, along with Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Mars have all experienced their own version of the spectacular light show. But Chury marks the first time astronomers have documented the phenomenon in a comet. This animation comprises 24 montages based on images acquired by the navigation camera on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko between Nov. 19 and Dec. 3, 2014. ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM According to NASA, Rosetta, which launched in 2004, was the most traveled and accomplished comet hunter in the space program. It studied Chury's gas, dust and plasma environment, taking some pretty epic photos along the way, until its mission came to a successful end in September 2016 — when it deliberately and dramatically crash-landed into the comet. When studying data from the mission, scientists originally interpreted the aurora as "dayglow" or "nightglow," which occurs when photons of light interact with gas from the comet's nucleus, known as the coma. But a closer look at the data has revealed something much more unique. "The glow surrounding 67P/C-G is one of a kind," lead author Marina Galand, from Imperial College London, said in a news release. "By linking data from numerous Rosetta instruments, we were able to get a better picture of what was going on. This enabled us to unambiguously identify how 67P/C-G's ultraviolet atomic emissions form." A view of the Northern Lights on Earth. "Rosetta is the first mission to observe an ultraviolet aurora at a comet," Matt Taylor, ESA project scientist, said in a statement. "Auroras are inherently exciting — and this excitement is even greater when we see one somewhere new, or with new characteristics". In this case, the electrons streaming out from the sun are interacting with the comet's gases to break apart water and other molecules. The result is a far-ultraviolet light that is invisible to the naked eye. "Since this process is very high energy, the resulting glow is also highly energized and therefore in the ultraviolet range, which is invisible to the human eye," said co-author Martin Rubin, from the University of Bern Physics Institute. Understanding the comet's aurora will help scientists better understand weather, specifically solar wind, throughout the solar system in order to protect future satellites and spacecraft — and even astronauts traveling to the moon and Mars. Scientists plan to continue digging through data from the Rosetta mission for even more hidden treasures. "Rosetta is the gift that keeps on giving," said co-author Paul Feldman, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "The treasure trove of data it returned over its two-year visit to the comet have allowed us to rewrite the book on these most exotic inhabitants of our solar system — and by all accounts, there is much more to come."
Astronomers find possible sign of life on Venus - CBS News
Telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted traces of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life.
Traces of a rare molecule known as phosphine have been found in the hellish, heavily acidic atmosphere of Venus, astronomers announced Monday — providing a tantalizing clue about the possibility of life. Phosphine molecules found on Earth are primarily a result of human industry or the actions of microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments. The researchers are not claiming life has been detected on the second planet from the sun. But the observations suggest at least the possibility of microbial activity in the upper layers of Venus' atmosphere, well away from the planet's inhospitable surface. "We have detected a rare gas called phosphine in the atmosphere of our neighbor planet Venus," said Jane Greaves, a professor at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and lead author of a report published in Nature Astronomy. "And the reason for our excitement is that phosphine gas on Earth is made by microorganisms that live in oxygen-free environments. And so there is a chance that we have detected some kind of living organism in the clouds of Venus." A false-color image of Venus as captured by the Ultraviolet Imager aboard Japan's Venus Climate Orbiter (Akatsuiki). JAXA Even so, the team said, much more study is needed to support any such claim, extraordinary as it would be. "In order to make this quite extraordinary claim that there might be life there, we really have to rule everything out, and that's why we're very cautious saying we're not claiming there's life, but claiming there's something that is really unknown and it might be life," said team member William Bains, a researcher at MIT. Sara Seager, a fellow MIT scientist who studies exoplanet atmospheres, agreed, saying "we are not claiming we have found life on Venus." "We are claiming the confident detection of phosphine gas whose existence is a mystery," she said. "Phosphine can be produced by some (non-biological) processes on Venus, but only in such incredibly tiny amounts it's not enough to explain our observation. So we're left with this other exciting, enticing possibility: that perhaps there is some kind of life in Venus' clouds." Mars has long been considered the best candidate in the solar system beyond Earth to have hosted microbial life in the distant past or even in the present, as suggested by background levels of methane. NASA, the European Space Agency, China, India, Russia and United Arab Emirates are all pursuing exploration of the red planet in one form or another. NASA also is planning a flagship mission to study the moons of Jupiter. Scientists believe one of the planet's largest and best-known moons, Europa, heated by tidal stresses and gravitational interactions with other moons, harbors a salty, possibly habitable ocean beneath its icy crust. Other frozen moons in the outer solar system, possible "water worlds," are also candidates for study. But Venus is the victim of a runaway greenhouse effect in which thick clouds in a mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere trap sunlight, producing temperatures at the surface that soar to nearly 900 degrees, hot enough to melt lead. In the planet's upper atmosphere, however, temperatures are much more hospitable. Despite the acidic nature of the clouds, scientists have speculated it may be possible for alien microbes to exist. Phosphine is to Venus as methane is to Mars? 20 parts-per-million of phosphine have been detected in the temperate clouds of Venus, and its source is not evident. Greaves et al.: https://t.co/aZhuAXkNdZpic.twitter.com/a3sFW6qXoS — Nature Astronomy (@NatureAstronomy) September 14, 2020 "The surface conditions there today are really hostile, the temperature is enough to melt our landers," Greaves said. "But it's thought that much earlier in Venus' history the surface was much cooler and wetter and life possibly could have originated. "There is a long-standing theory that some of the smallest forms of life might have been able to evolve upwards into the high clouds. Conditions there are certainly not nice, they're extremely acidic and it's very windy, but on the other hand, if you're talking about 50 to 60 kilometers up, then the pressure is much like it is on the surface of the Earth and the temperature's quite nice, maybe up to about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. So it's been hypothesized that this is a living habitat today." Greaves' team studied spectra of Venus' atmosphere using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and 45 radio telescope antennas in the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile and were surprised to see unmistakable signs of phosphine. "It was a shock," Greaves said. The detection was rewarded with additional observing time on the ALMA array and "in the end, we found that both observatories had seen the same thing, faint absorption at the right wavelength to be phosphine gas, where the molecules are backlit by the warmer clouds below," Greaves said in a statement. Only trace amounts were observed, about 20 molecules per billion. But additional research showed natural sources of phosphine — volcanoes, lightning, minerals blown up into the atmosphere, the action of sunlight — would only generate one ten thousandth the amount actually detected. The team can rule out many non-biological ways to generate the observed levels of phosphine, but that doesn't mean life is the only explanation. The atmosphere of Venus is 90% sulfuric acid, raising "many questions, such as how any organisms could survive," said MIT researcher Cara Sousa Silva. "On Earth, some microbes can cope with up to about 5% of acid in their environment, but the clouds of Venus are almost entirely made of acid," she said. Greaves' team is awaiting additional telescope time to look for signs of other gases associated with biological activity and to determine the temperature of the clouds where the phosphine is present to gain additional insights. Ultimately, future visits by spacecraft likely will be needed to fully resolve the question. "There can always be something we overlooked," said Seager. "Ultimately, the only thing that will answer this question for us — is there life, is there not life — is actually going to Venus and making more detailed measurements for signs of life and maybe life itself." Spotting Venus20 photos
An asteroid will pass extremely close to Earth the day before the election - CBS News
The object has only a tiny chance of reaching Earth's atmosphere — but NASA isn't worried.
An asteroid is due to pass extremely close to Earth, just ahead of Election Day in November. But there's no reason to worry — NASA says this space rock poses no risk to our planet. Asteroid 2018 VP1 will zoom past Earth on November 2, one day before Americans vote for the next president. In a year where unpredictable disasters have seemingly become routine, NASA is working hard to calm fears of a potential collision. According to the space agency, even if this asteroid did hit Earth's atmosphere, it would be too small to do any damage. "Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth!," NASA Asteroid Watch tweeted Sunday. "It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet's atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size." Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth! It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet’s atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size. — NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) August 23, 2020 Scientists at the Zwicky Transient Facility at Caltech's Palomar Observatory discovered the asteroid in 2018. Since then, they've struggled to track its location and trajectory due to its small size. NASA researchers have been formally cataloging "near-Earth objects" since 1998, discovering around 19,000 of them so far. None of the known objects that could be potentially hazardous to the planet are on track to pass Earth in the near future. In fact, asteroids fly past Earth all the time — sometimes without us even knowing it. Just last week, an asteroid became the closest ever recorded, flying within 1,830 miles of Earth, and scientists weren't even aware of its existence until hours it had already passed our planet.
Mars helicopter reaches "big milestone" on flight to planet - CBS News
NASA announced that the Mars Ingenuity helicopter is alive and well and was successfully recharged while in mid-spaceflight.
So far, so good for the small helicopter that is poised to become the first to fly in outer space. NASA announced that the Mars Ingenuity helicopter is alive and well and was successfully recharged while in mid-spaceflight. Ingenuity is currently positioned in the belly of the Perseverance rover, which launched last month on a historic mission to the red planet. NASA announced that the rover's power supply successfully brought the rotorcraft's six lithium-ion batteries to a charge of 35% -- the optimal level to keep the batteries healthy during the cruise to Mars. "This was a big milestone, as it was our first opportunity to turn on Ingenuity and give its electronics a 'test drive' since we launched on July 30," said Tim Canham, the operations lead for Mars Helicopter. "Since everything went by the book, we'll perform the same activity about every two weeks to maintain an acceptable state of charge." Once Perseverance touches down on Mars, the batteries will be charged by the helicopter's solar panel, NASA said. If Ingenuity can withstand the cold Martian nights, the team will go forward with test flights. The Mars Ingenuity helicopter in a NASA video demonstration. NASA "This charge activity shows we have survived launch and that so far we can handle the harsh environment of interplanetary space," said project manager MiMi Aung. "We have a lot more firsts to go before we can attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet, but right now we are all feeling very good about the future." The 4-pound helicopter will attempt to fly solo a few months after the rover touches down on Mars. It will first try to rise 10 feet into the planet's extremely thin atmosphere and fly forward up to 6 feet. With each attempt, it will try to go a little higher and farther. "It really is like the Wright brothers' moment," Aung said last month before the launch.
New dinosaur closely related to the Tyrannosaurus rex discovered in England - CBS News
The rare bones were found by amateur fossil hunters on the Isle of Wight.
Scientists have discovered what they believe to be a new species of theropod dinosaur — making it a close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex. A group of researchers said they recently uncovered rare bones in the U.K. that appear to be related to the iconic species. Paleontologists at the University of Southampton said they recently analyzed four bones on the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of mainland England. The bones are from the neck, back and tail of the new dinosaur, named Vectaerovenator inopinatus. The Vectaerovenator inopinatus, which is believed to have grown to around 13 feet long, roamed the Earth during the Cretaceous period, about 115 million years ago. Scientists believe it is a theropod, a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that typically walked on two legs rather than four. An artist's impression of the dinosaur's final moments. Trudie Wilson The dinosaur was named for the large spaces of air in some of its bones — a trait that helped scientists connect it to theropods, the researchers said. The "air sacs," which are also found in modern-day birds, were extensions of the animals' lungs that likely aided in breathing while making the skeleton lighter. "We were struck by just how hollow this animal was — it's riddled with air spaces," lead author Chris Barker, a PhD student at the university, said in a press release. "Parts of its skeleton must have been rather delicate." Researchers said all of the fossils found are likely to be from the same individual animal, belonging to a previously unknown genus of dinosaur. They called the discovery a "rare find." "The record of theropod dinosaurs from the 'mid' Cretaceous period in Europe isn't that great, so it's been really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species from this time," Barker said. Silhouette showing the positions of the bones. Darren Naish The university said the bones were discovered in 2019 by individuals and families, all of whom donated their findings to the nearby dinosaur museum. "The joy of finding the bones we discovered was absolutely fantastic," Robin Ward, an amateur fossil hunter who found one of the fossils, told the university. "I thought they were special and so took them along when we visited Dinosaur Isle Museum. They immediately knew these were something rare and asked if we could donate them to the museum to be fully researched." "It looked different from marine reptile vertebrae I have come across in the past," James Lockyer, who found another one of the fossils, told the university. "I was searching a spot at Shanklin and had been told and read that I wouldn't find much there. However, I always make sure I search the areas others do not, and on this occasion, it paid off." The new fossils will be displayed at the Dinosaur Isle Museum at Sandown on the Isle of White, which is well-known as one of the best locations in Europe to find dinosaur remains. The researchers' findings will be published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology. New species of dinosaur discovered on Isle of Wight - University of Southampton. by UoS News Desk on YouTube
Ancient "terror crocodiles" used banana-sized teeth to eat everything in sight, even dinosaurs - CBS News
The massive beasts could eat even the largest of dinosaurs — putting them at the top of the food chain.
Crocodiles may seem intimidating in the year 2020, but millions of years ago, they were so large, they were capable of eating dinosaurs. These massive North American crocodiles, scientists said, had teeth the "size of bananas." According to a new study of Deinosuchus fossils published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the creatures lived between 75 million and 82 million years ago. Deinosuchus, which means "terror crocodile," used their ginormous teeth to eat even the largest of dinosaurs — putting them at the top of the food chain in their ecosystem. Researchers studied fossils and bite marks on turtle shells and dinosaur bones to create a full picture of Deinosuchus. They said the animal, which grew up to 33 feet in length, was actually more closely related to alligators than crocodiles. Researchers said nearly everything in their habitat was up for grabs to be eaten by the massive predators. An illustration of Deinosuchus from the journal's cover. Tyler Stone "Deinosuchus was a giant that must have terrorized dinosaurs that came to the water's edge to drink," lead author Adam Cossette, a paleontologist at the New York Institute of Technology, said in a press release Monday. "Until now, the complete animal was unknown. These new specimens we've examined reveal a bizarre, monstrous predator with teeth the size of bananas." Cossette and co-researcher Christoper Brochu, a paleontologist at the University of Iowa, identified three known species of Deinosuchus: Deinosuchus hatcheri, Deinosuchus riograndensis and Deinosuchus schwimmeri. All three roamed various parts of the U.S., which at the time was cut in half by a shallow sea. Many aspects of the ancient beasts remain mysterious. They didn't look like a crocodile or an alligator, and their extremely large noses had huge holes at the tips that are completely unique and without a known purpose. The animals were wiped out before the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, but the reason for their disappearance remains unknown. "It was a strange animal," said Brochu. "It shows that crocodylians are not 'living fossils' that haven't changed since the age of dinosaurs. They've evolved just as dynamically as any other group."
Rare "boomerang" earthquake detected under the Atlantic Ocean for the first time - CBS News
"This was completely opposite to how we expected the earthquake to look before we started to analyze the data," one scientist said.
For years, scientists have been attempting to track an extremely rare "boomerang" earthquake. Now, they've recorded one in the ocean for the first time — and it's even more bizarre than they expected. Earthquakes are the result of rocks breaking on a fault, which is a boundary between two plates. A "boomerang" earthquake, also known as a "back-propagating supershear rupture," means the fracture travels away from the initial crack before returning to it at even faster speeds, scientists said. Large earthquakes are capable of destroying buildings and triggering tsunamis, so understanding how they work is imperative to assessing potential hazards and implementing warning systems for future quakes. According to a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team, led by scientists from the University of Southampton and Imperial College London, successfully recorded a magnitude 7.1 earthquake on August 29, 2016. It ran along the Romanche fracture zone, a 560-mile-long fault line under the Atlantic Ocean near the equator, between Brazil and Africa. Scientists say that large — meaning magnitude 7 or higher — quakes are difficult to study because they often set off a series of chain reactions along intricate networks of faults. Faults under the ocean have simple shapes, but they are located far away from seismometer networks on land, so an underwater network of seismometers is needed. Researchers said the quake traveled in one direction between the South American and African tectonic plates, then boomeranged back to the start at ultra-fast speeds — breaking the "seismic sound barrier" — a sonic boom of sorts. Reconstructed image of the fracture zone. Hicks et al An analysis revealed the quake had two distinct phases. The rupture traveled upward and eastward first, before suddenly reversing and heading back west to the center of the fault at an accelerated speed of 3.7 miles per second. Scientists aren't exactly sure how this occurred, but they believe the first phase somehow triggered its more aggressive counterpart. Only a handful of boomerang earthquakes have ever been recorded — the phenomenon has mostly been theoretical, until now. "Whilst scientists have found that such a reversing rupture mechanism is possible from theoretical models, our new study provides some of the clearest evidence for this enigmatic mechanism occurring in a real fault," lead author Dr. Stephen Hicks, from the Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering at Imperial College London, said in a press release. "Even though the fault structure seems simple, the way the earthquake grew was not, and this was completely opposite to how we expected the earthquake to look before we started to analyze the data." Scientists said that if a similar type of quake occurred on land, it would drastically affect the amount of ground shaking — and possibly widen the affected area. Successfully tracking more boomerang quakes would allow researchers to better predict and assess the hazards from such events, improving impact forecasts.