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Hubble telescope gives closer look at rare asteroid worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 - CBS News
16 Psyche is one of the most massive objects in the solar system's main asteroid belt — and it appears to be made entirely of metal worth approximately $10,000 quadrillion.
There's an extremely rare metallic asteroid lurking between Mars and Jupiter, and it's worth more than the entire global economy. Now, the Hubble Space Telescope has given us a closer look at the object, which is worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion. A new study this week in The Planetary Science Journal delves deeper than ever before into the mysteries of the asteroid 16 Psyche, one of the most massive objects in the solar system's main asteroid belt orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, about 230 million miles from Earth. It measures about 140 miles in diameter — roughly the size of Massachusetts. Most asteroids are made of rocks or ice. But 16 Psyche is dense and mostly made of metal, possibly the leftover core of a planet that never succeeded in forming — a so-called "protoplanet," which had its core exposed following hit-and-run collisions that removed the body of its mantle. The study marks the first ultraviolet (UV) observations of the celestial object. New data reveals the asteroid may be made entirely of iron and nickel — found in the dense cores of planets. "We've seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is totally made of iron and nickel," lead author Dr. Tracy Becker said in a statement. "Earth has a metal core, a mantle and crust. It's possible that as a Psyche protoplanet was forming, it was struck by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust." The massive asteroid 16 Psyche is the subject of a new study by Southwest Research Institute scientist Tracy Becker, who observed the object at ultraviolet wavelengths. Maxar/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech Scientists studied the asteroid at two points in its rotation in order to view the details of both sides completely at UV wavelengths. They found the surface could be mostly iron, but warned that even a small amount of iron would dominate UV observations. "We were able to identify for the first time on any asteroid what we think are iron oxide ultraviolet absorption bands," Becker said. "This is an indication that oxidation is happening on the asteroid, which could be a result of the solar wind hitting the surface." Solar wind is the flow of charged particles from the sun's upper atmosphere, called the corona, throughout the solar system. It's responsible for the tails of comets as they soar across the sky, the formations of auroras and the possible "space weathering" of Psyche. Researchers also said the asteroid became more and more reflective at deeper UV wavelengths, which could give some indication of its age. "This is something that we need to study further," Becker said. "This could be indicative of it being exposed in space for so long. This type of UV brightening is often attributed to space weathering." Metal asteroids are rare, so Psyche provides researchers with an exciting opportunity to study the inside of a planet. In 2022, NASA plans to launch the unmanned spacecraft Psyche on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to study the asteroid in an attempt to understand its history and that of similar objects — the first time a mission will visit a body made entirely of metal. The orbiter is set to arrive at the asteroid in January 2026 to study it for nearly two years. The mission's leader at Arizona State University estimates that the iron alone on today's market would be worth $10,000 quadrillion — that's a one followed by 19 zeroes. "What makes Psyche and the other asteroids so interesting is that they're considered to be the building blocks of the solar system," Becker said. "To understand what really makes up a planet and to potentially see the inside of a planet is fascinating. Once we get to Psyche, we're really going to understand if that's the case, even if it doesn't turn out as we expect. Any time there's a surprise, it's always exciting." Researchers told CBS News in 2017, when the mission was confirmed, that they don't plan to take advantage of the value of the asteroid's composition. "We're going to learn about planetary formation, but we are not going to be trying to bring any of this material back and using it for industry," Carol Polanskey, project scientist for the Psyche mission, said at the time.
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 its 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.
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."
NASA reveals new Hubble image featuring thousands of multi-colored stars - CBS News
NASA called the cluster a "pocketful of stars."
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image showing what the space agency is calling a "pocketful of stars" — a section of the universe packed with thousands of multicolored stars. The picture captures the "globular" cluster named NGC 1805, which is located near the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Typically, globular clusters contain stars that are born at the same time, NASA said. But NGC 1805 is unusual — scientists believe it contains two different populations of stars that are millions of years apart in age. NASA compared the close orbit of the stars to bees swarming around a hive. The agency said it's unlikely that the stars at the center will be orbited by planets, because they're 100 to 1,000 times closer together than the nearest stars are to our sun. Many colorful stars are packed close together in this image of the globular cluster NGC 1805, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Kalirai The cluster is visible from the Southern Hemisphere in the "Dorado" constellation, which is Portugese for dolphinfish. Hubble's positioning in space grants it the unique ability to capture different wavelengths of light. Earth's atmosphere absorbs most ultraviolet light, making the cluster's difference in star colors impossible to observe from the ground. The image combines different types of light to highlight the remarkable difference in star colors — blue stars, shining brightest near ultraviolet light, and red stars, brightest in red and near-infrared. Astronomers are interested in observing clusters like NGC 1805 in order to learn more about the evolution of stars, as well as what factors lead to them dying as white dwarfs versus explosive supernovae.
SpaceX to attempt historic back-to-back Falcon 9 flights - CBS News
Two Florida launches nine hours apart, plus a polar orbit, mark new records for SpaceX
SpaceX is gearing up for back-to-back launches on Sunday just nine hours apart, the shortest span between two Florida orbit-class flights since 1966. The launches are a dramatic bid to put 60 more Starlink internet relay stations into orbit followed by an Argentine remote sensing satellite. The planned launchings follow on the heels of a last-second "hot-fire abort" of a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Saturday that grounded a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite. At least one of the heavy-lift Delta 4's three first stage engines was in the process of igniting when computers commanded a shutdown just three seconds before the planned liftoff. It's not clear what triggered the abort, but the flight will be delayed at least a week pending inspections and corrective action. Fire erupts from the base of a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket as the engine start sequence began and then shut down in a "hot-fire abort," grounding the booster for at least a week. ULA webcast SpaceX already had clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Eastern Range to attempt back-to-back launches Sunday. But the weather could play a role in the historic double header, with forecasters calling for a 50-50 chance of acceptable weather for the morning Starlink launch, declining to 40 percent "go" for the evening launch of Argentina's SAOCOM 1B satellite. If the weather cooperates, the Starlink flight will take off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:12 a.m. ET. It will mark SpaceX's 100th flight since the company's first launch of a Falcon 1 in 2006 and the 94th flight of its workhorse Falcon 9. Three triple-core Falcon Heavies also have been launched. The 60 Starlinks set for launch Sunday will boost SpaceX's constellation to 713. The rocket's first stage, making its second flight, will attempt to land on an off-shore droneship after boosting the vehicle out of the lower atmosphere. Nine hours and six minutes after the Sunday morning launch, another Falcon 9 is scheduled for takeoff from pad 40 at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to put SAOCOM 1B into an orbit around Earth's poles, the first such flight from Florida since 1969. The Falcon 9's first stage, making its fourth flight, will attempt a landing back at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. If the Starlink and SAOCOM landings are successful, SpaceX's record will stand at 60 first stage recoveries, 18 at the Air Force station, 40 on droneships and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. To reach a polar orbit from Cape Canaveral, the Falcon 9 will take off on a southerly trajectory and then carry out a "dogleg" maneuver once clear of Florida's coast to bend the trajectory more directly south. The flight path will carry the rocket over Cuba. A Falcon 9 rocket takes off from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the most recent Starlink mission last August. Another Starlink flight is planned for Sunday, along with launch of an Argentine remote-sensing satellite. SpaceX In 1960, falling debris from a malfunctioning rocket reportedly killed a cow in Cuba, prompting protests in the island nation. All polar orbit missions since 1969 have taken off from Vandenberg where rockets remain above the Pacific Ocean all the way to orbit. SpaceX initially planned to launch SAOCOM 1B from Vandenberg, but sought permission to move the flight to Cape Canaveral to ease ground processing issues. The company presumably won government approval for the move in part because of the dogleg maneuver, which minimizes overflight of populated areas, the rocket's high altitude by the time it reaches populated areas farther downrange and because the Falcon 9 features an automated flight safety system. The AFTS is designed to quickly terminate a flight if an impending catastrophic problem is detected. The 6,720-pound SAOCOM 1B requires a polar orbit to enable its cloud-penetrating radar to observe the entire planet as it rotates below. The spacecraft will work in concert with an identical L-band radar mapper launched in 2018 along with Italy's COSMO-SkyMed X-band satellites. Bound for a 360-mile-high orbit, the $600 million SOACOM system is designed to monitor soil moisture and a range of other factors affecting the agricultural sector, collecting high-resolution data around the clock regardless of cloud cover. "One of the main targets of the SAOCOM satellites is to provide information for the agriculture sector," Raúl Kulichevsky, executive and technical director of CONAE, Argentina's space agency, told Spaceflight Now. "One of the things we develop is soil moisture maps, not only of the surface, but taking advantage of the L-band capabilities we can measure the soil moisture 1 meter below the surface of the land. So this is very important information."
A car-sized asteroid just made the closest fly-by of Earth on record — and NASA didn't see it coming - CBS News
Astronomers didn't even know about the asteroid until after it had already crossed our path.
A car-sized asteroid just made the closest-known approach to Earth without actually colliding with the planet. And researchers didn't even know about it until hours after it had already passed. Asteroid 2020 QG, formerly known as ZTFoDxQ, zoomed past Earth on Sunday at 12:08 a.m. EDT, getting as close as 1,830 miles away. It marks the closest asteroid flyby ever recorded in which the object actually survived, according to NASA. For comparison, the International Space Station is 254 miles away. "Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) pass by Earth all the time, but 2020 QG passed closer to Earth than any other known NEA without actually impacting," a NASA spokesperson told CBS News on Tuesday. 2020 QG was first observed at the Palomar Observatory a whopping six hours after it passed over the southern Indian Ocean. "It's quite an accomplishment to find these tiny close-in asteroids in the first place, because they pass by so fast," said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "There's typically only a short window of a couple of days before or after close approach when this small of an asteroid is close enough to Earth to be bright enough but not so close that it moves too fast in the sky to be detected by a telescope." This illustration shows asteroid 2020 QG's trajectory bending during its close approach to Earth. NASA/JPL-Caltech The asteroid was traveling at 27,600 miles per hour, or nearly 8 miles per second, which NASA said is a little slower than average. On average, an asteroid of its size passes this closely just a few times each year. Being only about 10 to 20 feet in diameter, the asteroid was not actually big enough to pose a serious threat. If it had been on a collision course, it would have likely ended up as a fireball — an extremely bright meteor — as it broke up in Earth's atmosphere. The asteroid "approached Earth from the direction of the Sun and was not discovered until after it passed and could be observed in the night sky by ground-based observatories," NASA confirmed. "By some estimates, there are hundreds of millions of small asteroids the size of 2020 QG, but they are extremely hard to discover until they get very close to Earth." NASA carefully tracks near-Earth objects, but it's only aware of a fraction of them due to such observational limitations. Scientists at NASA are developing a telescope that could detect asteroids coming from the direction of the sun, eliminating the current blind spot in their observations. The Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission could launch as early as 2025. NASA is also planning to launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) in July 2021. DART will purposely crash into a harmless asteroid moon in the fall of 2022 to attempt to change its motion, in the first test for planetary defense. The circled streak in the center of this image is asteroid 2020 QG, which came closer to Earth than any other nonimpacting asteroid on record. It was detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility on Sunday, Aug. 16 at 12:08 a.m. EDT (Saturday, Aug. 15 at 9:08 p.m. PDT). ZTF/Caltech Optical Observatories
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.
Iconic observatory seen in James Bond film "GoldenEye" goes dark after massive telescope found mysteriously broken - CBS News
"The cable didn't really break it, you know, in the sense of a cable kind of snapping, but it just sort of, you know, slipped from its socket," Observatory Director Francisco Cordova said.
A massive radio telescope made famous as the backdrop for a pivotal scene in James Bond film "GoldenEye" and other Hollywood hits was found suddenly out of commission after cables mysteriously snapped and smashed into the facility's main dish. The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is home to one of the world's largest radio telescopes, acting as a giant ear to the universe. Located in the middle of a forest, the telescope listens for radio signals from other galaxies and has contributed to numerous breakthroughs in astronomy. Aside from tracking asteroids that could endanger the planet, the telescope played a major role in the "SETI" program — the search for intelligent life. It was notably used by astronomer Carl Sagan to send an interstellar message. Earlier this week, the facility was forced to close down after a cable supporting a metal platform above the telescope fell, tearing a 100-foot gash in its giant reflector dish. "The cable didn't really break in the sense of a cable kind of snapping, but it just sort of slipped from its socket, which is you know, an even weirder condition," Arecibo Observatory Director Francisco Cordova told CBS News' Jeff Glor. Technicians working around the clock to get the telescope back online say they are still making assessments to find what exactly happened, storing the machine's "structure of capabilities," and making sure it could not lead to more problems in the future. "So at this point, we're not, you know, we don't really have a bigger timeline of when that is going to happen," Cordova said. The telescope, a pivotal part of the ongoing search to find other planets capable of sustaining life, has survived terrestrial hazards like hurricanes, tropical storms and earthquakes. Now, the scientific community hopes it can recover from the mysterious damage. "We'll find a way to repair this particular issue and continue to move forward," Cordova said. "We've overcome a lot in our 50-year history, from Hurricane Maria to very recent rash of earthquakes to now this. So we're a pretty resilient bunch down here and we're going to figure out a way to continue to move forward, doing exciting science for the world."
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."