Friday, July 31, 2009

Venus Gets a White Spot Just about the Same Time Jupiter Gets Its Dark Impact Blemish

While attention was on Jupiter due to the recent July 19 impact of a comet, something strange was happening on Venus at the same time. For some mysterious reason, a white spot has formed on the southern-hemisphere clouds of Venus. It was noticed by amateur astronomer Frank Melillo of Holtsville, New York on July 19 but was largely ignored because of the "bigger" and unprecedented event on Jupiter.

According to Sanjay Limaye, planetary scientist of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it's not the first time that this has happened on the clouds of Venus (left; European Space Agency), in effect saying it's a normal occurrence. Nevertheless, the cause of such whitenings remains unclear. Limaye says this event is unique in that it happened in a smaller area.

After receiving Melillo's report, other astronomers and the Venus Express spacecraft of the European Space Agency took a look at it. The result is a series of pictures that show how the white spot changed in time. The photographs showed that the white spot appeared four days earlier than the report by Melillo. Theories about it range from volcanic eruptions to effects of a coronal mass ejection from the Sun.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oldest Non-Geological Structures on Earth Built by Primitive Lifeforms

Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old and just a billion years after it took the form of a real planet, structures that resemble upside down egg cartons and broad ice cream cones began to form in the first bodies of water. Some of these formations are still intact today, and geologists have argued and toyed with theories on what formed them.

While it's a typical belief that these formations were the result of primordial geological processes, there's much evidence to suggest they they were the result of organic action, which means they were created by living things - microbes in particular. Such old structures, called stromatolites, have young counterparts with recent ones that are half a billion years old. The evidence for biologic origin takes the form of layers of organic material that is present in the stromatolites.

Theory has it that microbes, likely blue-green algae, create beds on the floors of bodies of water like shallow seas. These beds act to promote deposits of sediments, much like how flypaper collects dust. However, it's been theorized that the microbes grow filaments that catch particles from the water. So it's likely the formations were the result of a play between passive deposition and organic action.

This is an aquarium designed for dinosaur shrimp, otherwise known as triops. They have been in existence on Earth for 350 million years and their eggs, which come with the aquarium package, easily hatch just by adding water! Take a tour far, far back in time with is Star Wars planet Naboo theme aquarium. Click here or on the image to place your order!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

2,000-Yr-Old Man-Made Cave Discovered in the Jordan Valley

A huge man-made cave was discovered in the Jordan valley of Isreal that's 2,000 years old and supposedly the largest of all at an acre (.4 hectare) in area coverage. Inside, archaeologists like Adam Zertal, have found deep etchings on walls and pillars of what used to be an underground quarry. The researchers pointed to crosses (top) and symbols that Zertal had identified as a possible zodiac symbol (above left) used in the Roman era at around 1 A.D.

The cave was found in March, 2009 when the archaeologists came to a hole in the wall of the ancient quarry. Initial forays already revealed a huge pillared chamber, discernible even with little available light. The cave is believed to have been used as a hideout of persecuted Christians and as a refuge for Roman soldiers. It's also possible that it was used as a monastery, although only the etched crosses serve as a basis for this hypothesis.