Fossil skull from Utah sheds light on primitive mammal group

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A fossilized skull of a small critter found in Utah underneath a dinosaur foot bone is providing insight into one of the most primitive mammalian groups and has scientists rethinking the timing of the break-up of Earth’s bygone supercontinent Pangaea. The newly identified Cretaceous Period species Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch, which is estimated to have weighed 2.5 pounds and probably grew to be about the size of a small hare, is seen in this artist rendering released by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California…

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Scientists plan DNA hunt for Loch Ness monster next month

LONDON (Reuters) – A global team of scientists plans to scour the icy depths of Loch Ness next month using environmental DNA (eDNA) in an experiment that may discover whether Scotland’s fabled monster really does, or did, exist. The use of eDNA sampling is already well established as a tool for monitoring marine life like whales and sharks. Whenever a creature moves through its environment, it leaves behind tiny fragments of DNA from skin, scales, feathers, fur, faeces and urine. “This DNA can be captured, sequenced and then used to…

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'Alien asteroid' may be the oldest object in the solar system

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An “alien asteroid” that circles the sun in the giant gas planet Jupiter’s orbital path, but hurtling in the opposite direction, is the first-known permanent resident of our solar system that astronomers have concluded originated in another star system. FILE PHOTO: A color-enhanced image of Jupiter which was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on the outbound leg of its 12th close flyby of the gas giant planet on April 1, 2018. Image captured on April 1, 2018. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstad/Sean Doran/Handout via REUTERS Researchers said on Monday…

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China launches satellite to explore dark side of moon: Xinhua

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China launched a relay satellite early on Monday designed to establish a communication link between earth and a planned lunar probe that will explore the dark side of the moon, the official Xinhua news agency said. FILE PHOTO – A full moon is seen during a lunar eclipse in Beijing, China January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Jason LeeCiting the China National Space Administration, Xinhua said the satellite was launched at 5:28 a.m. (2128 GMT Sunday) on a Long March-4C rocket from the Xichang launch center in the southwest of…

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China launches first rocket designed by a private company

BEIJING (Reuters) – China launched its first privately developed rocket from a launchpad in northwestern China on Thursday, state media said, the latest milestone in the country’s ambitious space exploration program. Since coming to office in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made becoming a “space flight superpower” a top priority for the Chinese government, which has a goal of sending a permanent manned space station into orbit by around 2022. The launch of the “Chongqing Liangjiang Star” rocket, developed by OneSpace Technology, a Beijing-based private firm, marks the first…

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Scientists explore DNA secrets of green-blooded lizards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of lizards inhabiting the island of New Guinea boasts one of the most exotic traits of any animal: green blood. And scientists have been trying hard to figure out what benefit this characteristic — caused by high levels of an ordinarily toxic green bile pigment — may give them. Prasinohaema prehensicauda, a green-blooded lizard with high concentrations of biliverdin, or a toxic green bile pigment, found in New Guinea is seen in this image released May 16, 2018. Courtesy Christopher Austin/Louisiana State University/Handout via REUTERS…

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Oxygen presence in distant galaxy sheds light on early universe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After detecting a whiff of oxygen, astronomers have determined that stars in a faraway galaxy formed 250 million years after the Big Bang — a rather short time in cosmic terms — in a finding that sheds light on conditions in the early universe. A galaxy located 13.28 billion light-years away is giving scientists new insight into the early history of the universe, with the detection of the oldest-known evidence of oxygen. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+2223 and the inset image…

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Europa's plumes make Jupiter moon a prime candidate for life

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A new look at old data is giving scientists a fresh reason to view Europa, a moon of Jupiter, as a leading candidate in the search for life beyond Earth, with evidence of water plumes shooting into space. A view of Jupiter’s moon Europa created from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990’s, according to NASA, obtained by Reuters May 14, 2018. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute/ Handout via REUTERS A bend in Europa’s magnetic field observed by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft during a 1997 flyby appears to…

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In an interplanetary first, NASA to fly a helicopter on Mars

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – NASA said on Friday it will send a small helicopter to Mars as part of the U.S. space agency’s 2020 mission to place a next-generation rover on the Martian surface, marking the first time such an aircraft will be used on another world. NASA’s Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, which will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet, is shown in this artist rendition from NASA/JPL…

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SpaceX launches new rocket primed for future crewed missions

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – An updated version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, tailored for eventual crewed missions into orbit, made its debut launch on Friday from Florida’s Cape Canaveral, carrying a communications satellite for Bangladesh. The newly minted Block-5 edition of the Falcon 9 – equipped with about 100 upgrades for greater power, safety and reusability than its Block-4 predecessor – lifted off at 4:14 p.m. EDT (2014 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center. Minutes later, the Block-5’s main-stage booster flew itself back to Earth to achieve a…

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