In Photos: Hundreds of Mummies Found in Peru

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In Photos: Hundreds of Mummies Found in Peru

Dragons of Xanadu: Sculptures Discovered in Legendary City

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Dragons of Xanadu: Sculptures Discovered in Legendary City

The remains of three colorful dragon heads made of clay have been discovered in a huge palace in Xanadu, a city constructed by the grandsons of Genghis Khan.

The palace sprawls over 9,000 square meters (about 100,000 square feet), or nearly twice the floor space of the modern-day White House.Archaeologists have been excavating the palace, learning how it was designed and decorated.

Made of fine, red, baked clay the dragon heads would have been attached to the ends of beams and used asdecoration. They “are lifelike and dynamic” and “have yellow, blue, white and black coloring” glazed on them, researchers wrote in a report published recently in the journalChinese Cultural Relics. [See Photos of the Dragon Heads & Legendary Xanadu]

The construction of Xanadu, known in China as Shangdu, started in 1256 at a time when the Mongol Empire, led by Möngke Khan (grandson ofGenghis Khan), was in the process of taking over China. After Möngke Khan’s death in 1259, his successor, Kublai Khan (also a grandson of Genghis), finished the conquest of China.Kublai had helped design Xanadu and when he became ruler he used the city as China’s capital during the summer months.

“The site is composed of a palatial district, an imperial city and an outer city, containing remains of three layers of city walls, and occupies an area of 484,000 square meters [about 120 acres],” the archaeologists wrote in their report.

The palace where the dragon head was found sprawls over 9,000 square meters (about 100,000 square feet) of space.

The palace where the dragon head was found sprawls over 9,000 square meters (about 100,000 square feet) of space.
Credit: Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics

While Xanadu was occupied only briefly, being destroyed in 1368, it became a place of legend, its name romanticized in popular culture as awondrous exotic place where one of the most powerful rulers in the world held court. The discovery of the dragon heads, and other remains from Xanadu, paints a picture of what the site looked like.

While the dragon heads are some of the most eye-catching finds at the palace, archaeologists also discovered a type of ramp called “mandao,” meaning “path for the horses” inChinesewhich allowed horses and vehicles access to the palace.

Horse ramp

Archaeologists found that a special type of ramp allowed horses and vehicles to pass through the palace.

Archaeologists found that a special type of ramp allowed horses and vehicles to pass through the palace. The ramp is called mandaomeaning “path for the horses.”  Shown here, a black-and-white image of one of these ramps. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics)

These ramps “would have been strongly connected to the pastoral way of life of the Mongols,” the archaeologists wrote.

The ramps were important because horses and pastoral animals were an essential part of Mongolian life. Recent research suggeststhat an unusually wet climate in Mongolia helped these animals flourish in Genghis Khan’s time, helping him and his successors conquer a vast amount of territory.

Colorful city

The artifacts the archaeologists found show some of the lively colors that would have decorated the Khan's palace.

The artifacts the archaeologists found show some of the lively colors that would have decorated the Khan’s palace. This image shows eaves and dripstones (the dripstones deflect rainwater). They are decorated in blue and yellow designs with images of dragons or birds. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics)

Archaeologists also found artifacts showing more of the rich colors that would have been seen by those who set foot in Xanadu at the time. These artifacts include the remains of aclayfish head whose body “is glazed yellow and green” with “bright and lifelike” scales, the archaeologists wrote.

Eave-end tiles and dripstones, “decorated with blue-and-yellow patterns in the shape of dragons or birds,” were also found, the archaeologists said. Eave end tiles and dripstones form part of the roof. Aside from being decorative the dripstones helpeddeflect rainwater.

Fish head

The remains of an artifact depicting a fish head, discovered in the palace at Xanadu.

Here, the remains of an artifact depicting a fish head, discovered in the palace at Xanadu. Decorated in glazed green and yellow colors the scales still survive. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics)

Khan portrait

A portrait of Kublai Khan, who helped organize the construction of Xanadu.

Kublai Khan helped organize the construction of Xanadu. He became Khan in 1260, and the city eventually became his summer residence and, in essence, China’s capital during the summer months. This image shows a portrait of Kublai. (Image in public domain courtesy Wikimedia

Excavations were conducted at Xanadu in 2009 by a team from Inner Mongolia Normal University, the Inner Mongolian Institute of Cultural Relics, and the Archaeology and Inner Mongolian Institute for Cultural Relics Conservation. The team’s report was initially published, in Chinese, in the journal Wenwu. It was translated into English and published in the most recent edition of Chinese Cultural Relics.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Sacrificed Humans Discovered Among Prehistoric Tombs

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Sacrificed Humans Discovered Among Prehistoric Tombs

A prehistoric cemetery containing hundreds of tombs, some of which held sacrificed humans, has been discovered near Mogou village in northwestern China.

 Sacrificed Humans Discovered Among Prehistoric Tombs
The skeleton of an adult female who is facing toward the northwest was discovered among the prehistoric tombs in China. Much of her skeleton below the abdomen is destroyed.

The burials date back around 4,000 years, before writing was developed in the area. In just one archaeological field season — between August and November 2009 — almost 300 tombs were excavated, and hundreds more were found in other seasons conducted between 2008 and 2011.

ancient Mogou cemetery

In this tomb a small chamber filled with pottery was found beside the skeletons. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

The tombs were dug beneath the surface of the ground and were oriented toward the Northwest. Some of the tombs had small chambers where finely crafted pottery was placed near the deceased. Archaeologists also found that mounds of sediment covered some of the tombs, which could have marked the location of these tombs.

Within the tombs, archaeologists found entire families buried together, their heads also facing the Northwest. They were buried with a variety of goods, including, necklaces, weapons and decorated pottery.

Human sacrifices were also evident in the burials. In one tomb, “thehuman sacrifice was placed on its side with limbs bent and its face toward the tomb chamber. The bones are relatively well preserved, and the individual’s age at death is estimated at around 13 years,” archaeologists wrote in a paper published recently in the journalChinese Cultural Relics.

Predicting the future

The goods found in the tombs included pottery decorated with incised designs. In some cases, the potter made numerous incisions shaped like the letter “O,” with the O’s forming patterns on the vessel. Sometimes, instead of making O’s, the potter would incise wavy lines near the top of the pot.

The researchers also discovered artifacts that could have been used as weapons. Bronze sabers were found that researchers say could have been used for cutting. They also found stone mace heads. (A mace is a blunt weapon that can smash a person’s skull in.) Axes, daggers and knives were also found in the tombs.

Archaeologists also found what they call “bone divination lots,” or artifacts that could have been used in rituals aimed at predicting the future. Bone divination was practiced widely throughout the ancient world. In fact, when writing was developed in China centuries later, some of the earliest texts were written on bones used for divination.

ancient Mogou cemetery

Another pot, found in the same tomb, has two lines of o’s encircling it. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

Qijia culture

Most of the tombs belong to the Qijia culture, whose people used artifacts with similar designs and lived in the upper Yellow River valley.

“Qijia culture sites are found in a broad area along all of the upper Yellow River as well as its tributaries, the Huangshui, Daxia, Wei, Tao and western Hanshui rivers,” Chen Honghai, a professor at Northwestern University in China, wrote in a chapter of the book “A Companion to Chinese Archaeology” (Wiley, 2013).

Honghai wrote that people from the Qijia culture lived in a somewhat arid area. To adjust to these conditions, the Qijia people grew millet, a cereal suited to a dry environment; and raised a variety of animals, including pigs, sheep and goats.

People from the Qijia culture lived in modest settlements (smaller than 20 acres), in houses that were often partially buried beneath the ground. “Remains of buildings are mainly square or rectangular, and they are usually semi-subterranean. The doors usually point south, identical to the current local custom of building houses, as rooms on the sunny side receive more light and warmth,” Honghai wrote.

ancient Mogou cemetery

Different artifacts were found in other tombs. This image shows animal bones that would have been used for divination – rituals aimed at trying to predict the future. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

Scientists aren’t certain why the Qijia people engaged in human sacrifice or whom they sacrificed. They may have conquered other groups, enslaving and sacrificing them, Honghai said.

ancient Mogou cemetery

This ceramic vessel was found in another tomb and has two lines of o-shaped incisions near its narrow center. The lines encircle the vessel. (Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)

The team’s report was initially published in Chinese in the journal Wenwu and focused on discoveries made between August and November 2009. Their report was translated into English and was published in the most recent edition of the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Abydos, Egypt

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Abydos, Egypt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Façade of the Temple of Seti I in Abydos
Abydos, Egypt
Shown within Egypt
Alternate name Abdju
Location El-Balyana, Sohag Governorate,Egypt
Region Upper Egypt
Coordinates 26°11′06″N 31°55′08″ECoordinates: 26°11′06″N 31°55′08″E
Type Settlement
Periods First Dynasty to Thirtieth Dynasty

Abydos /əˈbdɒs/ is one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, and also of the eighth nome in Upper Egypt, of which it was the capital city. It is located about 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) west of the Nile at latitude 26° 10′ N, near the modern Egyptian towns of el-‘Araba el Madfuna and al-Balyana. The city was called Abdju in the ancient Egyptian language(ꜣbdw or AbDw as technically transcribed from hieroglyphs) meaning “the hill of the symbol or reliquary”, a reference to a reliquary in which the sacred head of Osiris was preserved.

Considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt, the sacred city of Abydos was the site of many ancient temples, includingUmm el-Qa’ab, a royal necropolis where early pharaohs were entombed. These tombs began to be seen as extremely significant burials and in later times it became desirable to be buried in the area, leading to the growth of the town’s importance as a cult site.

Today, Abydos is notable for the memorial temple of Seti I, which contains an inscription from the nineteenth dynasty known to the modern world as the Abydos King List. It is a chronological list showing cartouches of most dynastic pharaohs of Egypt from Menes until Ramesses I, Seti’s father.[2]The Great Temple and most of the ancient town are buried under the modern buildings to the north of the Seti temple.[3] Many of the original structures and the artifacts within them are considered irretrievable and lost; many may have been destroyed by the new construction.

The English name comes from the Greek Ἄβυδος, a name borrowed by Greek geographers from the unrelated city of Abydos on the Hellespont.


The pharaohs of the first dynasty were buried in Abydos, including Narmer, who is regarded as founder of the first dynasty, and his successor, Aha. It was in this time period that the Abydos boats were constructed. Some pharaohs of the second dynasty were also buried in Abydos. The temple was renewed and enlarged by these pharaohs as well. Funerary enclosures, misinterpreted in modern times as great ‘forts’, were built on the desert behind the town by three kings of the second dynasty; the most complete is that ofKhasekhemwy.Abydos was occupied by the rulers of the Predynastic period, whose town, temple and tombs have been found there. The temple and town continued to be rebuilt at intervals down to the times of thethirtieth dynasty, and the cemetery was used continuously.


Part of the Abydos King List


Tomb relief depicting the vizier Nespeqashuty and his wife, KetjKetj, making the journey of the dead to the holy city of Abydos – from Deir el-Bahri,Late Period, twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt, reign of Psammetichus I


Panel from the Osiris temple: Horuspresents royal regalia to a worshipping pharaoh.


The Osireion


Temple of Seti I, Abydos

From the fifth dynasty, the deity Khentiamentiu,

foremost of the Westerners, came to be seen as a manifestation of the dead pharaoh in the underworld. Pepi I (sixth dynasty) constructed a funerary chapel which evolved over the years into the Great Temple of Osiris, the ruins of which still exist within the town enclosure. Abydos became the centre of the worship of the Isis and Osiris cult.

During the First Intermediate Period, the principal deity of the area, Khentiamentiu, began to be seen as an aspect of Osiris, and the deities gradually merged and came to be regarded as one. Khentiamentiu’s name became an epithet of Osiris.

King Mentuhotep II was the first one building a royal chapel. In the twelfth dynasty a gigantic tomb was cut into the rock by Senusret III. Associated with this tomb was acenotaph, a cult temple and a small town known as Wah-Sut, that was used by the workers for these structures.

Silsileh rock carving depicting a giant king Mentuhotep II, on the right Intef III and the treasurer Khetiand, on the left, queen Iah.

Painted sandstone seated statue of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

Cylinder seal of Mentuhotep II, Musée du Louvre.

The building during the eighteenth dynasty began with a large chapel of Ahmose I.Pyramid of Ahmose I was also constructed at Abydos — the only pyramid in the area; very little of it remains today.

Thutmose III built a far larger temple, about 130 ft × 200 ft (40 m × 61 m). He also made a processional way leading past the side of the temple to the cemetery beyond, featuring a great gateway of granite.

Seti I, in the nineteenth dynasty, founded a temple to the south of the town in honor of the ancestral pharaohs of the early dynasties; this was finished by Ramesses II, who also built a lesser temple of his own. Merneptah added the Osireion just to the north of the temple of Seti.

Ahmose II in the twenty-sixth dynasty rebuilt the temple again, and placed in it a large monolith shrine of red granite, finely wrought. The foundations of the successive temples were comprised within approximately 18 ft (5.5 m). depth of the ruins discovered in modern times; these needed the closest examination to discriminate the various buildings, and were recorded by more than 4000 measurements and 1000 levellings.

The latest building was a new temple of Nectanebo I, built in the thirtieth dynasty. From the Ptolemaic times of the Greek occupancy of Egypt, that began three hundred years before the Roman occupancy that followed, the structure began to decay and no later works are known.

Cult centre

From earliest times, Abydos was a cult centre, first of the local deity, Khentiamentiu, and from the end of the Old Kingdom, the rising cult of Osiris and Isis.

A tradition developed that the Early Dynastic cemetery was the burial place of Osiris and the tomb of Djer was reinterpreted as that of Osiris.

Decorations in tombs throughout Egypt, such as the one displayed to the right, record journeys to and from Abydos, as important pilgrimages made by individuals who were proud to have been able to make the vital trip.

Major constructions

Great Osiris Temple

Successively from the first dynasty to the twenty-sixth dynasty, nine or ten temples were built on one site at Abydos. The first was an enclosure, about 30 ft × 50 ft (9.1 m × 15.2 m), surrounded by a thin wall of unbaked bricks. Incorporating one wall of this first structure, the second temple of about 40 ft (12 m) square was built within a wall about 10 ft (3.0 m) thick. An outer temenos (enclosure) wall surrounded the grounds. This outer wall was thickened about the second or third dynasty. The old temple entirely vanished in the fourth dynasty, and a smaller building was erected behind it, enclosing a wide hearth of black ashes.

Pottery models of offerings are found in these ashes and probably were the substitutes for live sacrifices decreed by Khufu (or Cheops) in his temple reforms.

At an undetermined date, a great clearance of temple offerings had been made and a modern discovery of a chamber into which they were gathered has yielded the fine ivory carvings and the glazed figures and tiles that show the splendid work of the first dynasty. A vase of Menes with purple hieroglyphs inlaid into a green glaze and tiles with relief figures are the most important pieces found. The noble statuette of Cheops in ivory, found in the stone chamber of the temple, gives the only portrait of this great pharaoh.

The temple was rebuilt entirely on a larger scale by Pepi I in the sixth dynasty. He placed a great stone gateway to the temenos, an outer temenos wall and gateway, with a colonnade between the gates. His temple was about 40 ft × 50 ft (12 m × 15 m) inside, with stone gateways front and back, showing that it was of the processional type. In the eleventh dynasty Mentuhotep I added a colonnade and altars. Soon after, Mentuhotep II entirely rebuilt the temple, laying a stone pavement over the area, about 45 ft (14 m) square, and added subsidiary chambers. Soon thereafter in the twelfth dynasty,Senusret I laid massive foundations of stone over the pavement of his predecessor. A great temenos was laid out enclosing a much larger area and the new temple itself was about three times the earlier size.

Temple of Seti I


Egypt – Temple of Seti I, Abydus. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection


Views, Objects: Egypt. Abydos [selected images]. View 01: Egypt – Memnonium of Seti I. Wall Inscriptions, Abydos., n.d., New York. Brooklyn Museum Archives


Egypt – Abydos. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection

The temple of Seti I was built on entirely new ground half a mile to the south of the long series of temples just described. This surviving building is best known as the Great Temple of Abydos, being nearly complete and an impressive sight. A principal purpose of the temple was that of a memorial temple to the king Seti I, as well as reverence of the early pharaohs, which is incorporated within as part of the “Rite of the Ancestors”. The long list of the pharaohs of the principal dynasties—recognized by Seti—are carved on a wall and known as the “Abydos King List” (showing the cartouche name of many dynastic pharaohs of Egypt from the first,Narmer or Menes, until his time)- with the exception of those noted above. There were significant names deliberately left out of the list. So rare as an almost complete list of pharaoh names, the Table of Abydos, re-discovered by William John Bankes, has been called the “Rosetta Stone” of Egyptian archaeology, analogous to theRosetta Stone for Egyptian writing, beyond the Narmer Palette.

Narmer Palette
Narmer Palette.jpg

Both sides of the Narmer Palette
Material siltstone
Size c. 64 cm x 42 cm
Created 31st century BC (circa)
Discovered 1897-1898
Present location Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Identification CG 14716

There also were seven chapels built for the worship of the pharaoh and principal deities, being the “state” deities Ptah, Re-Horakhty, and (centrally positioned) Amun-Re; the remaining three chapels are dedicated to the Abydos triad of Osiris, Isis and Horus. The rites recorded in the deity chapels represent the first complete form of the Daily Ritual, which was performed throughout temples daily in Egypt throughout the pharaonic period. At the back of the temple is an enigmatic structure known as the Osireion, which served as a cenotaph for Seti-Osiris, and is thought to be connected with the worship of Osiris as an “Osiris tomb” (Caulfield, Temple of the Kings). It is possible that from those chambers led out the great Hypogeum for the celebration of the Osiris mysteries, built by Merenptah (Murray, The Osireion at Abydos). The temple was originally 550 ft (170 m) long, but the forecourts are scarcely recognizable, and the part still in good condition is about 250 ft (76 m) long and 350 ft (110 m) wide, including the wing at the side. Magazines for food and offerings storage were built to either side of the forecourts, as well as a small palace for the king and his retinue, to the southeast of the first forecourt (Ghazouli, The Palace and Magazines Attached to the Temple of Sety I at Abydos and the Facade of This Temple. ASAE 58 (1959)).

The Osireion at the rear of the temple of Seti I at Abydos, the underground entry to the Osireion is at the top of the picture, see image below

Plan of the Osirion at Abydos

Except for the list of pharaohs and a panegyric on Ramesses II, the subjects are not historical, but religious in nature, dedicated to the transformation of the king after his death. The temple reliefs are celebrated for their delicacy and artistic refinement, utilizing both the archaism of earlier dynasties with the vibrancy of late 18th Dynasty reliefs. The sculptures had been published mostly in hand copy, not facsimile, by Auguste Mariette in his Abydos, I. The temple has been partially recorded epigraphically by Amice Calverley and Myrtle Broome in their 4 volume publication of The Temple of King Sethos I at Abydos (1933-1958).

Ramesses II temple

One of the four external seated statuesof Ramesses II at Abu Simbel.

The adjacent temple of Ramesses II was much smaller and simpler in plan; but it had a fine historical series of scenes around the outside that lauded his achievements, of which the lower parts remain. The outside of the temple was decorated with scenes of the Battle of Kadesh. His list of pharaohs, similar to that of Seti I, formerly stood here; but the fragments were removed by the French consul and sold to the British Museum.


Main article: Umm el-Qa’ab

Seti I, wearing the Deshret crown of Lower Egypt, with Prince Rammeses, (Rammeses II) is ready to rope the sacred bull for sacrifice

The Royal necropolis of the earliest dynasties were placed about a mile into the great desert plain, in a place now known as Umm el-Qa’ab, The Mother of Pots, because of the shards remaining from all of the devotional objects left by religious pilgrims. The earliest burial is about 10 ft × 20 ft (3.0 m × 6.1 m) inside, a pit lined with brick walls, and originally roofed with timber and matting. Others also built before Menes are 15 ft × 25 ft (4.6 m × 7.6 m).

The probable tomb of Menes is of the latter size. Afterward the tombs increase in size and complexity. The tomb-pit is surrounded by chambers to hold offerings, thesepulchre being a great wooden chamber in the midst of the brick-lined pit. Rows of small pits, tombs for the servants of the pharaoh surround the royal chamber, many dozens of such burials being usual. Some of the offerings included sacrificed animals, such as the asses found in the tomb of Merneith. Evidence of human sacrifices exists in the early tombs, but this practice was changed into symbolic offerings later.

By the end of the second dynasty the type of tomb constructed changed to a long passage bordered with chambers on either side, the royal burial being in the middle of the length. The greatest of these tombs with its dependencies, covered a space of over 3,000 square metres (0.74 acres), however it is possible for this to be several tombs which have met in the making of a tomb; the Egyptians had no means of mapping the positioning of the tombs. The contents of the tombs have been nearly destroyed by successive plunderers; but enough remained to show that rich jewellery was placed on the mummies, a profusion of vases of hard and valuable stones from the royal table service stood about the body, the store-rooms were filled with great jars of wine, perfumed ointments, and other supplies, and tablets of ivory and of ebony were engraved with a record of the yearly annals of the reigns. The seals of various officials, of which over 200 varieties have been found, give an insight into the public arrangements.

The cemetery of private persons began during the first dynasty with some pit-tombs in the town. It was extensive in the twelfth and thirteenth dynasties and contained many rich tombs. A large number of fine tombs were made in the eighteenth to twentieth dynasties, and members of later dynasties continued to bury their dead here until Roman times. Many hundreds of funeral steles were removed by Mariette’s workmen, without any record of the burials being made.Later excavations have been recorded by Edward R. Ayrton, Abydos, iii.; Maclver, El Amrah and Abydos; and Garstang, El Arabah.


Some of the tomb structures, referred to as “forts” by modern researchers, lay behind the town. Known as Shunet ez Zebib, it is about 450 ft × 250 ft (137 m × 76 m) over all, and one still stands 30 ft (9.1 m) high. It was built by Khasekhemwy, the last pharaoh of the second dynasty. Another structure nearly as large adjoined it, and probably is older than that of Khasekhemwy. A third “fort” of a squarer form is now occupied by a convent of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria; its age cannot be ascertained.

The “mysterious” hieroglyphs in the Temple of Seti I


The retouched and eroded hieroglyphs in the Temple of Seti I which are said to represent modern vehicles – a helicopter, a submarine, and a zeppelin or plane.

Some of the hieroglyphs carved over an arch on the site have been interpreted in esoteric and “ufological” circles as depicting modern technology.

The carvings are often thought to be a helicopter, a battle tank or submarine, and a fighter plane (some interpret this as a U.F.O.) However, these conjectures are largely based in pseudoarchaeology, and the picture often claimed as “evidence” has been retouched (see right).

Here Are The 9 Instruments We’ll Use To Reveal The Secrets Of Europa

Post 6885

Mika McKinnon

Here Are The 9 Instruments We’ll Use To Reveal The Secrets Of Europa

Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter, is a favourite target for everyone from serious exobiologists to optimistic science fiction authors as a likely setting to find alien life in our solar system. Today, NASA announced the nine instruments that will be on-board the next robotic explorer to investigate the enigmatic world.

Here Are The 9 Instruments We'll Use To Reveal The Secrets Of Europa

Artist’s concept of the Europa mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The yet-to-be-named Europa mission is still a long way off — it won’t launch until the 2020s, and then it will take another 3 to 8 years to enter the Jovian system — but just took a major step forward with instrument selection. Of 33 proposed instruments for the orbiter, 9 were selected to begin the complicated process of moving from design through testing before eventually being mounted on the next robotic explorer. This will be the first mission to loiter around Europa since the Galileo spacecraft completed 11 flybys of the intriguing moon.

The instruments include cameras across a range for wavelengths, radar, mass spectrometers, and magnetic investigations to thoroughly characterize the tiny moon. This will be our first dedicated, detailed look at the moon, and the very first steps in searching for signs of life or potential habitability:

  1. Europa Imaging System (EIS): This pair of wide and narrow angle cameras will provide wide-coverage maps at 50 meter (164 foot) resolution, with selected detailed areas at 100 times that resolution. It is under principal investigator Dr. Elizabeth Turtle of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
  2. Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE): This spectrometer will use light signatures to identify the composition of Europa’s surface, mapping distribution of organics, salts, acid hydrates, water ice phases, and other materials that can give hints about if Europa’s oceans could support life. It is under principal investigator Dr. Diana Blaney of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
  3. MAss SPectrometer for Planetary EXploration/Europa (MASPEX): This mass spectrometer will sample the extremely tenuous atmosphere and any ejected surface material in an effort to determine the composition of the surface ice and subsurface ocean. It is under the direction of principal investigator Dr. Jack (Hunter) Waite of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).
  4. Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding (PIMS): This instrument will use the magnetic induction signal for plasma currents around Europa in conjunction with readings from a magnetometer (ICEMAG) to measure the ice shell thickness, ocean depth, and salinity of the subsurface ocean. It is under principal investigator Dr. Joseph Westlake of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
  5. Interior Characterization of Europa using Magnetometry (ICEMAG): This magnetometer will use multi-frequency electromagnetic sounding to measure the magnetic field of the tiny moon. In conjunction with plasma soundings (PIMS), it will be used to investigate the location, thickness, and salinity of Europa’s hidden oceans. It is under principal investigator Dr. Carol Raymond of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
  6. Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface (REASON): This ice-penetrating radar will be used to characterize the icy crust, revealing hidden structure of the ice shell. It is under principal investigator Dr. Donald Blankenship of the University of Texas.
  7. Europa Thermal Emission Imaging System (E-THEMIS): This instrument will use multispectral thermal imaging to detect heat in an effort to map potential vents before plumes erupt (and simultaneously confirming that plumes exist). It is under principal investigator Dr. Philip Christensen of Arizona State University.
  8. Ultraviolet Spectrograph/Europa (UVS): The spectrograph will focus in the ultraviolet spectrum to focus on erupting water plumes, mimicking the techniques practiced by the Hubble Space Telescope to further characterize the composition and dynamics of the moon’s atmosphere. It is under principal investigator Dr. Kurt Retherford of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).
  9. SUrface Dust Mass Analyzer (SUDA): This mass spectrometer will measure any small, solid particles ejected from the moon to directly sample the surface and plumes on low-altitude flybys. It is under principal investigator Dr. Sascha Kempf of the University of Colorado.

Not yet selected for flight, SPace Environmental and Composition Investigation near the Europan Surface (SPECIES) has been selected for furhter technology development. The instrument blends neutral mass spectrometer and gas chromatograph, and may be developed for other, future mission opportunities. It is under the direction of Dr. Mehdi Benna at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The mission is currently funded through NASA’s 2016 fiscal year with $30 million destined to formulating the mission. The solar-powered spacecraft is intended to go on a long, looping orbit around Jupiter, making 45 flybys of Europa over a three-year mission. The flybys will range from near-skims at just 25 kilometers (16 miles) to massive overviews at 2,7000 kilometers (1,700 miles) altitude.

Considering how fascinating Europa is when we’ve just seen such a tiny slice of it, I am already excited with what we’ll learn from a more detailed, extensive view of the moon. And I’m not the only one:,1614102579,1703592055&title=Recommended%20stories

Will a Planetary Alignment Cause a 9.8 Earthquake This Week?

Post 6884

Matt Novak

Will a Planetary Alignment Cause a 9.8 Earthquake This Week?

Will a Planetary Alignment Cause a 9.8 Earthquake This Week?

An earth-shattering 9.8 earthquake is coming this week! At least according to your weird uncle’s Facebook page. The Big One is supposed to hit this Thursday, May 28th, thanks to a planetary alignment predicted by Nostradamus and some random guy in the Netherlands. Except that it’s all bullshit.

The video below already has over half a million views, and if I dare make a prediction of my own, it will get plenty more between now and Thursday. The video was produced by Ditrianum Media, which appears to be a lone guy in the Netherlands named Frank who’s fascinated with 9/11 conspiracy theories and believes that a spirit of some sort is talking with him.

The narrator of the video explains his revelation:

The 12th of August, 2013, I received an important message. Well, for me it felt important. I explained that I felt that it came directly from Spirit. And this message, what it told me, what I was being told, is that there would be a very very large earthquake or some kind of major event with very much energy release. And at the time the message was that it would be on the west coast of North America and that it would be comparable to a 9.8 magnitude earthquake.

The narrator goes on to explain that a planetary alignment is going to be the cause of this divinely predicted event. The only problem, aside from the fact that you shouldn’t believe random shit you find on YouTube? Planetary alignments can’t cause earthquakes. They simply can’t. If you need someone to do the math for you, Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy blog has gone ahead and worked it out.

But no matter how many times it’s debunked, we’re going to keep hearing from this Frank guy. In fact, Frank released a new video today. He points to some recent large earthquakes in the Solomon Islands and Tonga as evidence that something is indeed happening. He pulls up a graphic of the solar system and insists that an alignment between Earth, Mars and Mercury is to blame.

The problem with pointing to big earthquakes as a sign of things to come is that decent sized earthquakes are happening all the time. If you don’t believe me, there are earthquakebots on Twitter you can follow. Large earthquakes are surprisingly common. Of course, it will be interesting to see what kind of video Frank releases this coming weekend when the Big One doesn’t hit.

This isn’t the first time that people have put forth the idea that a planetary alignment will cause devastating earthquakes. The 1974 book The Jupiter Effect, by John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann, warned that just such a thing was going to happen in 1982. And you can guess how that prediction panned out.

Now, you may be asking yourself if this YouTube video and its sloppy theories might have anything to do with a major motion picture being released on Friday. And frankly, we don’t know. But if this really is just a viral marketing campaign for San Andreas (out this Friday) then I’d have to say it’s not terribly bright. If I thought a major earthquake was going to hit soon the last place I’d want to be hanging out is a crowded theater.

The Big One is definitely coming. It’s inevitable. But if anybody tells you they know precisely when it will happen, you’re going to want to take that with a boulder-sized grain of salt.

Gallery: What Mummifying a Human Body Looks Like

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Gallery: What Mummifying a Human Body Looks Like


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