In Photos: Treasure Ship Holding Gold and Emeralds Discovered

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In Photos: Treasure Ship Holding Gold and Emeralds Discovered

A shipwreck has been located on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea off the Colombian coast that may be the long-sought San Jose galleon. Built in 1696, the behemoth located on sonar and with an autonomous underwater vehicle to find the ship. Parts of the original structure are visible on the ocean floor, according to the president’s office, along with ballast, bronze cannons, ceramics, porcelain vases and weapons. [Read the full story on the treasure ship]

Fiery end

The San Jose, a 60-gun Spanish galleon, explodes during a battle with the English in June 1708. This oil painting by Samuel Scott depicts the conflagration, which is now known as Wager’s Action after the English admiral who attacked the San Jose and her surrounding treasure fleet. The explosion sent tons of gold, silver and precious gems to the bottom of the Caribbean. (Credit: Samuel Scott)

Presidential announcement

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announces the discovery of the wreck of the San Jose at a press conference on Saturday, Dec. 5. According to the president, the shipwreck was identified by its cannons during underwater surveys by Colombian archeologists and international experts.

A U.S. salvage firm claims to have discovered the ship in 1981 and has fought an extended legal battle ever since for rights to the treasure inside, which may be worth between $4 billion and $17 billion. The Colombian government argues that court rulings have upheld its ownership of the treasure; the U.S. firm contends that the matter is not settled and they are owed half the loot. The Spanish government may also make a claim on the haul. (Credit: Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History)

Wreckage remains

Ceramic and porcelain vessels rest among the wreckage thought to belong to the San Jose. The Colombian government has not released the exact location of the shipwreck, but the San Jose went down off the Colombian coast not far from Cartagena. Some 600 men died when the ship erupted in flames and sank rapidly. Most historical sources claim that the San Jose exploded when the English bombardment ignited its powder room. However, the Colombian government said it may have actually taken on water rapidly when English guns breeched its already-damaged hull. A further study of the wreckage may reveal what really happened. (Credit: Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History)

Mined treasure

A vessel rests on the seafloor in the wreckage of the San Jose. The ship was carrying an unusually large load of treasure from mines in Peru, which was on its way to Europe to fund Spanish and French forces in the War of Spanish Succession. The war, which ran from 1701 to 1714, was over who would control the Spanish empire after the death of Spanish king Charles II. (Credit: Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History)

Ship cannon

One of the cannons found in the Colombian shipwreck. The San Jose was a warship, equipped with 60 guns and a crew bristling with weaponry. She was carrying much of the treasure in the armada, while her sister ships the San Joaquin and the Santa Cruz carried smaller amounts. After the San Jose went down, the English captured the Santa Cruz, but found next to no riches aboard. The Santa Cruz evaded the English forces with its treasure. (Credit: Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History)

Sonar discovery

A seafloor image of the shipwreck that the Colombian government has identified as the San Jose. The wreck has yet to undergo an archaeological exploration, leaving questions about what riches might be found. The type and number of bronze cannons found at the site leaves no doubt that ship is the San Jose, according to a statement by Ernesto Montenegro, an archaeologist and head of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History.  (Credit: Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History)

Lost cannons

Cannons from the wreck identified as the lost galleon San Jose. The Colombian government has been relatively tightlipped about the discovery, beyond an official news release. In a presentation to the media, the president said that the discovery was “a matter of the Colombian state,” and as such, few people would be authorized to speak to the public about the findings. (Credit: Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History)

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Astronomers Spot Surprising Evidence of Methane Dunes on Pluto

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Astronomers Spot Surprising Evidence of Methane Dunes on Pluto

Astronomers peering closely at images of Pluto have spotted what look like dunes on the surface of the former planet. They wouldn’t be sand dunes, but dunes of methane ice—an Earthly feature on a totally alien world.

Dunes don’t just happen—they require both tiny grains and some sort of force, like wind, to push them into shape. When New Horizons passed by Pluto back in 2015, it captured dune-looking features just beside a mountain range. It’s a testament not only to jut how interesting distant cosmic objects can be, but how far humans have come in our ability to observe rocks in space.

“The best imagery prior to New Horizons was 12 pixels across for the whole dwarf planet,” study author Matt Telfer from Plymouth University in the United Kingdom told Gizmodo. “What we have now is evidence of a diverse, dynamic, and active geological surface. We see mountains, glaciers, and ice moving. Even despite the thin atmosphere, we see evidence of that atmosphere shaping the surface of that world just as it does on our own planet.”

Pluto’s dunes appear truly Earthly. They’re situated parallel to the edges of the adjacent mountains and perpendicular to the direction of nearby wind streaks. But they’re nothing like the wind-swept, sandy dunes of the Sahara. Pluto’s atmosphere is far too thin to pick up and push tiny grains of methane on its own.

Instead, the particles could be tossed into the air when nitrogen ice sublimes—turns from a solid into a gas, creating an upward jet of nitrogen gas. Once that happens, the planet’s feather-light breeze could push the methane particles, each about the size of a human fat cell, into the ridges observed by Telfer and the New Horizons team.

Discovering the dunes was possible through the combination of an analysis of the famous map of Pluto’s surface produced by New Horizons during its flyby, and the use of another scientist’s modeling. The researchers published their results today in Science.

The structures might not be dunes, of course. “We don’t see sediment move and we don’t see the dunes move,” Alex Hayes, a Cornell University astronomer who was not involved with the study, told Gizmodo. “But that’s the point. The whole paper sees this interesting feature and tries to interpret what they could be… The authors make a convincing argument, but without higher-resolution images, it’s hard to know for sure.”

It’s hard to imagine such a feature made any other way, though, said Telfer. And it wouldn’t be the first extra-terrestrial dune ever spotted, Hayes pointed out. Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, and even the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkoeach have seemingly Earthly wind-swept features.

As to what this might mean for the “is Pluto a planet” debate, the answer is nothing. Pluto is still classified as a dwarf planet, and whether or not we call it a planet is irrelevant to Telfer and his team’s work. After all, There are a host of other interesting and large worlds beyond Pluto. “One thing we’re all looking forward to seeing is New Horizon’s flyby of a Kuiper Belt Object on January 1, next year,” he said. Who knows what mysteries await us on that rock, called Ultima Thule or 2014 MU69.


Intriguing Gold Coin and Other Treasures Uncovered in Egypt

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Intriguing Gold Coin and Other Treasures Uncovered in Egypt

Intriguing Gold Coin and Other Treasures Uncovered in Egypt

A gold coin depicting King Ptolemy III

Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed the remains of a huge, red, brick building — likely the remnants of a Roman bath — as well as a mountain of treasures, including a statue of a ram and a gold coin featuring King Ptolemy III, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

The building itself is huge — for Roman times, anyway — measuring about 52 feet (16 meters) long, or nearly as long as a bowling lane. The structure likely dates to the Greco-Roman era, Ayman Ashmawy, head of ancient Egyptian antiquities, said in a statement released May 23.

The artifacts the archaeological team uncovered at the site of San El-Hagar, in Tanis, include pottery vessels, terra-cotta statues, bronze tools, a stone fragment engraved with hieroglyphs and a small ram statue. [In Photos: Ancient Egyptian Tombs Decorated with Creatures]

The gold coin, in particular, caught the archaeologists’ attention. It features King Ptolemy III and was created during the 221 B.C. to 205 B.C. reign of King Ptolemy IV in memory of his father, according to Saeed Al-Asal, head of the archaeological mission.

This 52-foot-long (16 meters) red brick building might be part of a Roman bath.

This 52-foot-long (16 meters) red brick building might be part of a Roman bath.

Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

One side of the 1-ounce (28 grams) coin depicts the face of King Ptolemy III, who is shown wearing a dazzling crown. The other side of the coin has a symbol of prosperity that looks like a cornucopia, which is surrounded by the name of the king.

The archaeologists plan to continue excavation work at the site in the coming field seasons so they can learn more about the building and how ancient people may have used it.

Archaeologists in Egypt uncovered this small statue of a ram.

Archaeologists in Egypt uncovered this small statue of a ram.

Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Original article on Live Science.

This ‘Hawk Mummy’ Was Actually Human

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This ‘Hawk Mummy’ Was Actually Human

This 'Hawk Mummy' Was Actually Human

The cartonnage of the human mummy is shaped in a way that makes it look a bit like a hawk, and that’s what scientists thought it was until recently.

Credit: Maidstone Museum

The 2,100-year-old mummified remains of what was thought to be a “hawk mummy” actually belong to a stillborn boy who suffered from anencephaly, a rare condition in which part of the brain and skull fails to develop.

“The whole top part of his skull isn’t formed,” Andrew Nelson, a bioarchaeologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Western Ontario, said in a statement. “The arches of the vertebrae of his spine haven’t closed. His earbones are at the back of his head” Nelson said.

The mummy is one of only two confirmed mummies from Egypt known to have anencephaly. [Photos: The Amazing Mummies of Peru and Egypt]

The mummy was donated to the Maidstone Museum in the United Kingdom in 1925 by a local physician and has been on display at times. “It was believed to be a votive hawk mummy because of the cartonnage” that the ancient Egyptian put the mummy is in, Nelson told Live Science. Cartonnage consists of layers of linen or papyrus covered with decorated plaster. A picture of the cartonnage shows that the top part looks a bit like a hawk.

Nelson led a team of scientists who examined the mummy using micro-CT scanning, a technique that allowed them to get high-resolution images of the tiny fetus mummy without opening the cartonnage.

This mummy of a stillborn is one of only two or three known cases of mummies from ancient Egypt that have anencephaly. It was given to a museum in 1925, though scientists don't know where it was originally found.

This mummy of a stillborn is one of only two or three known cases of mummies from ancient Egypt that have anencephaly. It was given to a museum in 1925, though scientists don’t know where it was originally found.

Credit: University of Western Ontario

They found that the mummy would have been stillborn at a gestational age of 23 to 28 weeks. “It would have been a tragic moment for the family to lose their infant and to give birth to a very strange-looking fetus, not a normal-looking fetus at all,” Nelson said in a statement. “So this was a very special individual.”

The fetus seems to have been carefully mummified, the researchers said. In addition, an image on the cartonnage shows Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld, lying on a coffin frame called a bier, with the goddesses Isis and Nephthys standing over him. A “ba-bird” (a mythical bird with a human head) is shown flying over Osiris in the scene, and above that is an Udjat eye, which is “a symbol of protection and good health,” Nelson said.

The mummy may have had a “power” of sorts at the time because it was a fetus, Nelson said. “The suggestion that the fetus would have had agency or power comes from a legal petition dating to the Roman times, where a farmer complains that someone who was stealing his grain used a fetus to stop him from stopping the theft,” Nelson said. In the story, the thief throws a fetus at the farmer, and “the power of the fetus was such that the farmer and several village elders were frozen into inaction,” he added.

The micro-CT scan, conducted at Nikon Metrology, shows that the mummy suffers from anencephaly, a rare disease in which part of the brain and skull fails to develop.

The micro-CT scan, conducted at Nikon Metrology, shows that the mummy suffers from anencephaly, a rare disease in which part of the brain and skull fails to develop.

Credit: University of Western Ontario

Nobody knows where or how the mummy was buried, or if anyone tried to take advantage of any believed powers associated with this mummy, Nelson said.

The only other confirmed case of an Egyptian mummy with anencephaly was described by the French zoologist Etienne Geoffroy Saint Hilaire in 1826 and was found “in a deposit of baboon votive mummies,” Nelson said.

The micro-CT scans were conducted at Nikon Metrology in the U.K. Nelson recently presented the team’s findings at the Extraordinary World Congress on Mummy Studies in Spain’s Canary Islands.

Originally published on Live Science.

How Did a ‘Lava Bomb’ Split a Man’s Leg Open?

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How Did a ‘Lava Bomb’ Split a Man’s Leg Open?

How Did a 'Lava Bomb' Split a Man's Leg Open?

A Hawaii man nearly lost his leg to a renegade ‘lava bomb’ launched by Kilauea volcano this week.

Credit: Mario Tama/Getty

When you think of the ways a volcanic eruption can hurt or kill, you probably imagine gooey lava streams, steaming fissures and crumbling ash columns that could turn a whole city into statues. You might not imagine the volcano belching gigantic, red-hot cannonballs at you, though — but they do that, too.

When globs of molten lava blast into the air and solidify, they become “lava bombs.” One such bomb recently struck Hawaii Island resident Darryl Clinton while he tried to put out a fire in his neighborhood. Burning ejecta from the still-erupting Kilauea volcano had lit the blaze. According to CNN, the chunk of hardened lava shot like a rocket from a fissure roughly 100 yards (91 meters) away from Clinton, set his porch on fire and sliced his leg to the bone. [Fiery Lava from Kilauea Erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island]

“It was the most forceful impact I’ve ever had on my body in my life,” Clinton told the KHON news channel. “I’ve been hit by big waves and various things. That was just incredibly powerful and hot. It burned.”

Clinton is recovering in the hospital and will be able to walk again in about six weeks, KHON reported. He is the first person seriously injured by Kilauea volcano’s recent eruptive period, which began several weeks ago. But if more folks stray too close to erupting fissures, he may not be the last.

Lava bombs, also known as volcanic bombs, are partially molten chunks of lava that explode out of volcanic vents during eruptions, harden in the air and then come crashing down again. Lava bombs can be hurled as high as 3,300 feet (1,000 m) and land still hot enough to set houses ablaze, prior studies have shown.

What’s more, depending on the size and viscosity of the lava being ejected, these bombs can change shape during flight, becoming more smooth and aerodynamic. The final shape of the bomb determines its name.

According to the American Museum of Natural History, spindle bombs spin and taper during flight and end up looking like red-hot footballs. Bread crust bombs solidify on the outside but remain fluid on the inside, resulting in gas bubbles and cracks along the bomb’s surface. Cow pie bombs land while they’re still mostly liquid; when they hit the ground, they splat like a pancake — or, you know, something you’d rather not step in on a farm.

This ancient lava bomb from a German volcano weighs more than 260,000 pounds.

This ancient lava bomb from a German volcano weighs more than 260,000 pounds.

Credit: Alamy

Luckily, the lava bomb that hit Clinton’s leg was relatively small for one of these incendiary boulders. The town of Strohn, Germany, holds one of the world’s largest known lava bombs, weighing more than 260,000 lbs. (120 metric tons) and spanning 16 feet (5 m) in diameter. This exceptional piece of house-size ordnance formed in the nearby Wartgesberg volcano, but probably never flew very far; geologists suspect the massive bomb acquired its weight and volume by rolling up and down the volcano’s crater, caking more and more lava along its edges as if nature were trying to make a lava snowman.

Lava bombs aren’t just dangerous projectiles, though; they’re also objects for research. Scientists can study these bombs to get a glimpse of the mineral compositions of volcanoes and the Earth deep beneath them.

Usually, as Clinton pointed out to KHON, you can hear the initial eruption that launches a lava bomb long before the bombs actually fall. But that doesn’t mean a stray chunk of lava won’t come flying straight out of a vent like a shell from a cannon, before you have time to run for cover. To avoid lava bomb-related injury, take heed of evacuation notices (Clinton admitted his neighborhood was under evacuation, but he felt safe in his home) — and please, no matter where you are, do not attempt to stop the lava.

Originally published on Live Science.