The year started out with China’s little Jade Rabbit rover capturing the world’s imagination as it fought valiantly for survival on the frigid surface of the moon. Now, as the days grow short we have an explosion of new space news… Here’s a quick recap of space-related happenings in the last month or so.
Chinese rocket launched to circle moon in preparation for 2017 moon landing…
It cost India less than three-quarters as much to send the probe to the red planet as the US spends to build one stealth fighter—which can only fly 1700 km before needing to gas up. Compare that to India’s econo-craft which made it 670 million km on a single tank. The probe, called Mangalyaan (meaning Mars craft in Hindi) is already taking shots of the Martian surface.
For those of you keeping score, that’s MAVEN and Mangalyaan currently in orbit—with the Curiosity rover on the surface. And it was Curiosity who took to twitter to welcome Mangalyaan with a quick, “Namaste.”
China’s Jade Rabbit Moon Rover may have touched hearts around the world…now the Americans are taking the next step in the space game. The USA’s MAVEN robotic probe may not have the personality that made Jade Rabbit so popular, but its mission is no less important. The probe completed final braking on Sunday to slide into its orbit around the red planet. The plan is for MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution probe) to examine the planet’s upper atmosphere in order to help us understand how the solar wind has been stripping away atoms and molecules for ages.
MAVEN looks to turn back the clock and give us a glimpse into the deep history of our nearest neighbor. Perhaps helping us see what it used to look like and where all its water went…
It’s getting weird again….Seems like the past twelve months have brought us more than the usual number of oddball fossil finds, each of which is making scientists reexamine their dinosaur assumptions.
This time the earth-shaking find is a Spinosaurus. Scientists are calling it the biggest dinosaur predator ever found—some 9 feet longer than a T Rex. And even weirder, it didn’t hunt on two legs. It’s the only known quadrupedal carnivore.
So, it’s huge and getting around on all fours—now for the bizarre…It had a 7 foot high bony sail on its back and spent much of its time in the water feeding on sharks, crocodiles and fish the size of Volkswagen Jettas… And, oh yeah, it could swim and had nostrils on top of its skull.
Yeah, I’d say that might cause a bit of a rethink. There’s never been anything else like it.
Meanwhile, in other breaking news—Mammals existed 40 million years earlier than previously thought.
A very weird dinosaur found in Siberia reveals that it’s possible that more dinosaurs than previously thought had both scales and feathers—not just the ones who ended up evolving into modern-day birds.
Several hundred of the 140 million-year-old weirdo dinos died and were quickly buried in the sediments on the bottom of a lake. The unique conditions excellently preserved their remains—even their skin. And paleontologists say that the skin is made up of three different types of scales as well as three kinds of feathers.
Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus was part of the dino family that includes more famous names like about stegosaurus, ankylosaurus, and triceratops. All of them were previously believed to be scalely. But now scientists have to reevaluate.
The Kulindadromeus was one and half metres long, walked on two feet and had feathers…. maybe his relatives had a little bird in them as well.
You don’t have to be a PhD. to make an amazing dinosaur discovery. This week paleontologists confirmed that volunteer bone hunter, Kay Fredette, has discovered the largest Apatosaurus femur ever found.
While helping on a dig in Colorado she and another volunteer unearthed the colossal bone (6ft 7inches long) which scientists say came from the leg of a dinosaur that was 80 to 90 long.
And this isn’t her first big find either… in recent years Kay has bagged a handful of sauropods, and even well-preserved dinosaur skin.
So the latest out of Chinese state media is that the Jade Rabbit rover which landed on the moon five months ago is still hanging on—barely. The rover captured hearts and minds over the past few months as it struggled to survive the cold lunar nights, died, and then was miraculously re-born. And now, its wheels no longer turn and the solar panels that protect it from the cold have failed. But still it fights on…
The greatest fossil hunter the world has ever seen was a woman who lived more than two hundred years ago in Dorset, England. Mary Anning, also known as the monster hunter, was responsible for discovering ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and the first recognized pterosaur fossil in England. She got her start combing the beaches of the Dorset coast with her father—and though he died when she was only eleven, she got her passion for the strange beasts captured in the rock of her native county from him.
Check out her fascinating story here:
Arctic journal reports that the vertebra of a duck-billed hadrosaur from the cretaceous period found in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut suggests that the giant herbivore made its home in the hostile northern region year-round. In fact, the bone found on Axel Heiberg Island is the northern most fossil find ever recorded.
Although the average Arctic temperature was fifteen degrees warmer than today, the hadrosaurs still had to contend with a complete absence of daylight for almost half the year. The relative cold and lack of a plant-life meant a tough life for the hardy duck-bill. Mostly they would have scavenged twigs, decaying wood and fungi to survive. And migration was impossible because the island on which the fossil was found was cut off from the rest of North America by two seas.
It seems the more we learn about dinosaurs in the fossil record the more surprising and extreme they become. You go dinosaurs!
Check out the full story here: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/04/04/hadrosaur-northernmost-dinosaur-nunavut_n_5094151.html
image: Getty Images