Welcome to Wonder Theory, your weekly Space and Science Digest.
It has been said by many educators that space and dinosaurs are the gateway to an interest in science. That was certainly true for me when I was a kid. What I saw while visiting museums and planetariums – just lying on the floor and looking up at the night sky – caught my imagination.
The CNN Space and Science team created, among other things, a veritable sandbox of space and dinosaur stories that thrilled and amazed us this week.
Join us on a short journey through these wonders of this world and far, far away.
Through the universe
An unusual visitor from another planetary system appeared in our solar system two years ago. Now this interstellar comet is revealing more of its secrets.
The comet called 2I / Borisov has remained unchanged since its formation – until it was flown by our sun in 2019.
Small pebbles discovered in the dust around the comet suggest that the comet is made of materials taken from different parts of its original planetary system. As in our own solar system, the presence of giant planets and their gravity could have caused this mixture and stirred up material throughout the system.
This tells us that Comet 2I / Borisov was born in a distant system that may not be that different from ours.
The Curiosity Rover has explored Mont Mercou, but no, it’s not in France. Curiosity remains on Mars, just 2,300 miles from the Perseverance rover. Curiosity took a delightful selfie with the mesmerizing 20 foot high rock formation. The outcrop’s nickname was inspired by a mountain in southeastern France near the village of Nontron. The selfie consists of 71 different images that were taken with two different cameras. For more space rover news, check out the latest on a UAE-developed lunar rover and the Ingenuity helicopter preparing for its first flight on Mars.
A long time ago…
The Kalahari Desert was a much more welcoming place about 100,000 years ago. Because of this, the now arid desert has become an area of interest for those studying how the people of the early modern period evolved.
The researchers discovered 22 calcite crystals and ostrich shell fragments in the Ga-Mohana Hill North Rockshelter in South Africa and dated them to about 105,000 years ago. Scientists believe that early humans purposely collected them and brought them to the place.
The ostrich bowls may even have been used as early water bottles.
Scientists call this new discovery “the one that causes fear” – and for good reason. This elephant-sized dinosaur used its huge claws, powerful bite, and keen sense of hearing to hunt prey in Patagonia 80 million years ago.
A well-preserved fossil of Llukalkan aliocranianus was found in the Bajo de la Carpa formation in Argentina. In life, the dinosaur probably resembled a Tyrannosaurus Rex, with the exception of its unusually short and deep skull, which was covered with bumps and horns.
The dinosaur’s brain case revealed that it had a small air-filled sinus in the middle ear area, which likely caused it to hear differently – and better – than other predators. And you didn’t want to stumble in that carnivore’s path with all those sharp teeth in sight.
The night sky
Let’s hear it for the full moon that helped end the long nightmare of the boat stuck in the Suez Canal.
The full moon “worm moon” on Sunday led to a flood in spring on Monday – about 46 centimeters above normal – which, according to NASA, made it easier to straighten and move the ship.
While there are 12 to 13 full moons in a year, only six to eight are associated with a tide high enough to do what was done on Monday – because the moon is closest to Earth during these full moons, said the CNN meteorologist Judson Jones.
Never say that our lunar neighbor is not helpful.
force of nature
Lightning strikes in the Arctic may be hard to imagine, but as the icy polar region is warming at an alarming rate, the likelihood of lightning strikes also increases.
Thunderstorms take heat to form, and the Arctic has warmed more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Lightning in the Arctic has tripled in the past decade, according to a new study published this week.
The risk is even greater for the eastern hemisphere of the Arctic Circle, especially in the air over Siberia. This is worrying as more forest fires have occurred in the region in recent years.
Do you like what you read? Oh, but there is more. Check back next Saturday for the next issue of Wonder Theory brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonders on planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from ancient times.