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Tectonic plates helped early Earth evolve 3.2 billion years ago, and that shaped how life developed – CNN

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Tectonic plates helped early Earth evolve 3.2 billion years ago, and that shaped how life developed – CNN_5ea0c7ec256f7.jpeg

This is an artist’s illustration showing a cross-section of Earth’s forming crust approximately 3 to 4 billion years ago.

Illuminated medieval manuscripts are full of intricate decorations, illustrations and colors, including “endangered colors” that can no longer be recreated today.

These monkeys can be found in ancient Grecian frescoes. And the details are so accurate that researchers were able to identify them as vervet monkeys and baboons.

Archeologists have found the oldest string of yarn at a prehistoric site in southern France. This photograph, taken by digital microscopy, shows that of the cord fragment, which is approximately 6.2 mm long and 0.5 mm wide.

This illustration shows Elessaurus gondwanoccidens, a long-legged reptile that lived in South America during the Early Triassic Period. It’s a cousin to other mysterious early reptiles that arose after the Permian mass extinction event 250 million years ago.

The skeletal remains of Homo antecessor are on display in this image. A recent study suggests antecessor is a sister lineage to Homo erectus, a common ancestor of modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans.

A nearly two-million-year-old Homo erectus skullcap was found in South Africa. This is the first fossil of erectus to be found in southern Africa, which places it in the area at the same time as other ancient human ancestors.

This painting shows what Antarctica may have looked like 90 million years ago. It had a temperate swampy rainforest.

This artist’s illustration of Dineobellator notohesperus shows them in an open landscape, across what is now New Mexico, along with Ojoceratops and Alamosaurus in the background.

Ikaria wariootia was a worm-like creature that lived 555 million years ago. It represents the oldest ancestor on the family tree for most animals.

This is the 3.67-million-year-old ‘Little Foot’ skull. The view from the bottom (right) shows the original position of the first cervical vertebra, which tells us about her head movements and blood flow to the brain.

This is an artist’s illustration of the world’s oldest modern bird, Asteriornis maastrichtensis, in its original environment. Parts of Belgium were covered by a shallow sea, and conditions were similar to modern tropical beaches like The Bahamas 66.7 million years ago.

This donkey skull was recovered in a Tang Dynasty noblewoman’s tomb. The researchers determined that she played donkey polo and was buried with her donkeys so that she may continue her favorite sport in the afterlife.

Hundreds of mammoth bones found at a site in Russia were once used by hunter-gatherers to build a massive structure 25,000 years ago.

A fossil of an ancient rudist clam called Torreites sanchezi revealed that Earth’s days lasted 23.5 hours 70 million years ago.

This is an artist’s impression of dinosaurs on prehistoric mudflat in Scotland, based on varied dinosaur footprints recovered on the Isle of Skye.

A new study suggests that ostrich eggshell beads have been used to cement relationships in Africa for more than 30,000 years.

This rock lined the seafloor roughly 3.2 billion years ago, providing evidence that Earth may have been a ‘waterworld’ in its ancient past.

These stone tools were found at the Dhaba site in India, showing that Homo sapiens survived a massive volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago.

The remains of 48 people who were buried in a 14th century Black Death mass grave were found in England’s Lincolnshire countryside.

The articulated remains of a Neanderthal have been found in Shanidar Cave, representing the first discovery of its kind in 20 years.

A rare disease that still affects humans today has been found in the fossilized vertabra of a duck-billed dinosaur that roamed the Earth at least 66 million years ago.

Venezuelan Palaeontologist Rodolfo Sánchez is shown next to a male carapace of the giant turtle Stupendemys geographicus, for scale.

This artist’s illustration shows the newly discovered Tyrannosaurus rex relative, Thanatotheristes degrootorum.

The newly discovered species Allosaurus jimmadseni represents the earliest Allosaurus known. It was a fearsome predator that lived during the Late Jurassic Period millions of years before Tyrannosaurus rex.

Remains found in ancient Herculaneum boat houses revealed that people trying to flee the eruption of Mount Vesuvius slowly suffocated as volcanic clouds overtook the town.

The Wulong bohaiensis fossil found in China’s Jehol Province shows some early, intriguing aspects that relate to both birds and dinosaurs.

Shell tools were recovered from an Italian cave that show Neanderthals combed beaches and dove in the ocean to retrieve a specific type of clam shell to use as tools.

A closer look at the Heslington brain, which is considered to be Britain’s oldest brain and belonged to a man who lived 2,600 years ago. Amazingly, the soft tissue was not artificially preserved.

Researchers from Russia’s RAS Institute of Archeology excavated the burial sites of four women, who were buried with battle equipment in southwestern Russia and believed to be Amazon warrior women. The oldest woman found in the graves bore a unique, rare ceremonial headdress.

Teen Tyrannosaurus rex were fleet-footed with knife-like teeth, serving as mid-sized carnivores before they grew into giant bone-crushing adults.

A Homo erectus skull cap discovered in Central Java, Indonesia reveals how long they lived and when the first human species to walk upright died out.

This is an artistic reconstruction of Lola, a young girl who lived 5,700 years ago.

Part of the scene depicted in the world’s oldest cave art, which shows half-animal, half-human hybrids hunting pigs and buffalo.

An ancient Egyptian head cone was first found with the remains of a young woman buried in one of Amarna’s graves.

A lice-like insect was trapped in amber crawling and munching on a dinosaur feather.

Newly discovered penguin species Kupoupou stilwelli lived after the dinosaurs went extinct and acts as a missing link between giant extinct penguins and the modern penguins in Antarctica today.

This illustration compares the jaws and teeth of two predatory dinosaurs, Allosaurus (left) and Majungasaurus (right).

This is an artist’s illustration of Najash rionegrina in the dunes of the Kokorkom desert that extended across Northern Patagonia during the Late Cretaceous period. The snake is coiled around with its hindlimbs on top of the remains of a jaw bone from a small charcharodontosaurid dinosaur.

University of South Carolina archaelogist Christopher Moore (second from right) and colleagues collect core samples from White Pond near Elgin, South Carolina, to look for evidence of an impact from an asteroid or comet that may have caused the extinction of large ice-age animals such as sabre-tooth cats and giant sloths and mastodons.

Core samples from White Pond near Elgin, South Carolina, show evidence of platinum spikes and soot indicative of an impact from an asteroid or comet.

The Sosnogorsk lagoon as it likely appeared 372 million years ago just before a deadly storm, according to an artist’s rendering. The newly discovered tetrapod can be seen in the left side of the image below the surface.

Bronze goods recovered from a river in northern Germany indicate an ancient toolkit of a Bronze Age warrior.

Mold pigs are a newly discovered family, genus and species of microinvertebrates that lived 30 million years ago.

Ferrodraco lentoni was a pterosaur, or “flying lizard,” that lived among dinosaurs 96 million years ago. The fossil was found in Australia.

These Late Bronze Age feeding vessels were likely used for infants drinking animal milk.

This is the first depiction of what mysterious ancient humans called Denisovans, a sister group to Neanderthals, looked like. This image shows a young female Denisovan, reconstructed based on DNA methylation maps. The art was created by Maayan Harel.

Researchers found a fossil of one of the oldest bird species in New Zealand. While its descendants were giant seafaring birds, this smaller ancestor likely flew over shorter ranges.

A painting shows the new species of giant salamander called Andrias sligoi, the largest amphibian in the world.

After her discovery in 2013, Victoria’s 66-million-year-old, fossilized skeleton was restored bone by bone. She’s the second most complete T. rex fossil on record.

An artist’s illustration shows how different an ancient “short-faced” kangaroo called Simosthenurus occidentalis looked, as opposed to modern kangaroos. Its skull more closely resembles a koala.

An artist’s illustration of Cryodrakon boreas, one of the largest flying animals that ever lived during the Cretaceous period. Although researchers don’t know the color of Cryodrakon’s plumage, the colors shown here honor Canada, where the fossil was found.

A graphic thermal image of a T. rex with its dorsotemporal fenestra glowing on the skull.

A complete skull belong to an early human ancestor has been recovered in Ethiopia. A composite of the 3.8 million-year-old cranium of Australopithecus anamensis is seen here alongside a facial reconstruction.

The remains inside grave IIIN199, found under Prague Castle in 1928, belong to a man from the 10th century. His identity has been the subject of great debate for years.

Vertebrae fossils of a previously undiscovered type of stegosaurus were found in Morocco. Researchers say they represent the oldest stegosaurus found.

The La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neanderthal skull shows signs of external auditory exostoses, known as “surfer’s ear” growths, in the left canal.

The Fincha Habera rock shelter in the Ethiopian Bale Mountains served as a residence for prehistoric hunter-gatherers.

The world’s largest parrot, Heracles inexpectatus, lived 19 million years ago in New Zealand. It was over 3 feet tall and weighed more than 15 pounds.

Saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and coyotes had different hunting patterns according to a new study of predator fossils found in the La Brea Tar Pits.

Researchers found 83 tiny glassy spheres inside fossil clams from a Florida quarry. Testing suggests that they are evidence of one or more undocumented meteorite impacts in Florida’s distant past.

This primitive dinosaur had a wide W-shaped jaw and a solid bony crest resembling a humped nose.

An illustration of a Microraptor as it swallows a lizard whole during the Cretaceous period. The well-preserved fossils of the Microraptor and the lizard were both found, leading to the discovery that the lizard was a previously unknown species.

The back of a skull found in a Grecian cave has been dated to 210,000 years ago. Known as Apidima 1, right, researchers were able to scan and re-create it (middle and left). The rounded shape of Apidima 1 is a unique feature of modern humans and contrasts sharply with Neanderthals and their ancestors.

A 33,000-year-old human skull shows evidence of being struck with a club-like object. The right side of the man’s head has a large depressed fracture.

The recently discovered fossilized femur of an ancient giant bird revealed that it weighed nearly as much as an adult polar bear and could reach 11½ feet tall. It lived between 1.5 million and 2 million years ago.

This jawbone belonged to a Neanderthal girl who lived 120,000 years ago. It was found in Scladina Cave in Belgium.

This is an artist’s illustration of the newly discovered dinosaur species Fostoria dhimbangunmal.

Radiocarbon dating has revealed that this Iron Age wooden shield was made between 395 and 255 BC.

The incredibly well-preserved fossil of a 3 million-year-old extinct species of field mouse, found in Germany, which was less than 3 inches long, was found to have red pigment in its fur.

A mass grave dated to 5,000 years ago in Poland contains 15 people who were all from the same extended family.

This is an artist’s impression of the Ambopteryx longibrachium, one of only two dinosaurs known to have membranous wings. The dinosaur’s fossilized remains were found in Liaoning, in northeast China, in 2017.

Reconstruction of a small tyrannosauroid Suskityrannus hazelae from the Late Cretaceous.

Researchers have been studying Archaeopteryx fossils for 150 years, but new X-ray data reveal that the bird-like dinosaur may have been an “active flyer.”

A 160,000-year-old Denisovan jawbone found in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau is the first evidence of the presence of this ancient human group outside the Denisova Cave in Siberia.

An artist’s illustration of Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, a gigantic carnivore that lived 23 million years ago. It is known from fossils of most of its jaw, portions of its skull and parts of its skeleton. It was a hyaenodont, a now-extinct group of mammalian carnivores, that was larger than a modern-day polar bear.

The right upper teeth of the newly discovered species Homo luzonensis. The teeth are smaller and more simplified than those belonging to other Homo species.

The towering and battle-scarred “Scotty” is the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada.

Researchers discovered unknown species at the Qingjiang fossil site on the bank of the Danshui River, near its junction with the Qingjiang River in Hubei Province, China.

During a study of the ancient Iberian population, the remains of a man and woman buried together at a Spanish Bronze Age site called Castillejo de Bonete showed that the woman was a local and the man’s most recent ancestors had come from central Europe.

Durrington Walls is a Late Neolithic henge site in Wiltshire. Pig bones recovered at the site revealed that people and livestock traveled hundreds of miles for feasting and celebration.

An artist’s impression of a Galleonosaurus dorisae herd on a riverbank in the Australian-Antarctic rift valley during the Early Cretaceous, 125 million years ago.

The remains of 137 children and 200 llamas were found in Peru in an area that was once part of the Chimú state culture, which was at the peak of power during the 15th century. The children and llamas might have been sacrificed due to flooding.

The tooth of an extinct giant ground sloth that lived in Belize 27,000 years ago revealed that the area was arid, rather than the jungle that it is today.

An artist’s illustration of what the small tyrannosaur Moros intrepidus would have looked like 96 million years ago. These small predators would eventually become Tyrannosaurus rex.

Examples of tools manufactured from monkey bones and teeth recovered from the Late Pleistocene layers of Fa-Hien Lena Cave in Sri Lanka show that early humans used sophisticated techniques to hunt monkeys and squirrels.

Footprints thought to belong to Neanderthals have been found in the Catalan Bay Sand Dune.

Two of the fossil specimens discovered in Korea had reflective eyes, a feature still apparent under light.

An artist’s illustration of Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia, a long-necked titanosaur from the middle Cretaceous period recently found in Tanzania. Its tail vertebra has a unique heart shape, which contributed to its name. In Swahili, the name translates to “animal of the Mtuka with a heart-shaped tail.”

The oldest evidence of mobility is 2.1 billion years old and was found in Gabon. The tubes, discovered in black shale, are filled with pyrite crystals generated by the transformation of biological tissue by bacteria, found in layers of clay minerals.

Researchers recently studied climate change in Greenland as it happened during the time of the Vikings. By using lake sediment cores, they discovered it was actually warmer than previously believed. They studied at several sites, including a 21st-century reproduction of Thjodhild’s church on Erik the Red’s estate, known as Brattahlíð, in present day Qassiarsuk, Greenland.

This is an artist’s illustration of Antarctica, 250 million years ago. The newly discovered fossil of a dinosaur relative, Antarctanax shackletoni, revealed that reptiles lived among the diverse wildlife in Antarctica after the mass extinction.

Bone points and pierced teeth found in Denisova Cave were dated to the early Upper Paleolithic. A new study establishes the timeline of the cave, and it sheltered the first known humans as early as 300,000 years ago.

This artist’s illustration shows a marine reptile similar to a platypus hunting at dusk. This duckbilled animal was the first reptile to have unusually small eyes that most likely required it to use other senses, such as the tactile sense of its duckbill, to hunt for prey.

Although it’s hard to spot, researchers found flecks of lapis lazuli pigment, called ultramarine, in the dental plaque on the lower jaw of a medieval woman.

A Neanderthal fossil, left, and a modern human skeleton. Neanderthals have commonly be considered to show high incidences of trauma compared with modern humans, but a new study reveals that head trauma was consistent for both.

The world’s oldest figurative artwork from Borneo has been dated to 40,000 years ago, when humans were living on what’s now known as Earth’s third-largest island.

A 250,000-year-old Neanderthal child’s tooth contains an unprecedented record of the seasons of birth, nursing, illness and lead exposures over the first three years of its life.

An artist’s illustration shows giant nocturnal elephant birds foraging in the ancient forests of Madagascar at night. A new study suggests that the now-extinct birds were nocturnal and blind.

Kebara 2 is the most complete Neanderthal fossil recovered to date. It was uncovered in Israel’s Kebara Cave, where other Neanderthal remains have been found.

The world’s oldest intact shipwreck was found by a research team in the Black Sea. It’s a Greek trading vessel that was dated to 400 BC. The ship was surveyed and digitally mapped by two remote underwater vehicles.

This fossil represents a new piranha-like fish from the Jurassic period with sharp, pointed teeth. It probably fed on the fins of other fishes.

The fossil skull of the young Diplodocus known as Andrew, held by Cary Woodruff, director of paleontology at the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum.

Two small bones from the Ciemna Cave in Poland are the oldest human remains found in the country. The condition of the bones also suggests that the child was eaten by a large bird.

This artist’s illustration shows the newly discovered dinosaur species Ledumahadi mafube foraging in the Early Jurassic of South Africa. Heterodontosaurus,another South African dinosaur, can also be seen in the foreground.

A 73,000-year-old red cross-hatch pattern was drawn on a flake of silicrete, which forms when sand and gravel cement together, and found in a cave in South Africa.

A suite of Middle Neolithic pottery including typical Danilo ware, figulina and rhyta that was used to hold meat, milk, cheese and yogurt.

These four dinosaurs showcase the evolution of alvarezsaurs. From left, Haplocheirus, Xiyunykus, Bannykus and Shuvuuia reveal the lengthening of the jaws, reduction of teeth and changes in the hand and arm.

Eorhynchochelys sinensis is an early turtle that lived 228 million years ago. It had a toothless beak, but no shell.

The leg bones of a 7-year-old, recovered from an ancient Roman cemetery, show bending and deformities associated with rickets.

The famed Easter Island statues, called moai, were originally full-body figures that have been partially covered over the passage of time. They represent important Rapa Nui ancestors and were carved after a population was established on the island 900 years ago.

Researchers stand at the excavation site of Aubrey Hole 7, where cremated human remains were recovered at Stonehenge to be studied. New research suggests that 40% of 25 individuals buried at Stonehenge weren’t from there — but they possibly transported stones from west Wales and helped build it.

The fossil of the newly discovered armored dinosaur Akainacephalus johnsoni was found in southern Utah.

The foot is one part of a partial skeleton of a 3.32 million-year-old skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis child dubbed Selam.

The asteroid impact that caused dinosaurs to go extinct also destroyed global forests, according to a new study. This illustration shows one of the few ground-dwelling birds that survived the toxic environment and mass extinction.

The remains of a butchered rhinoceros are helping researchers to date when early humans reached the Philippines. They found a 75% complete skeleton of a rhinoceros that was clearly butchered, with 13 of its bones displaying cut marks and areas where bone was struck to release marrow, at the Kalinga archaeological site on the island of Luzon.

This is just one of 26 individuals found at the site of a fifth-century massacre on the Swedish island of Öland. This adolescent was found lying on his side, which suggests a slower death. Other skeletons found in the homes and streets of the ringfort at Sandby borg show signs of sudden death by blows to the head.

The skeleton of a young woman and her fetus were found in a brick coffin dated to medieval Italy. Her skull shows an example of neurosurgery, and her child was extruded after death in a rare “coffin birth.”

This portion of a whale skull was found at the Calaveras Dam construction site in California, along with at least 19 others. Some of the pieces measure 3 feet long.

A Stone Age cow skull shows trepanation, a hole in the cranium that was created by humans as as surgical intervention or experiment.

On the left is a fossilized skull of our hominin ancestor Homo heidelbergensis, who lived 200,000 to 600,000 years ago. On the right is a modern human skull. Hominins had pronounced brow ridges, but modern humans evolved mobile eyebrows as their face shape became smaller.

On the left is a 13,000-year-old footprint as found in the sediment on Calvert Island, off the Canadian Pacific coast. On the right is a digitally enhanced image, showing details of the footprint.

A central platform at Star Carr in North Yorkshire, England, was excavated by a research team studying past climate change events at the Middle Stone Age site. The Star Carr site is home to the oldest evidence of carpentry in Europe and of built structures in Britain.

This wall with paintings is in the La Pasiega Cave in Spain. The ladder shape of red horizontal and vertical lines is more than 64,000 years old and was made by Neanderthals.

These perforated shells were found in Spain’s Cueva de los Aviones sea cave and date to between 115,000 and 120,000 years ago. Researchers believe these served as body ornamentation for Neanderthals.

The earliest modern human fossil ever found outside of Africa has been recovered in Israel. This suggests that modern humans left Africa at least 50,000 years earlier than previously believed. The upper jawbone, including several teeth, was recovered in a prehistoric cave site.

This is an excavated structure at the northern edge of the Grand Plaza at Teposcolula-Yucundaa in Oaxaca, Mexico. Researchers investigated a “pestilence” cemetery associated with a devastating 1545-1550 epidemic. New analysis suggests that salmonella caused a typhoid fever epidemic.

Standing about 4 feet tall, early human ancestor Paranthropus boisei had a small brain and a wide, dish-like face. It is most well-known for having big teeth and hefty chewing muscles.

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Astronomers Detect a Suspiciously Shaped Galaxy Lurking in The Very Early Universe

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Astronomers Detect a Suspiciously Shaped Galaxy Lurking in The Very Early Universe_5ec5b2be6848e.jpeg

Around 13.8 billion years ago, somehow the Universe popped into existence. But it didn’t come fully equipped. At some point, the first stars formed, and the first galaxies. How and when this happened is still a mystery astronomers are trying to solve… but one galaxy could have a vitally important key.

 

It’s called DLA0817g – nicknamed the Wolfe Disk – a cool, rotating, gas-rich disc galaxy with a mass of about 72 billion times that of our Sun. And the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array has snapped it a massive 12.5 billion light-years away – when the Universe was just 10 percent of its current age.

It’s the earliest rotating disc galaxy astronomers have found yet, and its very existence changes our understanding of galaxy formation in the early Universe.

Most of the galaxies in the early Universe are a hot mess, literally. They’re all blobby, with stars flying every which way, and rather high temperatures. Astronomers have interpreted this to mean that they grew large by colliding and merging with other galaxies – a hot, messy process.

“Most galaxies that we find early in the Universe look like train wrecks because they underwent consistent and often ‘violent’ merging,” explained astronomer Marcel Neeleman of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

“These hot mergers make it difficult to form well-ordered, cold rotating disks like we observe in our present Universe.”

 

Under this scenario, it takes a long time for the galaxies to cool down and smooth out into the more orderly rotating disc galaxies like the Milky Way. We don’t generally start seeing them until about 4 to 6 billion years after the Big Bang.

This is the “hot” mode of galaxy formation. But astronomers had also predicted and simulated another way – the “cold” mode. 

First, you need to start with the primordial soup, an ionised quark-gluon plasma that filled the Universe before the formation of matter. To go from this homogeneous plasma to a Universe filled with stuff, astrophysicists have run simulations that suggest dark matter is responsible.

We don’t know what dark matter is. We can’t detect it directly, but it interacts gravitationally with normal matter. It helps to hold galaxies together, and we believe that it could be crucial to galaxy formation, clumps of it pulling together gas and stars into galaxies.

Supercomputer simulations have shown that a massive network of dark matter in the early Universe could have facilitated the formation of cool galaxies. If the gas was cool to start with, it could have been fed along filaments of the network into the dark matter clumps, accreting into large, cool, orderly disc galaxies.

 

But the only way to confirm this model is through observational evidence, so the researchers went looking, using the light of even more distant galaxies, called quasars, to illuminate the way.

Distant galaxies are very hard to see, but quasars are among the most luminous objects in the Universe – galaxies lit by an active supermassive black hole, the space around it blasting out radiation as it feeds. The team turned ALMA’s powerful capabilities to these distant quasars, looking for signatures in their light that showed that it had passed through a gas-filled galaxy on the way.

They found it. The light from one of the quasars they imaged had passed through a region rich with hydrogen – the signature of the Wolfe Disk.

And there was something else. The light on one side of the disc was compressed, or blueshifted. We see this when something is moving towards us. And the light from the other side was stretched, or redshifted – moving away from us. The object was rotating.

Those Doppler shifts, as they are known, then allowed the researchers to calculate the velocity of the galaxy’s rotation: around 272 kilometres per second.

What’s even more wild is that the team believes the Wolfe Disk isn’t one of a kind. 

“The fact that we found the Wolfe Disk using this method, tells us that it belongs to the normal population of galaxies present at early times,” Neeleman said.

“When our newest observations with ALMA surprisingly showed that it is rotating, we realised that early rotating disk galaxies are not as rare as we thought and that there should be a lot more of them out there.”

The team will continue their search for these galaxies to find out just how common cold accretion was in the early Universe.

The research has been published in Nature.

 

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NASA’s head of human spaceflight abruptly resigns, citing ‘mistake’ – CNN

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NASA’s head of human spaceflight abruptly resigns, citing ‘mistake’ – CNN_5ec5b2b4e863d.jpeg

His departure was effective on Monday.

The incident in question was related to the Artemis Program, a source familiar with the matter told CNN Business.
The Artemis Program seeks to return astronauts to the moon by 2024, which was announced by the Trump administration last year and has been criticized as unrealistic. The source familiar with the reason for Loverro’s departure said the issue centered on contracts that were awarded earlier this year for development of lunar landers, or vehicles that can carry astronauts to the moon’s surface.

When reached by phone Tuesday evening, Loverro declined to comment on the reason for his departure.

Loverro began serving in his role as the head of NASA’s human spaceflight programs in December, replacing William Gerstenmaier, who served in the role for more than a decade. In his nearly 700-word note, Loverro told NASA workers only that leaders are “called on to take risks” and added that, “I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission.”

“Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences,” Loverro wrote. “And therefore, it is with a very, very heavy heart that I write to you today to let you know that I have resigned from NASA effective May 18th, 2020.”

NASA’s Office of the Inspector General announced an audit of the agency’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis program in March, though it’s unclear if that review was related to Loverro’s departure. It’s also unclear exactly what role Loverro played in the selection process.
The source familiar with the matter, who asked to remain anonymous because the space agency has not yet publicized details, told CNN Business that the incident in question was unrelated to NASA’s historic milestone next week when SpaceX, NASA’s partner in the Commercial Crew Program, launches two astronauts to the International Space Station. That mission will mark the first time since 2011 that humans have launched into orbit from US soil, and Loverro was slated to preside over a final technical review meeting on Thursday, ahead of launch on May 27. Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator, will take over Loverro’s role at that meeting, according to NASA.

Ken Bowersox, NASA’s acting deputy associate administrator for human exploration and operations, will become NASA’s interim head of human spaceflight.

Loverro’s exit immediately raised some eyebrows on Capitol Hill.

Meet the NASA astronauts who will fly on historic SpaceX mission

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas who chairs the House space and science committee, said in a statement that she was “shocked” by the news.

“I trust that NASA Administrator Bridenstine will ensure that the right decision is made as to whether or not to delay the launch attempt,” Johnson said. “Beyond that, Mr. Loverro’s resignation is another troubling indication that the Artemis Moon-Mars initiative is still not on stable footing. I look forward to clarification from NASA as to the reasons for this latest personnel action.”

Kendra Horn, a Democrat from Oklahoma who chairs a House subcommittee on space, said in a tweet Tuesday that she is “deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially eight days before the first scheduled launch of US astronauts on US soil in almost a decade.”

The timing of Loverro’s departure was related to when Jurczyk, the associate administrator, made a recommendation to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, the source said. It was unrelated to next week’s Crew Dragon launch, the source added.

Jurczyk was the source selection officer for the Artemis lunar lander contract awards, according to public documents.

In announcing Loverro’s appointment in October, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine called Loverro “a respected strategic leader in both civilian and defense programs” who “will be of great benefit to NASA at this critical time in our final development of human spaceflight systems for both Commercial Crew and Artemis.”

An agency-wide email sent on Tuesday said Loverro “hit the ground running” after his appointment in 2019 and had made “significant progress in his time at NASA.”

“His leadership of [NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations] has moved us closer to our goal of landing the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024,” the email said. It said his resignation was effective immediately, though it did not provide details on the reason for his exit.

A NASA spokesperson declined to comment.

Loverro told CNN Business he is “100% confident” that leadership will be able to carry out the SpaceX mission. He added that he believes NASA’s ambitious human spaceflight goals are “doable.” “But,” he added, “it will take risk takers to get us there, and I hope folks who step in my shoes will continue to take risks.”

Next week’s SpaceX launch will mark the space agency’s highest-profile mission since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. SpaceX, which has a multibillion-dollar contract under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, has worked for the better part of a decade to ready its Dragon spacecraft for crewed flights to the International Space Station. Since the Shuttle retired, NASA has had to rely on Russia for rides to the ISS.

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In an orange swirl, astronomers say humanity has its first look at the birth of a planet

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In an orange swirl, astronomers say humanity has its first look at the birth of a planet_5ec5b2aa94bef.jpeg

An image of a mesmerizing cosmic spiral, twisting and swirling around a galactic maw, may be the first direct evidence of the birth of a planet ever captured by humanity.

The European Southern Observatory released a picture Wednesday of what astronomers believe shows the process of cosmic matter at a gravitational tipping point, collapsing into a new world around a nearby star.

Astronomers said the dramatic scene offers a rare glimpse into the formation of a baby planet, which could help scientists better understand how planets come to exist around stars.

“Thousands of exoplanets have been identified so far, but little is known about how they form,” the lead author of a study detailing the discovery, Anthony Boccaletti, an astronomer at the Observatoire de Paris in France, said in a statement.

Planets are thought to form out of the massive discs of gas and dust that surround young stars. As tiny specks of dust circle a star and collide with one another, some material starts to fuse, much like how rolling a snowball through more snow will eventually yield a bigger snowball. After billions of years, the clumps of material become large enough that the force of gravity shapes them into planets.

The new image peers into the disc of material around a young star known as AB Aurigae, which is 520 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Auriga. Amid the hypnotic spiral arms is a “twist,” visible in the photo as a bright yellow region in the center, that is thought to be a sign of a planet being born, said Emmanuel Di Folco, a researcher at the Astrophysics Laboratory of Bordeaux in France, who participated in the study.

When a planet forms, the clumps of material create wavelike perturbations in the gas- and dust-filled disc around a star, “somewhat like the wake of a boat on a lake,” Di Folco said.

The bright region at the center of the new image is thought to be evidence of such a disturbance, which had been predicted in models of planetary birth.

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“The twist is expected from some theoretical models of planet formation,” said Anne Dutrey, an astronomer at the Astrophysics Laboratory of Bordeaux and co-author of the study, published Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. “It corresponds to the connection of two spirals — one winding inwards of the planet’s orbit, the other expanding outwards — which join at the planet location.”

The new observations of the baby planet were made in 2019 and early 2020 by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The research team, made up of astronomers from France, Taiwan, the U.S. and Belgium, said the images are the deepest observations of the AB Aurigae system made to date.

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