Posts Tagged ‘old’

NASA locates most distant galaxy ever discovered

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

The most distant galaxy ever seen in the universe has been detected by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.

The most distant galaxy ever seen in the universe has been detected by NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.

The newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, is very young and only a tiny fraction of the size of our Milky Way Photo: Nasa

By , Science Correspondent

11:58AM GMT 16 Nov 2012

Light from the newly discovered galaxy, which astronomers have named MACS0647-JD, reached Earth after travelling across space for 13.3 billion years.

It provides a window on what the galaxy looked like just 420 million years after the big bang, when the universe was only three per cent of its current age.

The galaxy was detected using an effect known as gravitational lensing, where large clusters of galaxies are used as “natural zoom lenses” to enlarge the appearance of galaxies behind them.

Astronomers were able to detect a hint of light from MACS0647-JD because it was magnified as it passed around an enormous galaxy cluster known as MACS J0647+7015 as it travelled towards Earth.

Thanks to the gravitational force of the cluster, the Hubble telescope was able to detect the light at up to eight times the brightness it otherwise would.

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Prehistoric bugs from 230 million years ago found in amber

August 27, 2012

Scientists find oldest occurrence of arthropods preserved in amber 











These photomicrographs are of the two new species of ancient gall mites in 230-million-year-old amber droplets from northeastern Italy, taken at 1000x magnification. The gall mites were named (left) Triasacarus fedelei and (right) Ampezzoa triassica. Credit: University of Göttingen/A. Schmidt

(—An international team of scientists has discovered the oldest record of arthropods—invertebrate animals that include insects, arachnids, and crustaceans—preserved in amber. The specimens, one fly and two mites found in millimeter-scale droplets of amber from northeastern Italy, are about 100 million years older than any other amber arthropod ever collected. The group’s findings, which are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pave the way for a better evolutionary understanding of the most diverse group of organisms in the world.

Amber is an extremely valuable tool for paleontologists because it preserves specimens with microscopic fidelity, allowing uniquely accurate estimates of the amount of evolutionary change over millions of years,” said corresponding author David Grimaldi, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology and a world authority on amber and fossil arthropods.

Globules of fossilized resin are typically called amber. Amber ranges in age from the Carboniferous (about 340 million years ago) to about 40,000 years ago, and has been produced by myriad plants, from tree ferns to flowering trees, but predominantly by conifers. Even though arthropods are more than 400 million years old, until now, the oldest record of the animals in amber dates to about 130 million years. The newly discovered arthropods break that mold with an age of 230 million years. They are the first arthropods to be found in amber from the Triassic Period.

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100 Year Old Political Cartoon – Still as Accurate as Ever

January 11, 2012 1 comment

Explorers discover 3 billion-year-old life forms off the coast of Michigan

July 19, 2011 2 comments

 Explorers discover 3 billion-year-old life forms off the coast of MichiganIn mysterious sinkholes beneath the waters of Lake Huron, scientists have been exploring strange pockets of life that shouldn’t exist on present-day Earth. The microbes researchers have found would have been perfectly comfortable on the Earth of 3 billion years ago, before we had oxygen in the atmosphere.

How did the bottom of Lake Huron get riddled with sinkholes that time forgot? Find out, and see a video of life that hasn’t existed for billions of years.

The sinkholes at the bottom of the lake are pockets of de-oxygenated water that have pooled beneath the fresh waters above. So all the creatures who live in the sinkholes might have evolved at a time on Earth when no oxygen was available. In a recent Earth magazine article about the ongoing exploration of these sinkholes, first discovered a little over a decade ago, Lindsey Doermann writes:

These pockets of water teem with microbial life similar to that found around deep ocean hydrothermal vents or beneath ice-covered Antarctic lakes, not the kinds of microorganisms normally found in our own backyards . . . Before long, the true importance of these oddities became apparent: “These ecosystems in Lake Huron are analogs of the Proterozoic,” says Bopi Biddanda, a microbial ecologist at Grand Valley State University in Michigan and one of the leaders of the sinkhole science team. “They could be windows into communities that existed 3 billion years ago.”

Though it’s possible the creatures in the sinkholes are direct descendants of creatures who lived on pre-oxygen Earth, it’s more likely that they evolved from more recent organisms to thrive in an oxygen-free ecological niche. Either way, they are the closest we’ll get to seeing life from Earth’s distant past.

But how did those sinkholes get there in the first place? As you can see from this diagram, what’s happened is that freshwater from the Earth’s surface has sunk below ground, and eventually worked its way back out beneath the lake. As the water slowly eroded the lakebed, it created sinkholes of freshwater — lakes within lakes, if you will — where anaerobic or oxygen-free ecosystems began to thrive.

Explorers discover 3 billion-year-old life forms off the coast of Michigan In this incredible video of the sinkholes, you can see the oxygen-free freshwater bubbling up from the lake bottom. All life on Earth may have once resembled these strange, algae-furred fingers reaching up from the sinkholes. It wasn’t until about 2 billion years ago that the planet began to have a significant amount of oxygen in its atmosphere. The shift to oxygen was caused by cyanobacteria like what you see in this video, who emit oxygen as part of their digestive cycle. As cyanobacteria took over ancient Earth’s seas, geologists believe that they caused the planet’s first climate disaster, killing off all the life forms that didn’t metabolize oxygen. Essentially, oxygen was a poison gas to them and made the planet unlivable. Lucky for multicellular organisms, oxygen ushered in a new era where life proliferated and diversified in dramatic ways, eventually leading to the world we live in today