Dinosaur skeleton draws crowds in Singapore before auction

Shen the T-Rex, which would have lived 66 million-68 million years ago, was unearthed in Montana, in the United States, in 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 October 2022
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Dinosaur skeleton draws crowds in Singapore before auction

  • Visitors take selfies with ‘Shen’, the Chinese word for god, which measures 12.2 meters long and 4.6 meters high and weighs 1,400 kilograms

SINGAPORE: The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex drew thousands of visitors in Singapore on Friday eager to have a look at the huge fossil before it heads for auction in Hong Kong.
Many took selfies with the dinosaur, named “Shen,” the Chinese word for god, which measures 12.2 meters long and 4.6 meters high and weighs 1,400 kg.
The T-Rex, which would have lived 66-68 million years ago, was unearthed in Montana, in the United States, in 2020.
“We knew the grandchildren are so into dinosaurs. They’re always like ‘dinosaur this, dinosaur that’, so we thought, ‘wow, it’s such a good experience to bring them to have a look at this real thing’,” retiree Nancy Seet said.
Dinosaur enthusiast Richard Chan, 37, said he was reliving his childhood.
“I collect a lot of Jurassic Park T-Rex figurines so really cool to see an actual one,” said Chan.
When Shen is sold, it will be the first auction of a T-Rex fossil in Asia, according to Christie’s.
Some experts have expressed concern that such significant items should not be auctioned to private collectors, where they may not be available to the public or to scientists.
Francis Belin, president at Christie’s Asia Pacific, said they hoped that exceptional objects ended up in institutions so they could be seen by the public.
A guide price was not provided for Shen, nor the identity of the seller, but Belin said a previous T-Rex skeleton “Stan” fetched $31.8 million at a sale in New York in 2020.
Shen the T-Rex is on public view for three days until Sunday. The auction in Hong Kong takes place on Nov. 30.


Spaceship Odysseus lying sideways after dramatic moon touchdown

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Spaceship Odysseus lying sideways after dramatic moon touchdown

  • Shares of stocks of Intuitive Machines, maker of the lunar lander, descend fast after CEO's revelation
  • Odysseus is still considered the first success for a new fleet of NASA-funded lunar landers

WASHINGTON: The first American spaceship to the Moon since the Apollo era is probably lying sideways following its dramatic landing, the company that built it said Friday, even as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from the uncrewed robot.
The Odysseus spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole Thursday at 6:23 p.m. Eastern Time (2323 GMT), after a nail-biting final descent when ground teams had to switch to a backup guidance system and took several minutes to establish radio contact after the lander came to rest.
Intuitive Machines, the company behind this first-ever lunar landing by a private company, initially posted on social media that its hexagonal spaceship was upright, but CEO Steve Altemus told reporters on Friday that statement was based on misinterpreted data.
Instead, it appears that it caught a foot on the surface and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally with its top perched on a small rock — taking some shine off an accomplishment widely hailed as a historic achievement.

The revelation by Altemus caused shares of Intuitive Machines to tumble 30 percent in extended trade, wiping out a Friday rally after the dramatic touchdown.

On Feb. 22, 2024, Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander captured a wide field of view image of Schomberger crater on the Moon approximately 200 km uprange from the intended landing site. (X: @Int_Machines)

The stock of the first private company to successfully land on the moon nearly doubled from $4.98 before the Feb. 15 launch to $9.59 as of Friday’s close. Friday’s late-day sell-off left it below $7.
Still, the company said the spacecraft is “alive and well” and engineers were sending commands to the vehicle, and NASA officials at a news conference praised the effort.
The first touchdown on the lunar surface by a US spacecraft in more than half a century enthused investors of fellow space startups, sending up shares of companies such as Astra Space and Satellogic. They slipped between 0.5 percent and 2.8 percent in after-hours trading.
Stephen Altemus, CEO of Houston-based Intuitive Machines, which built and flew the lander, said the vehicle is believed to have caught one of its six landing feet on the lunar surface during its final descent and tipped over, coming to rest on its side propped up on a rock.

The Texas-based company’s lunar lander touched down at the Malapert A crater, about 300 kilometers (190 miles) from the moon’s south pole on February 22.
It was sent to the moon on Feb. 15 using a Falcon 9 rocket launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The company, co-founded in 2013 by serial space industry investor Kam Ghaffarian and NASA veterans Altemus and Tim Crain, is awaiting first images from the lunar surface.
The landing could open the doors to investments and government contracts, helping space companies ride out what has been a tough period of funding due to an uncertain economy.

A NASA probe called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter should be able to photograph Odysseus over the weekend, helping pinpoint its exact location.
Altemus said that while solar arrays were on the top-facing side, the team’s ability to download data from the science experiments on board was being hampered because of antennas facing downward that “are unusable for transmission back to Earth — and so that really is a limiter in our ability to communicate and get the right data down so we get everything we need for the mission.”
Because of complications associated with the landing, a decision was taken not to shoot out an external camera to capture the descent as it happened, according to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which built the “EagleCam” device.
But the team will still attempt to deploy it from the ground to try to obtain an outside image of Odysseus.

Odysseus is still considered the first success for a new fleet of NASA-funded lunar landers designed to carry out science experiments that will pave the way for the return of American astronauts to the Moon later this decade, under the Artemis program.
A moonshot by another American company last month ended in failure, raising the stakes to demonstrate that private industry has what it takes to repeat a feat last achieved by US space agency NASA during its manned Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Underlining the technical challenges, Intuitive Machines’ own navigation technology failed and ground engineers were forced to jury-rig a solution, hastily writing a software patch to switch to an experimental NASA laser guidance system that was intended to run only as a technology demonstration.
Altemus later revealed Odysseus’ own laser system failed to turn on because someone had forgotten to flip a safety switch before takeoff, which he described as “an oversight on our part.”
Confirmation of landing was supposed to come seconds after the milestone, but instead around 15 minutes passed before a faint signal was detected, enough to declare the spaceship was in one piece and had met its goal.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship six experiments under an initiative which delegates cargo services to the private sector in a bid to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.
Odysseus also carries cargo for private customers, including a reflective heat wrapping developed by Columbia Sportswear and used to protect the spaceship’s cryogenic propulsion tank.
The United States, along with international partners, want to develop long-term habitats on the south pole, harvesting ice there for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.
The first crewed landing under NASA’s Artemis program is set to take place no sooner than 2026. China, meanwhile, plans to put its first crew on the Moon in 2030, opening a new era of space competition.
The mission was the fourth attempt at soft lunar touchdown by the private sector. Intuitive Machines joins the national space agencies of the Soviet Union, United States, China, India and Japan in an exclusive club of landing on the Moon.

 


New Zealand opens first ‘kiwi hospital’ for injured birds

Updated 24 February 2024
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New Zealand opens first ‘kiwi hospital’ for injured birds

  • Roughly 26,000 brown kiwi live in the wild across New Zealand — a thousand more than in 2008, when conservationists classed them “Nationally Vulnerable”

WELLINGTON: New Zealand on Friday opened its first hospital exclusively treating kiwi birds, and vets have already nursed the first patient back to health — a chick nicknamed “Splash” that tumbled into a swimming pool.
Rising numbers of the once-threatened national bird have led to the construction of a purpose-built facility in Kerikeri, a three-hour drive north of Auckland.
The Department of Conservation told AFP the new kiwi hospital is the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The rehabilitation center, built by local conservation group Kiwi Coast, is in the heart of the Northland region, which has a brown kiwi population of nearly 10,000.
Roughly 26,000 brown kiwi live in the wild across New Zealand — a thousand more than in 2008, when conservationists classed them “Nationally Vulnerable.”
The species is now listed as “Not Threatened.”

The population growth is mostly due to conservation groups culling predators like stoats and ferrets, while dog owners have been offered special courses to teach pets not to attack the flightless bird.

With numbers climbing, Kiwi Coast co-ordinator Ngaire Sullivan said a specialist hospital was needed for sick or injured birds.

“Some will be struck by cars — the more kiwi we have, the more likely that there’s going to be the odd one that needs help,” she told AFP.

“We wanted to make sure stressed kiwi get the care they need.”

The center treated its first patient even before Friday’s official opening, when a young kiwi managed to squeeze through a fence and fall into a swimming pool filter.

“He was discovered, near death, the following morning by a builder working at a nearby site,” said Sullivan.

The kiwi, which spent a few days being treated, was named “Splash” by staff before being released.

“He got his nickname as that is how he was discovered — splashing about in the filter box,” said Sullivan.

“Kiwi cannot swim very well or climb out of vertical slippery-sided areas.”

Before the hospital opened, injured or ill birds had to be driven at least an hour to get treatment.

“There were incidents where kiwi didn’t survive the journey, which is one of the main reasons we started the center,” Sullivan added.

The hospital, run by volunteers, has veterinary facilities and isolation pens, “so we don’t spread diseases,” Sullivan explained.

Kiwi patients will be treated for up to three months before being returned to the wild.

Sullivan says the hospital is important to keep the kiwi population healthy.

“The tide has turned for the brown kiwi,” Emily King, a kiwi expert, told AFP.

The Department of Conservation technical adviser said the population growth is a result of successful predator management, “but without sustained effort, brown kiwi could easily slide back into a threatened status.”

 


US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

Updated 22 February 2024
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US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

LOS ANGELES: Police in Los Angeles have released body-cam footage of an incident in which officers shot and killed a man holding a plastic fork.

One of the police involved in the February 3 shooting in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles is under investigation to determine if the officer complied with rules on use of deadly force, authorities said Tuesday.
The man who was shot has been identified as Jason Lee Maccani, age 36.
The footage released Tuesday shows a man being confronted by half a dozen police officers in the corridor of a building.
They tell the man to approach them with his arms raised, and at first he seems to comply.
But he fails to stop moving and keeps walking with his hands clenched in fists, holding an object that the officers said they thought was a screwdriver.
Officers tried to subdue him but failed, police said in a statement.
In the video, the man is seen approaching the police when shots are heard.
“The suspect grabbed one of the officers and the Beanbag Shotgun she was holding, resulting in an Officer-Involved Shooting,” it said.
Police went to the building after someone called an emergency number to report an “assault with a deadly weapon” in a warehouse.
The caller said this person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and threatening employers with a stick.
Maccani died in a nearby hospital.
None of the warehouse employees or police were hurt.
 


Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

Updated 22 February 2024
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Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

  • Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients
  • Controllers will lower the orbit from just under 92 km to 10 km on Thursday before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A private US lunar lander reached the moon and eased into a low orbit Wednesday, a day before it will attempt an even greater feat — landing on the gray, dusty surface.

A smooth touchdown would put the US back in business on the moon for the first time since NASA astronauts closed out the Apollo program in 1972. The company, if successful, also would become the first private outfit to ace a moon landing.
Launched last week, Intuitive Machines’ lander fired its engine on the back side of the moon while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company’s Houston headquarters had to wait until the spacecraft emerged to learn whether the lander was in orbit or hurtling aimlessly away.
Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients. The lander is part of a NASA program to kickstart the lunar economy; the space agency is paying $118 million to get its experiments on the moon on this mission.

On Thursday, controllers will lower the orbit from just under 60 miles (92 kilometers) to 6 miles (10 kilometers) — a crucial maneuver occurring again on the moon’s far side — before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole. It’s a dicey place to land with all the craters and cliffs, but deemed prime real estate for astronauts since the permanently shadowed craters are believed to hold frozen water.
The moon is littered with wreckage from failed landings. Some missions never even got that far. Another US company — Astrobotic Technology — tried to send a lander to the moon last month, but it didn’t get there because of a fuel leak. The crippled lander came crashing back through the atmosphere, burning up over the Pacific.

Flight controllers monitor the progress of the moon landing at Intuitive Machines’ headquarters in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 21, 2024. (X: @Int_Machines)

A rundown on the moon’s winners and losers:
First victories
The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 successfully touches down on the moon in 1966, after its predecessors crash or miss the moon altogether. The US follows four months later with Surveyor 1. Both countries achieve more robotic landings, as the race heats up to land men.
Apollo rules
NASA clinches the space race with the Soviets in 1969 with a moon landing by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Twelve astronauts explore the surface over six missions, before the program ends with Apollo 17 in 1972. Still the only country to send humans to the moon, the US hopes to return crews to the surface by the end of 2026 or so, a year after a lunar fly-around by astronauts.
China emerges
China, in 2013, becomes the third country to successfully land on the moon, delivering a rover named Yutu, Chinese for jade rabbit. China follows with the Yutu-2 rover in 2019, this time touching down on the moon’s unexplored far side — an impressive first. A sample return mission on the moon’s near side in 2020 yields nearly 4 pounds (1.7 kilograms) of lunar rocks and dirt. Another sample return mission should be launching soon, but this time to the far side. Seen as NASA’s biggest moon rival, China aims to put its astronauts on the moon by 2030.
Russia stumbles
In 2023, Russia tries for its first mooc landing in nearly a half-century, but the Luna 25 spacecraft smashes into the moon. The country’s previous lander — 1976’s Luna 24 — not only landed, but returned moon rocks to Earth.
India triumphs on take 2
After its first lander slams into the moon in 2019, India regroups and launches Chandrayaan-3 (Hindi for moon craft) in 2023. The craft successfully touches down, making India the fourth country to score a lunar landing. The win comes just four days after Russia’s crash-landing.
Japan lands sideways
Japan becomes the fifth country to land successfully on the moon, with its spacecraft touching down in January. The craft lands on the wrong side, compromising its ability to generate solar power, but manages to crank out pictures and science before falling silent when the long lunar night sets in.
Private tries

A privately funded lander from Israel, named Beresheet, Hebrew for “in the beginning,” crashes into the moon in 2019. A Japanese entrepreneur’s company, ispace, launches a lunar lander in 2023, but it, too, wrecks. Astrobotic Technology, a Pittsburgh company, launches its lander in January, but a fuel leak prevents a landing and dooms the craft. Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines plan more moon deliveries.

 


Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day

Updated 21 February 2024
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Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day

  • The rotating disk around the quasar’s black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from gobbled-up stars — is like a cosmic hurricane
  • “The exciting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was misclassified as a star previously,” Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan, who was not involved in the study, said in an email

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Astronomers have discovered what may be the brightest object in the universe, a quasar with a black hole at its heart growing so fast that it swallows the equivalent of a sun a day.
The record-breaking quasar shines 500 trillion times brighter than our sun. The black hole powering this distant quasar is more than 17 billion times more immense than our sun, an Australian-led team reported Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.
While the quasar resembles a mere dot in images, scientists envision a ferocious place.
The rotating disk around the quasar’s black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from gobbled-up stars — is like a cosmic hurricane.
“This quasar is the most violent place that we know in the universe,” lead author Christian Wolf of Australian National University said in an email.
The European Southern Observatory spotted the object, J0529-4351, during a 1980 sky survey, but it was thought to be a star. It was not identified as a quasar — the extremely active and luminous core of a galaxy — until last year. Observations by telescopes in Australia and Chile’s Atacama Desert clinched it.
“The exciting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was misclassified as a star previously,” Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.
These later observations and computer modeling have determined that the quasar is gobbling up the equivalent of 370 suns a year — roughly one a day. Further analysis shows the mass of the black hole to be 17 to 19 billion times that of our sun, according to the team. More observations are needed to understand its growth rate.
The quasar is 12 billion light-years away and has been around since the early days of the universe. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.