Members Can Post Anonymously On This Site
A remarkable slice of ancient history has been unearthed beneath the depths of the Baltic Sea, marking a significant milestone in archaeological exploration. This groundbreaking discovery was serendipitously made in Germany’s Bay of Mecklenburg, during a routine student expedition.
Located approximately 10 kilometers (six miles) offshore, the team of researchers stumbled upon an intriguing anomaly using their multi-beam sonar system.
What they found was a sprawling, enigmatic wall extending nearly a kilometer along the seabed, nestled at a depth of 21 meters (69 feet). Detailed analysis has revealed that this colossal structure dates back over 10,000 years, potentially making it the oldest known megastructure built by ancient Europeans.
Comprising approximately 1,670 individual stones meticulously arranged to connect some 300 larger boulders, the structure hints at a deliberate construction, suggesting a specific purpose conceived millennia before being submerged beneath the sea.
Led by geophysicist Jacob Geerson from Kiel University, the research team has dubbed the discovery the "Blinker wall." They propose that it was likely built by Stone Age hunter-gatherers near a lake or marsh, serving as one of the earliest documented man-made hunting structures in history and ranking among Europe's largest Stone Age constructions.
Over millennia, Earth's geography has undergone profound transformations due to sea level fluctuations, erosion, and geological shifts, submerging countless ancient settlements beneath the waves and concealing their secrets. However, advancements in technology continue to unveil these submerged relics, offering invaluable insights into our ancestors' way of life.
While the precise function of the Blinker wall remains elusive, experts speculate it might have functioned as a hunting aid, possibly guiding reindeer herds. The construction's strategic layout suggests the intentional creation of bottlenecks to corral animals, with the potential presence of a second adjacent wall hinted at by the researchers.
Detailed examination of the structure's dimensions, composition, and alignment strongly indicates human involvement, ruling out natural formation. The team's analysis posits the Blinker wall's construction over 10,000 years ago, with submersion occurring around 8,500 years ago.
The significance of the Blinker wall extends beyond its age, promising valuable insights into the socioeconomic complexities of ancient hunter-gatherer societies in the region, illuminating their way of life and interaction with the environment.
Baltic Sea Anomaly.
The Baltic Sea is full off ancient mysteries, not only the discovery of the ruins of the 11,000-year-old megastructure but also the discovery in June 2011 by Swedish OceanX diving team of an enigmatic anomaly displaying unconventional characteristics sparking speculation that it could be a submerged UFO. Despite the explanation behind the Blinker wall, the UFO-like anomaly continues to baffle experts, shrouded in mystery to this day.
View the full article
5 Min Read NASA’s Planetary Protection Team Conducts Vital Research for Deep Space Missions
Cassilly examines fungal growth obtained from a space environmental exposure study, part of the Planetary Protection team’s work to understand the ability of microbes to survive conditions in deep space. Credits: NASA/Charles Beason By Celine Smith
As NASA continues its exploration of the solar system, including future crewed missions to Mars, experts in the agency’s Office of Planetary Protection are developing advanced tactics to prevent NASA expeditions from introducing biological contaminants to other worlds.
At NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the Planetary Protection team is contributing to this work – pursuing new detection, cleaning, and decontamination methods that will protect alien biospheres, safeguard future planetary science missions, and prevent potentially hazardous microbes from being returned to Earth. The Planetary Protection team is a part of the Space Environmental Effects (SEE) team in Marshall’s Materials and Processes Laboratory.
Chelsi Cassilly, lead of Marshall Space Flight Center’s Planetary Protection Laboratory, researches microbes and their behaviors to preserve the environment of other planetary bodies after future missions. NASA/Charles Beason Planetary Protection microbiologist Chelsi Cassilly said much of Planetary Protection focuses on “bioburden” which is typically considered the number of bacterial endospores (commonly referred to as “spores”) found on and in materials. Such materials can range from paints and coatings on robotic landers to solid propellants in solid rocket motors. NASA currently requires robotic missions to Mars meet strict bioburden limits and is assessing how to apply similar policies to future, crewed missions to the Red Planet.
“It’s impossible to eliminate microbes completely,” Cassily said. “But it’s our job to minimize bioburden, keeping the probability of contamination sufficiently low to protect the extraterrestrial environments we explore.”
Currently, Marshall’s Planetary Protection research supports NASA’s Mars Ascent Vehicle, a key component of the planned Mars Sample Return campaign, and risk-reduction efforts for the Human Landing System program.
Critically, Planetary Protection prevents the introduction of microbes from Earth onto planetary bodies where they might proliferate and subsequently interfere with scientific study of past or current life there. If Earth’s microbes were to contaminate samples collected on Mars or Europa, the scientific findings would be an inaccurate depiction of these environments, potentially precluding the ability to determine if life ever existed there. Preserving the scientific integrity of these missions is of the utmost importance to Cassilly and her team.
Contamination mitigation tactics used in the past also may not work with modern hardware and materials. For the Viking missions to Mars, NASA employed a total spacecraft “heat microbial reduction” (HMR) process, a prolonged exposure to high temperatures to kill off or minimize microbes. As spacecrafts advance, NASA is more discerning, using HMR for components and/or subassemblies instead of the entire spacecraft.
According to Cassilly, HMR may not always be an ideal solution because, extended time at high temperatures required to kill microbes can degrade the integrity of certain materials, potentially impacting mission success. While this is not a problem for all materials, there is still a need to expand NASA’s repertoire of acceptable microbial reduction techniques to include ones that may be more efficient and sustainable.
This mold from the genus Cladosporium was collected from the surface of a cleanroom table at Marshall. This and other microbes within cleanrooms pose the biggest threat to spacecraft cleanliness and meeting Planetary Protection requirements. Jacobs Engineering/Chelsi Cassilly To contribute to NASA’s Planetary Protection efforts, Cassilly undertook a project – funded by a Jacobs Innovation Grant – to build a microbial library that could better inform and guide mitigation research. That meant visiting cleanrooms at Marshall to collect prevalent microbes, extracting DNA, amplifying specific genes, and submitting them for commercial sequencing. They identified 95% of the microbes within their library which is continually growing as more microbes are collected and identified.
The Planetary Protection team is interested in taking this work a step further by exposing their microbial library to space-like stressors—including ultraviolet light, ionizing radiation, temperature extremes, desiccation, and vacuum—to determine survivability.
Understanding the response of these microbes to space environmental conditions, like those experienced during deep space transit, helps inform our understanding of contamination risks associated with proposed planetary missions.
Planetary Protection microbiologist
“The research we’re doing probes at the possibility of using space itself to our advantage,” Cassilly said.
Cassilly and Marshall materials engineers also supported a study at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, to determine whether certain manufacturing processes effectively reduce bioburden. Funded by a NASA Research Opportunity in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) grant, the project assessed the antimicrobial activity of various additives and components used in solid rocket motor production. The team is currently revising a manuscript which should appear publicly in the coming months.
This Bacillus isolate with striking morphology was collected from a sample of insulation commonly used in solid rocket motors. Cassilly studies these and other material-associated microbes to evaluate what could hitch a ride on spacecraft. Jacobs Engineering/Chelsi Cassilly Cassilly also supported research by Marshall’s Solid Propulsion and Pyrotechnic Devices Branch to assess estimates of microbial contamination associated with a variety of commonly used nonmetallic spacecraft materials. The results showed that nearly all the materials analyzed carry a lower microbial load than previously estimated – possibly decreasing the risk associated with sending these materials to sensitive locations.
Such findings benefit researchers across NASA who are also pursuing novel bioburden reduction tactics, Cassilly said, improving agencywide standards for identifying, measuring, and studying advanced planetary protection techniques.
“Collaboration unifies our efforts and makes it so much more possible to uncover new solutions than if we were all working individually,” she said.
NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection is part of the agency’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Office of Planetary Protection oversees bioburden reduction research and development of advanced strategies for contamination mitigation at Marshall Space Flight Center; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
For more information about NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, visit:
Last Updated Feb 22, 2024 LocationMarshall Space Flight Center Related Terms
Marshall Space Flight Center Explore More
3 min read NASA to Continue Testing for New Artemis Moon Rocket Engines
Article 2 hours ago 30 min read The Marshall Star for February 21, 2024
Article 16 hours ago 3 min read Rocket Propellant Tanks for NASA’s Artemis III Mission Take Shape
Article 6 days ago Keep Exploring Discover More Topics From NASA
Marshall Space Flight Center
Human Landing System
Planetary Missions Program Office
Brian Muirhead: Mars Sample Return Mission Overview
View the full article
6 min read
Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
In an ejection that would have caused its rotation to slow, a magnetar is depicted losing material into space in this artist’s concept. The magnetar’s strong, twisted magnetic field lines (shown in green) can influence the flow of electrically charged material from the object, which is a type of neutron star. NASA/JPL-Caltech Using two of the agency’s X-ray telescopes, researchers were able to zoom in on a dead star’s erratic behavior as it released a bright, brief burst of radio waves.
What’s causing mysterious bursts of radio waves from deep space? Astronomers may be a step closer to providing one answer to that question. Two NASA X-ray telescopes recently observed one of such event – known as a fast radio burst – mere minutes before and after it occurred. This unprecedented view sets scientists on a path to better understand these extreme radio events.
While they only last for a fraction of a second, fast radio bursts can release about as much energy as the Sun does in a year. Their light also forms a laserlike beam, setting them apart from more chaotic cosmic explosions.
Because the bursts are so brief, it’s often hard to pinpoint where they come from. Prior to 2020, those that were traced to their source originated outside our own galaxy – too far away for astronomers to see what created them. Then a fast radio burst erupted in Earth’s home galaxy, originating from an extremely dense object called a magnetar – the collapsed remains of an exploded star.
In October 2022, the same magnetar – called SGR 1935+2154 – produced another fast radio burst, this one studied in detail by NASA’s NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) on the International Space Station and NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) in low Earth orbit. The telescopes observed the magnetar for hours, catching a glimpse of what happened on the surface of the source object and in its immediate surroundings, before and after the fast radio burst. The results, described in a new study published Feb. 14 in the journal Nature, are an example of how NASA telescopes can work together to observe and follow up on short-lived events in the cosmos.
The burst occurred between two “glitches,” when the magnetar suddenly started spinning faster. SGR 1935+2154 is estimated to be about 12 miles (20 kilometers) across and spinning about 3.2 times per second, meaning its surface was moving at about 7,000 mph (11,000 kph). Slowing it down or speeding it up would require a significant amount of energy. That’s why study authors were surprised to see that in between glitches, the magnetar slowed down to less than its pre-glitch speed in just nine hours, or about 100 times more rapidly than has ever been observed in a magnetar.
“Typically, when glitches happen, it takes the magnetar weeks or months to get back to its normal speed,” said Chin-Ping Hu, an astrophysicist at National Changhua University of Education in Taiwan and the lead author of the new study. “So clearly things are happening with these objects on much shorter time scales than we previously thought, and that might be related to how fast radio bursts are generated.”
When trying to piece together exactly how magnetars produce fast radio bursts, scientists have a lot of variables to consider.
For example, magnetars (which are a type of neutron star) are so dense that a teaspoon of their material would weigh about a billion tons on Earth. Such a high density also means a strong gravitational pull: A marshmallow falling onto a typical neutron star would impact with the force of an early atomic bomb.
The strong gravity means the surface of a magnetar is a volatile place, regularly releasing bursts of X-rays and higher-energy light. Before the fast radio burst that occurred in 2022, the magnetar started releasing eruptions of X-rays and gamma rays (even more energetic wavelengths of light) that were observed in the peripheral vision of high-energy space telescopes. This increase in activity prompted mission operators to point NICER and NuSTAR directly at the magnetar.
“All those X-ray bursts that happened before this glitch would have had, in principle, enough energy to create a fast radio burst, but they didn’t,” said study co-author Zorawar Wadiasingh, a research scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “So it seems like something changed during the slowdown period, creating the right set of conditions.”
What else might have happened with SGR 1935+2154 to produce a fast radio burst? One factor might be that the exterior of a magnetar is solid, and the high density crushes the interior into a state called a superfluid. Occasionally, the two can get out of sync, like water sloshing around inside a spinning fishbowl. When this happens, the fluid can deliver energy to the crust. The paper authors think this is likely what caused both glitches that bookended the fast radio burst.
If the initial glitch caused a crack in the magnetar’s surface, it might have released material from the star’s interior into space like a volcanic eruption. Losing mass causes spinning objects to slow down, so the researchers think this could explain the magnetar’s rapid deceleration.
But having observed only one of these events in real time, the team still can’t say for sure which of these factors (or others, such as the magnetar’s powerful magnetic field) might lead to the production of a fast radio burst. Some might not be connected to the burst at all.
“We’ve unquestionably observed something important for our understanding of fast radio bursts,” said George Younes, a researcher at Goddard and a member of the NICER science team specializing in magnetars. “But I think we still need a lot more data to complete the mystery.”
More About the Mission
A Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Virginia. NuSTAR’s mission operations center is at the University of California, Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. ASI provides the mission’s ground station and a mirror data archive. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
For more information about the NuSTAR mission, visit:
NICER, an Astrophysics Explorer Mission of Opportunity, is an external payload on the International Space Station. NICER is managed by and operated at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; its data is archived at NASA’s HEASARC. NASA’s Explorers program provides frequent flight opportunities for world-class scientific investigations from space utilizing innovative, streamlined, and efficient management approaches within the heliophysics and astrophysics science areas.
For more information about the NICER mission, visit:
News Media Contact
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Last Updated Feb 14, 2024 Related Terms
NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) Astrophysics Galaxies, Stars, & Black Holes Goddard Space Flight Center Jet Propulsion Laboratory Magnetars Neutron Stars The Milky Way Explore More
2 min read Stars Sparkle in New Hubble Image
This new NASA Hubble Space Telescope view shows the globular cluster NGC 2298, a sparkling…
Article 4 hours ago 3 min read Team Assessing SHERLOC Instrument on NASA’s Perseverance Rover
Article 24 hours ago 7 min read Sujung Go: Helping Humanity and the Environment
Article 1 day ago Keep Exploring Discover Related Topics
Humans in Space
View the full article
5 min read
Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
Deep Space Station 13 at NASA’s Goldstone complex in California – part of the agency’s Deep Space Network – is an experimental antenna that has been retrofitted with an optical terminal. In a first, this proof of concept received both radio frequency and laser signals from deep space at the same time.NASA/JPL-Caltech Capable of receiving both radio frequency and optical signals, the DSN’s hybrid antenna has tracked and decoded the downlink laser from DSOC, aboard NASA’s Psyche mission.
An experimental antenna has received both radio frequency and near-infrared laser signals from NASA’s Psyche spacecraft as it travels through deep space. This shows it’s possible for the giant dish antennas of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), which communicate with spacecraft via radio waves, to be retrofitted for optical, or laser, communications.
By packing more data into transmissions, optical communication will enable new space exploration capabilities while supporting the DSN as demand on the network grows.
A close-up of the optical terminal on Deep Space Station 13 shows seven hexagonal mirrors that collect signals from DSOC’s downlink laser. The mirrors reflect the light into a camera directly above, and the signal is then sent to a detector via a system of optical fiber.NASA/JPL-Caltech The 34-meter (112-foot) radio-frequency-optical-hybrid antenna, called Deep Space Station 13, has tracked the downlink laser from NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration since November 2023. The tech demo’s flight laser transceiver is riding with the agency’s Psyche spacecraft, which launched on Oct. 13, 2023.
The hybrid antenna is located at the DSN’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, near Barstow, California, and isn’t part of the DSOC experiment. The DSN, DSOC, and Psyche are managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
“Our hybrid antenna has been able to successfully and reliably lock onto and track the DSOC downlink since shortly after the tech demo launched,” said Amy Smith, DSN deputy manager at JPL. “It also received Psyche’s radio frequency signal, so we have demonstrated synchronous radio and optical frequency deep space communications for the first time.”
Now that Goldstone’s experimental hybrid antenna has proved that both radio and laser signals can be received synchronously by the same antenna, purpose-built hybrid antennas (like the one depicted here in an artist’s concept) could one day become a reality.NASA/JPL-Caltech During a test of the experimental antenna, this photo of the project team at JPL was downlinked by the DSOC transceiver aboard Psyche. NASA/JPL-Caltech In late 2023, the hybrid antenna downlinked data from 20 million miles (32 million kilometers) away at a rate of 15.63 megabits per second – about 40 times faster than radio frequency communications at that distance. On Jan. 1, 2024, the antenna downlinked a team photograph that had been uploaded to DSOC before Psyche’s launch.
Two for One
In order to detect the laser’s photons (quantum particles of light), seven ultra-precise segmented mirrors were attached to the inside of the hybrid antenna’s curved surface. Resembling the hexagonal mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, these segments mimic the light-collecting aperture of a 3.3-foot (1-meter) aperture telescope. As the laser photons arrive at the antenna, each mirror reflects the photons and precisely redirects them into a high-exposure camera attached to the antenna’s subreflector suspended above the center of the dish.
The laser signal collected by the camera is then transmitted through optical fiber that feeds into a cryogenically cooled semiconducting nanowire single photon detector. Designed and built by JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory, the detector is identical to the one used at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, in San Diego County, California, which acts as DSOC’s downlink ground station.
“It’s a high-tolerance optical system built on a 34-meter flexible structure,” said Barzia Tehrani, communications ground systems deputy manager and delivery manager for the hybrid antenna at JPL. “We use a system of mirrors, precise sensors, and cameras to actively align and direct laser from deep space into a fiber reaching the detector.”
Tehrani hopes the antenna will be sensitive enough to detect the laser signal sent from Mars at its farthest point from Earth (2 ½ times the distance from the Sun to Earth). Psyche will be at that distance in June on its way to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to investigate the metal-rich asteroid Psyche.
The seven-segment reflector on the antenna is a proof of concept for a scaled-up and more powerful version with 64 segments – the equivalent of a 26-foot (8-meter) aperture telescope – that could be used in the future.
An Infrastructure Solution
DSOC is paving the way for higher-data-rate communications capable of transmitting complex scientific information, video, and high-definition imagery in support of humanity’s next giant leap: sending humans to Mars. The tech demo recently streamed the first ultra-high-definition video from deep space at record-setting bitrates.
Retrofitting radio frequency antennas with optical terminals and constructing purpose-built hybrid antennas could be a solution to the current lack of a dedicated optical ground infrastructure. The DSN has 14 dishes distributed across facilities in California, Madrid, and Canberra, Australia. Hybrid antennas could rely on optical communications to receive high volumes of data and use radio frequencies for less bandwidth-intensive data, such as telemetry (health and positional information).
“For decades, we have been adding new radio frequencies to the DSN’s giant antennas located around the globe, so the most feasible next step is to include optical frequencies,” said Tehrani. “We can have one asset doing two things at the same time; converting our communication roads into highways and saving time, money, and resources.”
More About the Mission
DSOC is the latest in a series of optical communication demonstrations funded by NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM) program and the agency’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages DSOC for TDM within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and SCaN within the agency’s Space Operations Mission Directorate.
For more about NASA’s optical communications projects, visit:
NASA’s Deep Space Network Turns 60 and Prepares for the Future NASA’s Tech Demo Streams First Video From Deep Space via Laser Teachable Moment: NASA Cat Video Explained News Media Contact
Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Last Updated Feb 08, 2024 Related Terms
Deep Space Network Space Communications & Navigation Program Space Communications Technology Space Operations Mission Directorate Space Technology Mission Directorate Technology Demonstration Technology Demonstration Missions Program Explore More
3 min read NASA Tests New Spacecraft Propellant Gauge on Lunar Lander
Article 2 days ago 4 min read NASA Taps Alabama A&M University to Host Break the Ice Lunar Challenge
Article 1 week ago 4 min read NASA’s Fission Surface Power Project Energizes Lunar Exploration
Article 1 week ago Keep Exploring Discover Related Topics
Humans in Space
View the full article
Check out these Videos