Friday, December 15, 2017

Scientists Just Discovered Our First Known Interstellar Visitor And It’s Pretty Weird

First Known Interstellar Object – Solar System

Scientists have been working on the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) observatory at Haleakala, Hawaii just over a month back and had glimpses of something quite extraordinary, the first known interstellar object which had passed through the solar system.

They had distinguished observations together with details with the object for the past month and presently known as 11.2016 U1 `OUMUAMUA’, it seems to be the first object of this type. The `I’ signifies its interstellar origin – ISO. The interstellar `Oumuamua embarked in the solar system as though it had fallen from above, closing to within 0.25 AU from the sun which places it between the orbit of the sun and Mercury.

 However, there had been no clue of a tail as `Oumuamua' came near. The interstellar during its initial approach from above the solar system had been moving at a solid 15.8 miles per second – 25.5km/s and had bottomed out under the solar system after the gravity of the sun had pulled it in a different orbit. It is now on its way back out of the solar system on an altered route at an even higher speed of 44km/s.

Developing Follow-Up Strategy

Onumuamua – interstellar, is said to be quickly disappearing as it heads out of the solar system receding from the Sun as well as the Earth and receiving new observations quickly seems to be very vital. The IfA team comprising of those who had discovered 1l had prepared to follow up solar system discoveries quickly from Pan-STARRS, operated by the IfA, funded by NASA, according to Karen Meech, astronomer leading the investigative team who commented that they were capable of developing rapidly a follow-up strategy on a very short timescale.

It was exciting to think that the brief visit by Oumuamua had given them the opportunity to do the first representation of a sample from another solar system. Established on its observed characteristics, `Oumuamua is roughly the shape of a cigar with two of its axes around 80 meters across and the third 800 meters long. Its trail together with the speed recommends that it is not an ejected fragment of our own solar system at any earlier stage of its development.


Insight of the Cosmos

The research team tends to think that it is a distant prospect though this possibility could not be totally ruled out. They have speculated in fact that its encounter with our sun could have been the first instance interstellar `Oumuamua had encountered another star.

Though brief as it could have been, the complete encounter tends to remind us of the classic sci-fi book, `Rendezvous with Rama’ of Arthur C. Clarke wherein a massive cylindrical spacecraft on a quick approach in our own solar system had been explored by humans before it had continued on its journey to the Large Magellanic Cloud.

However, while we will not be seeing `Oumuamua’ again, the brief visit of the interstellar to our solar system has somewhat provided some insight of the cosmos to some extent.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Archaeologists Uncover Rare 2,000-Year-Old Sundial During Roman Theatre Excavation

2,000-Year-Old Sundial

Undamaged Sundial Discovered – Interamna Lirenas – Italy

During an excavation of a roofed theatre in the roman town of Interamna Lirenas, in the vicinity of Monte Cassino, in Italy, a 2,000 year old inscribed sundial has been discovered which is said to be one of the only known artefact to have survived.

 The sundial has not only survived undamaged for over two millennia but its presence of two Latin texts could indicate that researchers from the University of Cambridge have made it possible to assemble accurate information regarding the person who had commissioned it.

The students of the Faculty of Classics had located the sundial lying face down while they had been excavating the front of one of the entrances of the theatre along a secondary street. The sundial could possibly be left behind during that time when the theatre as well as the town had been rummaged for building material at the time of the Medieval to post-Medieval era. It may not have belonged to the theatre though could be removed from a noticeable spot more likely from the top of a pillar in the nearby setting.

A lecturer at the Facultty of Classics at Cambridge and a Colleague of Gonville & Caius College, Dr Alessandro Launaro, mentioned that `less than a hundred specimens of this particular type of sundial have survived and of those only a handful tends to bear any kind of inscription and so this really is a special discovery.

Numerous Contemplations

He further added that they have not only been capable of identifying the individual who had custom-made the sundial but have also been capable of determining the specific public office he held with regards to the probable date of the inscription.

Highly featured towards the base, is the name of M(arcus) NOVIUS M(arci) F(ilius) TUBULA [Marcus Novius Tubula, son of Marcus] while the engravings on the curved rim of the dial surface record that he held the office of TR(ibunus) PL(ebis) [Plebeian Tribune] and had paid for the sundial D(e) S(ua) PEC(unia) with his own cash. It is said that the nomen Novius had been quite common in Central Italy while the cognomen Tubula (literally `small trumpet), on the other hand is verified at Interamna Lirenas.

What is more appealing is the public office Tubula held with regards to the likely date of the inscription. Numerous contemplations regarding the name of the individual together with the lettering style of the inscription of the sundial placed comfortably during (mid 1st c. BC onwards) wherein the inhabitants of Interamna, had been granted by then, full Roman citizenship.

Carved From Limestone

Launaro stated `that being the case, Marcus Novius tubal, coming from Interamna Lirenas could be a hitherto unknown Plebeian Tribune of Rome and the sundial could have represented his method of celebrating his election in his own hometown.

 The sundial carved from a limestone block of 54 x 35 x 25 cm, tends to feature a concave face carved with 11 hour lines, (defining the twelve horae of daylight) intersecting three days curves (providing the indication of the season considering the time of the winter solstice, equinox and summer solstice).

Though the iron gnomon (the needle forming the shadow) seems to be lost, some of it tends to be present below the surviving lead fixing and this type of spherical sundial had been comparatively common during the Roman period which was called hemicyclium.

 Launaro further added that though the recent archaeological fieldwork has profoundly affected our understanding of Interamna Lirenas, dispelling long-held views with regards to its precocious decline and considerable marginality, this was not a town of remarkable prestige or notable influence.

Informative Case-Study

He stated that it remained an average, middle-sized settlement and this is precisely what makes it a potentially very informative case study regarding conditions in the majority of Roman cities in Italy during that time. In this regard, the discovery of the inscribed sundial tends to give some insight on the place Interamna Lirenas occupied in the broader network of political relationship all over Rome, Italy as well as it was also a more general indicator of the amount of involvement in the affairs of Rome where individual coming from this as well as the other comparatively secondary communities could aspire to.

New evidences regarding important aspects of the Roman civilization, emphasizing on the high levels of connectivity together with integration (political, social, economic and cultural) have been adding up with the on-going archaeological project at Interamna Lirenas, which it tends to feature.

Headed by Dr Launaro (Gonville & Caius College) together with Professor Martin Millett (Fitzwilliam College), both from the Faculty of classics, together in partnership with Dr Giovanna Rita Bellini of the Italian Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le Province di Frosinone, Latina e Rieti, the 2017 excavation is part of an enduring relationship with the British School at Rome and the Comune of Pignataro Interamna which has profited from the generous aid of the Isaac Newton Trust as well as Mr Antonia Silvestro Evangelista