Bosnia’s Sherlock Holmes of Big Ball Mysteries


If an archaeologist unearthed an enormous wheel in a dig of ancient ruins, it would be pretty self-explanatory what it was for, mobility of some sort. However, if the same archaeologist were to unearth an enormous ball with a 5 foot radius and most likely made of iron, surely the archaeologist would be scratching his head and thinking, “What the heck?” Well, that just happened in Bosnia. What could very well be the oldest man-made ball for who knows what has been unearthed  in a forest that lies outside the Bosnian town of Podubravlie.

The gringa is enthralled. Is it man-made? Is it naturally occurring? Is it the remnant of a croquet park from a by-gone era of Bosnian giants? Is Bosnia the only place on Earth where big mystery balls can be found?

The study of big mysterious ancient balls is the favorite field of archaeologist Semir Osmanagich, affectionately known as “Sam”. For the past 15 years Sam has devoted his life to the research of prehistoric stone balls. Despite being made fun of by archaeological peers, Sam remains dedicated to solving the mystery of whether these balls are naturally occurring or man-made. The gringa wants to encourage Sam and remind him that the “haters gonna hate” so follow your dream! And, since Sam has a Ph.D., the gringa believes that he’s not crazy, well, maybe crazy like a fox and on the scent of a mystery his archaeology peers who can’t think outside the box simply don’t understand.

Sam has been discovering mystery balls all over the world: granite balls in Costa Rica, volcanic stone balls in Mexico, stone balls on Isla del Cano, volcanic balls on Easter Island, Tunisia, and the Canary Islands, Antarctica, New Zealand, Russia, the U.S.A., Argentina, Albania, Croatia, Serbia and, now, Bosnia. Sam has been very busy! He has become so enamored with mystery balls that he has created his very own foundation, “Archaeological Park: Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun” to support the investigation of this fascinating mystery. Balls have consisted of volcanic material, granite, and sandstone. The latest ball in Bosnia has not yet had all of its analysis complete but because of its reddish color iron is highly suspected to be the material of which it is made up of.

The first Bosnian balls were discovered in the 1930s according to local records. 80 balls were unearthed and some were eventually transported by river to other locations. In the 1970s local legends surrounding the balls enjoyed a revival and many locals were hopeful that perhaps they were the hiding place of treasure hordes of gold. Many balls were destroyed in hopes of finding untold wealth. Only eight of the original 80 were recovered and are on exhibit at Sam’s archaeological park which has become a local tourist attraction.

Sam’s current project site can only be worked when winter breaks. By spring of this year excavation had advanced to the point that it was apparent that the largest European stone ball was about to be completely uncovered. With half of the ball exposed the radius is estimated to be about 5 feet. If the reddish material proves to be iron the ball would be expected to weight over 30 tons. That would mean that Bosnia can boast the biggest ball in all of Europe, third in the world to second place Costa Rica with a 35 ton ball and first place Mexico with a 40 ton ball.

But the gringa wants to know what the real significance is to finding these big balls other than just being curious and interesting. The gringa also wants to know what the alternative theories are that Sam’s mocking peers claim.

The naysayers claim that the balls are no big deal. They suspect they are just freaks of nature that occur through a process known as concretion. This occur when layers of sediment occur in layers then compact and over hundreds of thousands of years form into balls. It is easy to find images of naturally occurring spheres in nature created by concretion. However, two things set these apart from what Sam is studying.

  • #1. Naturally occurring concretion spheres are small scale compared to the ones Sam has found and claims to be man-made.
  • #2. Naturally occurring concretion spheres are not perfectly spherical, often having flaws. Sam’s big balls are perfectly round.
  • #3. Naturally occurring concretion spheres usually occur en-masse with variation in size and not-so-perfect round shape. Sam’s big balls can sometimes be found isolated from one another.

The gringa scratches her head and thinks that anything squished under thousands of pounds of earth would never form into a ball. It would be squished, like a pancake, maybe wavy, or even flaked from tectonic plate activity shoving things around but never, ever round.

Sam’s theory believes these balls to be man-made. If he’s right, this latest discovery of a 1,500 year-old enormous, man-made, iron ball would prove that European civilizations were much more advanced than was previously expected. Now why would such a theory be controversial among archaeologists? The gringa likes to think that people of old were intelligent, ingenious, clever and quite capable of innovation. How sad to be led to believe that ancient people were just big, ol’ dummies. The dear reader can enjoy a video  of Sam’s discovery and decide for yourself.

The gringa plans to keep Sam on the radar because I find this big ball mystery fascinating. And I wish him the best of luck in solving the mystery and having the chance to say, “I told ya so!” to all his haters!

Sources & Image Credit: http://www.yahoo.com, http://www.piramidasunca.ba

 

 

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A New Moon For A New Age


Most people think Earth’s moon is old news. However, what the public may not realize is that NASA has a rover active on the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LRO). The gringa will call the rover “Elroy” for your reading pleasure.

Elroy has a new exhibit on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. that reveals that our Moon is anything but boring. What with Mars and black holes and parallel universes getting so much attention, it’s easy for our little ol’ Moon to get lost in the mix. The gringa wants to give it some glory that is long overdue.

One thing that is interesting about the Moon is that it undergoes such frequent change. It seems to get blasted all the time by meteors and such. The images on display in the exhibit show the formation of new impact craters (kind of scary when the gringa considers its proximity to home! The Moon may very well be our shield!). Recent volcanic activity has also been detected. And, most curious of all, is evidence that the Moon’s core may be cooling which has caused it to shrink and crack the crust of the Moon’s surface.

Elroy is a busy little rover. So busy, in fact, that there are too many images for this single exhibit. So, in addition to the favorites that were selected for display, there is a large screen which projects lunar images that are updated daily.

Since 2009, in addition to a fabulous photography collection, Elroy has also collected environmental and geological data with the seven other instruments he is equipped with. Elroy’s mission is to map the entire surface of the Moon. Even the legendary “dark side” of the Moon.

You see, one reason the Moon remains so mysterious is because it has a “backside”. Yes, we never get to see the Moon’s rear-end. We always see only one physical side of the Moon. Now, this is not because the Moon hangs suspended in space and never rotates. It’s just that it has a rather peculiar rotation cycle.

Millions of years ago the Moon spun around much faster. The pull of Earth’s gravity has caused it to slow down. So much so that its rotation cycle now matches its orbit cycle.  These cycles take 27.3 Earth days. However, observed from Earth it takes 29.5 days. (Don’t expect the gringa to get into that mystery here! You can research it yourself by clicking on… Understanding the moon phases). So, since the orbit and rotation cycles are exactly matched, as the Moon travels about the Earth, at night, when we see it, the same side is always presented to Earth.

However, for serious stargazers with top-notch telescopes, you can get a peek at a sliver of the hidden aspects of the Moon. Since the Moon is not “round and flat” like a coin but is actually elliptical, like a ball, at just the right time there is a speed differential when the Moon is farthest from Earth, thereby its rotation speeds up a bit because of a little less gravity drag. This causes what scientists call a “rocking” motion and an extra nine percent of the Moon’s surface is visible. But now, thanks to Elroy, all Earthlings can see just exactly what is on the Moon’s backside which is not “dark” after all, except during the cycle of a full moon when the Earth is blocking all sunlight.

Only two years into its mission NASA declared Elroy a complete success. Over four billion measurements were used by Elroy to complete a topographical map of the entire Moon. Elroy’s instruments determined that the coldest spot in our entire solar system is right smack on the Moon. It is found inside the shadows of Hermite crater which is located near the north pole. It is a bitter minus 415 degrees Fahrenheit. The gringa hopes Elroy was wearing his mittens.

Elroy is not just taking photos and temperature readings. The rover is also looking for water deposits, such as ice, and searching for fuel resources such as hydrogen. In preparation for future manned Moon missions, environmental radiation levels are also recorded.

So, the next time you gaze up at the Moon, give Elroy a salute. He is still on the job!

 

Sources: www.nasa.gov, www.moonconnection.com

 

Image Source: http://www.nasa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

Incan Stars


The caveman has Incan blood, a Peruvian transplant to the United States. It is then only natural that the gringa is curious about Peruvian contributions to space related science and technology. After all, considering some of the interesting theories surrounding Nazca, the Incans may have been involved in space travel long before the rest of the world was enjoying  gas lighting.

Peru has an active science industry that has developed and successfully launched nano-satellites. They were developed by the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, Universidad Alas Peruanas and Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria. Aside from the academic community, the Peruvian government, in collaboration with the government of France, will be launching a satellite this year of its own production. Individual professional groups are also participating in desert experiments related to the future exploration of Mars.

The majority of space related technology is developed by Peru’s universities with the cooperation of the Peruvian Space Agency, The National Commission for Aerospace Research and Development (CONIDA).  Launches of satellites have been successful in cooperation with NASA as well as ROCOSMOS. CONIDA recently invested over $200 million dollars in a French produced satellite, “Astrosat-300”, more commonly called Airbus. This is the most advanced satellite in Latin America. Peruvian students who were trained in France manage the operations and image capturing.

Peru desires to increase awareness of space among its population. It enthusiastically supports programs that involve active participation of Peruvian youth. It hopes its nation’s international involvement in developing space capabilities will grow. CONIDA’s official decree states it’s intent is to “[P]romote and develop peaceful, research and work aimed at the country’s progress in space”.

One way CONIDA works toward its mission is to develop graduate programs for Peru’s universities as well as create “School Workshop on Space Activities” programs that are designed to motivate interest among Peru’s youth in their final two years of high school. These courses introduce subjects such as data collection from satellites, satellite observation of earth, digital processing of satellite images and how to use supporting software. Specialized courses about geology, agriculture, forestry and mineral exploration are also offered.

CONIDA’s Technical Department of Space Technology Development is actively engaged in the research and development of rockets and probes. They are on the fast track to develop payload delivery systems and become a vital actor in the vigorous international space travel community. “Punta Lobos”, a CONIDA science base south of Lima, houses much of what this department develops. It has been visited by delegates of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) regarding future collaborative projects.

Peru has many interesting and critical areas where satellites are beneficial for the country. They have a landslide monitoring system, flood hazard monitors, tectonic movement assessment, measurements of volcanic flows, as well as seasonal precipitation monitoring of rainfall.

Peru considers space observation for its nation as critical for national security as well as to address many geological issues for the benefit of all of Peru’s people. I anticipate that they will serve the memory of their ancestors well. I believe that my caveman will proudly see the day when the land of his birth boasts about their own astronauts aboard the ISS, arriving there in their own spacecraft. The gringa just wonders if it will be of gold and shaped like a sleeping llama?

 

Source & Photo Credit:  http://www.conida.gob.pe/

 

 

Allow Me To Introduce You To JAXA


Who is JAXA? JAXA is the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and they have been very busy. In 2010 JAXA was disappointed when their orbiter “Akatsuki”, which, in  English, means “dawn”, failed in its mission to orbit Venus. However, JAXA is not one to give up. The agency kept at it for five years and finally, in December, accomplished its mission.

Now that Akatsuki is orbiting Venus its cameras are transmitting a steady stream of images. One orbit cycle takes about thirteen and one-half Earth days. JAXA is tweaking its orbit path to eventually get its orbit cycle to nine Earth days. That will result in Akatsuki being closer to Venus which will improve the clarity of the images it sends back to JAXA.

Venus is a hot, volcanic planet that is about the same size as Earth. And, when I say hot, the gringa means hot enough to melt lead. Akatsuki will gather data on the weather and atmosphere of this steamy planet. Scientists are interested in the volcanoes.

JAXA operates all missions with the purpose to help create a safe society that can utilize space. The agency seeks to be a leader in technology and have technology used wisely for the benefit of society. The Japanese believe that as humans evolve, happiness should increase. JAXA is inspired to overcome the difficulties facing mankind. They intend to act responsibly to meet the expectations society has for the work the Agency performs. The slogan JAXA operates under is “Explore to Realize”.

JAXA desires to contribute to the well being of all people on Earth through their research and development. They believe this can be achieved by improving quality of life, providing safety and security, developing sustainable methods for living, and expanding the knowledge of all peoples.

JAXA was established in October of 2003. The following Spring the agency successfully performed its first series of flight tests for their Stratosphere Stationary Platform. Since their first successful test flights, JAXA has continued to perform successfully. Just a few of their many accomplishments throughout the years:

  • July, 2005, the agency launched “Suzaku”, an X-ray astronomy satellite.
  • July through August of 2005 Japanese Astronaut Souichi Noguchi joined the NASA Space Shuttle “Discovery” mission.
  • December, 2005, JAXA made history with the first EVER optical inter-satellite communication between Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering (OICETS) and the Advanced Relay and Technology Mission “ARTEMIS” of the European Space Agency (ESA)
  • 2006-2007, successfully launched eight different space vehicles
  • March, 2008, Astronaut Takao Doi served aboard NASA Space Shuttle “Endeavor” on mission to attach Experiment Logistics Module-Pressurized Section (ELM-PS) of JAXA’s Experiment Module “Kibo” to the International Space Station (ISS)
  • June, 2008, Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide served aboard NASA Space Shuttle “Discovery” on mission to attach Pressurized Module (PM) and Remote Manipulator System of JAXA’s Experiment Module “Kibo” to the ISS.
  • July, 2009, Astronaut Koichi Wakata attached Exposed Facility of JAXA’s Experiment Module “Kibo” to ISS. First Japanese Astronaut to complete a long-stay mission and returned home aboard NASA Space Shuttle “Endeavour”
  • December, 2009, Astronaut Souichi Noguchi served aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft on mission to ISS, completed long-stay mission, returning to Earth June, 2010
  • June, 2011, Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa served aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft on mission to ISS and returned to Earth November, 2011
  • July, 2012, Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide served aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft on mission to ISS, returning to Earth November, 2012
  • November, 2013, Astronaut Wakata served aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft on mission to ISS. March, 2014, Astronaut Wakata became first Asian commander of ISS. Returned to Earth May, 2014

JAXA has big plans for 2016. It expects to launch the Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter (MMO) after it successfully completes a round of tests performed by the European Space Agency (ESA). It will launch from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.

It is also committed to being an active world partner in resolving the many issues humanity must resolve that are related to climate change. JAXA will use the ALOS-2 satellite to monitor and collect data related to deforestation. All data will be available to everyone worldwide through open access on the Internet.

JAXA aims to develop a tracking system for tropical forests. JAXA will be joined in its efforts by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and many private corporations. By constantly monitoring worldwide forest loss, the agency hopes that this initiative will lead to successful conservation solutions. A public access website should be up and running by March, 2017 and will be updated every six weeks with the latest findings.

Goals are to restrain illegal logging and conserve forests that are critical to help reduce the effects of climate change. During 2009-2012 Brazil was cooperating with monitoring efforts. Over 2,000 incidents were revealed and action was taken that helped reduce the destruction of forests by forty percent. It is clear that this effort and mission JAXA is undertaking is a significant contribution to the future security of humanity by helping to minimize the effects of climate change.

With agencies like JAXA looking out for the interests of people all over the world, the gringa is confident that this place we all call home has a future where there is great hope. The international cooperation of so many space agencies is an inspiration that we can become a global community where our differences are not obstacles, but, rather, strengths. Because the gringa thinks the world would be a very boring place if we were all alike.

Source & Photo Credit: www.global.jaxa.jp

Hiking Cochiti Pueblo’s Tent Rocks


If you ever find yourself near Albuquerque, New Mexico with a free day on your hands, you should spend that time at the Pueblo de Cochiti, specifically at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks. It is an unforgettable landscape that is absolutely breathtaking. The fifty-five mile drive north is well worth it to explore this beautiful plateau that is expertly painted by nature.

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is located on the Pueblo de Cochiti. The people of the Pueblo speak their native language, Keres and live their cultural heritage with no private employers or private economic enterprise. Their claim to fame is stunning handcrafted jewelry, beautiful pottery, and artistic native drums. The primary source of revenue for the Cochiti people are lease agreements with private investors of residential units on Lake Cochiti. The Cochiti people live in the heart of their original homeland and consider responsible management of the land, air and water of the reservation of primary importance because it enables them to maintain their cultural traditions.

The Bureau of Land Management considers the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument to be an outdoor laboratory of nature. Agents study the geologic processes that continually take place to shape this unusual landscape. A visit is incomplete without hiking the trails. They are quite rugged so wear proper hiking boots, unlike the gringa who wore cute little sandals. When the caveman and the gringa made their trip, it was a day after some heavy rains. Often, along the trail, there would be puddles of water or the trail would be muddy. Usually I could go around. In the image above, the caveman and I had reached a spot where the trail was so narrow and muddy, my only option was to crabwalk the rock walls to go over. So, if you do plan to be cute rather than practical, be sure to take a hiking buddy who can give you a hand over the muddy spots.

Also take lots of water, pack a picnic and make sure you have plenty of gas in the car. There was one little cafe about fifteen minutes away but, being a mom and pop operation, if the day was slow, they would just close up shop early. There’s no guarantee you can resupply if you have a need. So, arrive at Tent Rocks fully prepared. Also note that no pets are allowed in the park and there are no exceptions. Don’t make the mistake of showing up with Fido in the car on a hot day and realize you can’t stay. Rather than suffer that disappointment, leave Fido at the hotel.

These unusual rock formations are the result of volcanic activity from the Jemez volcanic field that happened millions of years ago. Pumice, ash and other debris piled up about 1,000 feet thick. The cone rock formations occurred when fiery rock fragments were violently flung down the slopes of the volcanoes, like an avalanche of fire. This is called a pyroclastic flow.

A fascinating feature of these formations are caps on top of many of the cones. Huge boulders precariously balance atop the formations. It made the gringa imagine the child of a giant race playing little games with rocks to see how many he could get to stay and not fall. These cap rocks are actually protective to the earthen cone, protecting it from erosion. The tents that have lost their caps are disintegrating. Some of the tent rocks reach as high as ninety feet.

The caveman and I chose the “long” trail to hike and, after an hour and a half of hiking, finally made it to the uppermost peak. The view was fabulous and well worth the effort. Once again he found it fascinating that throughout all the mud on the trails, clambering over rocky obstacles and jumping down from rugged ledges, when we finally returned to the car my cute little flip flops were still shiny like new and the gringa didn’t even have a streak of dust on her black leggings. He believes I must possess some form of magical powers. The gringa thinks the power was only within the earth we were exploring. Maybe that power likes me as much as I appreciate it and responds with some kind of enveloping magical aura to keep me clean! Yes, my imagination ran away with me while hiking that conically hypnotic fairyland landscape.