Radar images reveal Mars is coming out of an ice age

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. An analysis of radar images that peered inside the polar ice caps of Mars shows that Earth's neighbor is coming out of an ice age that is part of an ongoing cycle of climate change, scientists said on Thursday. The Martian ice began its retreat about 370,000 years ago, marking the end of the last ice age, according to the research published in the journal Science. Using images taken by satellites orbiting Mars, the researchers determined that about 20,872 cubic miles (87,000 cubic km) of ice has accumulated at its poles since the end of the ice age, mostly in the northern polar cap. Scientists are keenly interested in piecing together the climate history of Mars, which contains strong evidence that oceans and lakes once pooled on its surface, bolstering the prospects for life. Scientists can now use the new ice measurements in computer simulations to more accurately model the Martian climate, said planetary scientist Isaac Smith of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who led the study."Previously those models were unconstrained by observations so they started with guesses. Now they have more to run on," Smith said.The study also was the first to tie a specific layer of Martian ice with a specific period of time. "Eventually we'd like to be able to do this for every layer," Smith said. From the perspective of an Earthling, every day on Mars may feel like an ice age. According to NASA, temperatures on Mars may hit a high at noon at the equator in the summer of roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), or a low of about minus-225 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-153 degrees Celsius) at the poles.Unlike Earth, ice ages on Mars occur when its poles are warmer than average and frozen water is more stable at lower latitudes. Transitions between lengthy climate phases can leave telltale features in the ice, the research showed. For example, Smith and colleagues found dramatic slopes in layers of ice within the Martian northern ice cap. Other layers reveal ice flowing in reverse direction. The climate cycles are triggered by changes in Mars' orbit and tilt, which affect how much sunlight reaches the planet's surface.The shifts are particularly dramatic on Mars because theplanet's tilt changes by as much as 60 degrees, compared to variations in Earth's tilt of about 2 degrees. (Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Will Dunham) Read more

Dinosaur duo sported exotic spikes and horns

WASHINGTON Two newly discovered dinosaurs unearthed in the western U.S. states of Montana and Utah are illustrating the exotic appearance some of these beasts developed, with fanciful horns and spikes, toward the end of their reign on Earth.Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of fossils of two species that provide new insights into an important group of truck-sized, four-legged, plant-munching, horned dinosaurs that roamed the landscape late in the Cretaceous Period.Both dinosaurs were members of a group called ceratopsians that included the well-known Triceratops, typically possessing parrot-like beaks to crop low-growing herbs and shrubs, a bony neck shield, or frill, and forward-pointing facial horns. Fossils of Machairoceratops cronusi, which lived about 77 million years ago, were found in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.Machairoceratops, up to 26 feet (8 meters) long, had two large, forward-curving spikes coming out of the back of its shield, each marked by a peculiar groove extending from the base of the spike to the tip, Ohio University paleontologist Eric Lund said. Machairoceratops also had two horns over its eyes and probably one over its nose, although the incomplete fossils did not show that. Fossils of Spiclypeus shipporum, which lived about 76 million years ago, were discovered near the town of Winifred, Montana.Spiclypeus, about 15 feet (4.5 meters) long, boasted brow horns sticking out sideways rather than pointing forward, paleontologist Jordan Mallon of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa said. It had spikes at the back of its frill that pointed in different directions: some curling forward and others projecting outward, Mallon said. "We think the horns and frills were probably used for display of some sort, either for sexual or species recognition," Mallon said.This Spiclypeus individual was dubbed "Judith" because the fossils came from the Judith River rock formation. Judith apparently lived a painful life. The upper bone in its left front leg bore signs of disease: arthritis near the shoulder joint and a hole near the elbow caused by a bone infection."I think Spiclypeus wins top prize for being the most aesthetically pleasing horned dinosaur, but that's my bias talking," Mallon said. "I think a visitor to the Late Cretaceous would have been immediately intimidated by standing in the shadow of Judith's spiky skull, but then overcome with sympathy after noting the animal ambling about painfully on only three legs."The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE. (Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler) Read more

Exclusive: Bangladesh Bank remains compromised months after heist - forensics report

DHAKA Three hacking groups "are still lurking" in the network of Bangladesh's central bank, putting the bank at risk of further attacks about three months after it lost $81 million in a cyber heist, according to a report by U.S. computer security firms investigating the theft."There are some residual risks that the governor and board should understand, namely that Bangladesh Bank network is still not secure, and there exists a possibility of malicious acts by hackers," said the report from the experts hired by Bangladesh Bank, parts of which were seen by Reuters.The source who shared the document declined to provide access to its full contents, saying that the release of some details could hamper a multinational effort to catch the criminals and recover funds stolen in the February cyber attack.Bangladesh Bank has declined comment on pending investigations into the heist. Asked about the report, a spokesman said: "We have engaged forensic experts to investigate the whole thing, including this." He did not elaborate.Investigators have determined that one team of hackers, dubbed Group Zero in the report, was responsible for the heist and remained inside the network, the report stated. Group Zero may be seeking to monitor the ongoing cyber investigations or cause other damage, but is unlikely to be able to order fraudulent fund transfers, the investigators wrote. Two other groups are also inside the bank's network, which is linked to the SWIFT international transaction system, the report found. One of the two is a "nation-state actor" engaged in stealing information in attacks that are stealthy but "not known to be destructive", the report said.The report, which was submitted earlier this month, did not further identify any of the groups. A spokeswoman for SWIFT said she was unable to comment on the report.SWIFT warned on Thursday of a malware attack on a commercial bank it did not name, similar to the hack at Bangladesh Bank.In February, hackers ordered fraudulent fund transfers from Bangladesh Bank's account at the New York Federal Reserve via the SWIFT system, but the cooperative, owned by member banks and used by 11,000 financial institutions globally, has maintained that the messaging system it controls has not been compromised."Group Zero is the identified hacker group that has conducted the cyber attack" against Bangladesh Bank, the investigators said in the report, which they said was based on primary findings. U.S.-based cyber-security firms World Informatix and FireEye Inc. have been hired by Bangladesh's central bank to investigate the theft. A spokesman for FireEye said the firm will not comment on the ongoing investigation. World Informatix could not immediately be reached for comment.In the attack, the hackers sought to transfer $951 million from Bangladesh Bank's account at the New York Fed. Most of the transfers were blocked, but $81 million was sent to bank accounts in the Philippines in one of the largest cyber-heists in history. The money was quickly transferred through a remittance firm to casinos and casino agents and most remains missing. In the report, the investigators said Group Zero mounted attacks on other banks, but did not elaborate.The report said investigators knew little about a third group of hackers found inside the network, referred to as Group Two, except that they were using mostly commodity, or off-the-shelf hacking tools. "Their motivations and activities are unknown, but could be unpredictable with media spotlight," the report said, without elaborating further.Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday that investigators had found evidence that two of the three hacker groups in the Bangladesh attack were from Pakistan and North Korea, citing people briefed on the bank's investigation. (Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in New York; editing by David Greising and Raju Gopalakrishnan.) Read more

Japan Display warns of bigger year-on-year loss on slow iPhone sales

TOKYO Apple Inc (AAPL.O) supplier Japan Display Inc (6740.T) warned on Tuesday of a bigger loss in the just-ended business year compared to the previous year as sluggish demand for iPhones dragged down sales of its display panels.Japan Display estimated a net loss of 31.8 billion yen ($291.96 million) for the year ended March, wider than the 12.3 billion yen loss it reported for the previous year. The company, which generates about 40 percent of sales from Apple, also cut its full-year operating profit estimate to 16.7 billion yen from the 22.0 billion yen it forecast in February.Japan Display, Sharp Corp (6753.T) and South Korea's LG Display Co Ltd (034220.KS) are currently the three major display suppliers for the iPhone. Apple reported in late April its first-ever decline in iPhone sales.Aiming to reduce exposure to swings in the smartphone market, Japan Display in March announced consolidation of domestic liquid crystal display (LCD) production lines. The company will announce actual results for the year ended March 31 on Thursday. (Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman) Read more

Mercury poised for rare 'transit' across sun's face on Monday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Stargazers will have a rare opportunity on Monday to witness Mercury fly directly across the face of the sun, a sight that unfolds once every 10 years or so, as Earth and its smaller neighboring planet come into perfect alignment. The best vantage points to observe the celestial event, known to astronomers as a transit, are eastern North America, South America, Western Europe and Africa, assuming clouds are not obscuring the sun. In those regions, the entire transit will occur during daylight hours, according to Sky and Telescope magazine.But Mercury is too small to see without high-powered binoculars or a telescope, and looking directly at the sun, even with sunglasses, could cause permanent eye damage. Fortunately NASA and astronomy organizations are providing virtual ringside seats for the show by live-streaming images of the transit in its entirety and providing expert commentary.The tiny planet, slightly larger than Earth’s moon, will start off as a small black dot on the edge of the sun at 7:12 a.m. Eastern (1112 GMT). Traveling 30 miles (48 km) a second, Mercury will take 7.5 hours to cross the face of the sun, which is about 864,300 miles (1.39 million km) in diameter, or about 109 times larger than Earth.“Unlike sunspots, which have irregular shapes and grayish borders, Mercury’s silhouette will be black and precisely round,” Sky and Telescope said in a press release. The event will come into view in the western United States after dawn, with the transit already in progress. The show will end at sunset in parts of Europe, Africa and most of Asia.NASA Television, available on the Internet, will broadcast live video and images from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory and other telescopes. The show includes informal discussions with NASA scientists, who will answer questions submitted via Twitter using the hashtag #AskNASA.Other options for armchair astronomers include: - SkyandTelescope.com plans a live webcast with expert commentary, beginning at 7 a.m. EDT/1100 GMT.- Slooh.com, which offers live telescope viewing via the Internet, will host a show on its website featuring images of Mercury taken by observatories around the globe. - Europe’s Virtual Telescope, another robotic telescope network, will webcast the transit at www.virtualtelescope.eu Scientists will take advantage of Mercury’s transit for a variety of science projects, including refining techniques to look for planets beyond the solar system. “When a planet crosses in front of the sun, it causes the sun’s brightness to dim. Scientists can measure similar brightness dips from other stars to find planets orbiting them,” NASA said.Mercury's last transit was in 2006 and the planet will pass between the sun and Earth again in 2019. After that, the next opportunity to witness the event will not come until 2032. (Editing by Frank McGurty and James Dalgleish) Read more

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