Stories tagged history of science

Oct
17
2011

.Jose A. y Bonilla's 1883 photgraph
Jose A. y Bonilla's 1883 photgraphCourtesy Wikimedia

In August, 1883, Mexican astronomer Jose A. y Bonilla observed several objects passing in front of the solar disc. These objects were reported as being surrounded by a mist, looked dark against the solar disc, but bright outside of the disc. He took a photograph and published his findings in the magazine L'Astronomie in 1886. This photograph has had many interpretations, ranging from a flock of birds passing between the observer and the sun to the first photographic documentation of a UFO.

Recently, researchers from the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico have come up with an alternate explanation. Hector Javier Durand Manterola, Maria de la Paz Ramos Lara, and Guadalupe Cordero hypothesize that what Bonilla observed in 1883 was a highly fragmented comet, in an approach almost flush to the surface of the Earth. According to their calculations, the distance from the Earth's surface to the objects was between 538 km (334.3 miles) and 8,062 km (5009.5 miles), and the mass of the object before fragmentation was between 0.002 and 8.19 times the mass of Halley's Comet. Fragmentation of comets has been observed recently, as in the case of the comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, which fragmented in 1995/1996, 2001, and 2006, as shown here.Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (2006)
Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (2006)Courtesy NASA
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However, the report's claims have been questioned. A comet breaking up so close to earth should have resulted in a meteor shower, and no astronomers detected one.

Report: Interpretation of the observations made in 1883 in Zacatecas (Mexico): A fragmented Comet that nearly hits the Earth

Nov
21
2008

Replica of Polynesian Canoe
Replica of Polynesian CanoeCourtesy Stan Shebs
A group of maritime researchers and boat designers, James Wharrem, Hanneke Boon, and Klaus Hympendahl, will try to recreate an ancient Polynesian migration route using 2 catamarans made with traditional hull shape. Linguistic and DNA evidence from domesticated pigs suggests that Polynesians likely originated in the Taiwan area and settled the Pacific Islands between 2,500 to 1,500 years ago. The team will only use navigational tools that would have been available during that period such as wind, sun, stars, wave patterns, and birds. They will begin at the Phillipine island of Pangao and end in the Solomon Islands at Tikopia and Anuta. You can go to Position Map to track where they have been.
When they reach the end of their voyage, the two boats will be donated to the people of these two islands. The project was first initiated by the researchers’ discovery of a Tikopian boat in a museum. This led them to seek out the donor and while on the island of Tikopia, they made plans for Lapita Voyage with the chiefs. Over three years later, they have set sail and plan to reach their destination sometime in April 2009. For more information, visit their website at Lapita Voyage.