Each week at Live Science we find the most interesting and informative articles we can. Along the way, we uncover some amazing and cool images. Here you’ll discover the most incredible photos we found this week, and the remarkable stories behind them.
A ghostly white saucer hovers over the peaks of El Chaltén in southern Argentina. It’s not aliens. (Sorry …
). It’s just a friendly neighborhood “UFO cloud” — better known in meteorological circles as a it’s never aliens . standing lenticular cloud
is relatively common in mountainous regions like El Chaltén, or the type of cloud in the U.S., where high-speed winds ricochet over a tall peak, creating a distinct lens- or saucer-shaped cloud formation high in the sky. The mountain deflects the wind, forcing it into a wave that crests over the mountaintop, dips down on the other side, then rises up again. In the upward-moving parts of the wave, the air cools until it condenses into clouds. When the air descends again on the downward-moving side of the wave, the cloud evaporates — resulting in a sculpted saucer shape. Rocky Mountains
This image made photographer
a finalist in the Royal Meteorological Society’s (RMS) 2020 Weather Photographer of the Year contest. For the other finalists and winners, Francisco Javier Negroni Rodriguez . check out this gallery
[Read more: Ghostly ‘UFO cloud’ hovering over mountains wows judges in weather photo contest ] Nothing cuddly about it
(Image credit: Photo by Jacky Poon/Copyright Terra Mater Factual Studios and Mark Fletcher Productions)
A pair of aggressive male
roar ferociously on the ground beneath a female perched in a tree, in the first-ever footage of panda courtship and mating in the wild. giant pandas
In the tense standoff between the dominant, older male panda and an eager rival, the younger male eventually retreated, but when the female came down from her perch, she fought with the victor and escaped. For weeks, the two males trailed her, their growling challenges becoming more frequent and culminating in another tense confrontation. But a week later, when the female was finally ready to mate, just one suitor remained — the younger male.
Male pandas’ bellowing, scent marking and female “hostage”-holding are mating behaviors that may trigger ovulation in female pandas. That could explain why pandas are so difficult to breed in captivity, in the absence of this male competition. The footage, which took 3 years to capture, is part of the new PBS Nature documentary “
,” premiering Wednesday (Oct. 21). Pandas: Born to be Wild
[Read more: 1st-ever footage of giant pandas mating in the wild is not ‘cute and cuddly’ ] Touchdown!
(Image credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)
A NASA spacecraft has really made a mess of things on the
, and scientists are thrilled. The spacecraft, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe, asteroid Bennu Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 21) in the space agency’s first-ever attempt to collect samples of an asteroid. It will take time to confirm if briefly touched down on Bennu did, in fact, collect pieces of Bennu, but so far everything appears to have gone as planned. OSIRIS-REx
At the moment of contact, which lasted just 6 seconds, the spacecraft fired off a puff of nitrogen gas to essentially blow tiny pieces of the 1,640-foot-wide (500 meters) Bennu into its collection device. When the first images reached Earth in the wee hours of this morning, scientists were jubilant.
“The spacecraft’s performance was phenomenal,” said Sandy Freund, OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager for Lockheed Martin, which built the spacecraft.
[Read more: NASA’s first attempt to sample an asteroid in space made a mess. It’s the best mess ever, scientists say .] Llama mummies of the Inca
(Image credit: L.M. Valdez)
Archaeologists in Peru have found the naturally mummified remains of five llamas that were sacrificed to the Incan gods about 500 years ago. The mummified llamas are still adorned with the colorful strings, red paint and feathers that the Inca decorated them with before sending them to their deaths, likely by burying these animals alive.
The finding is so rare, that even though archaeologists have been excavating the remains of the
(also spelled Inka) along the Pacific Coast of South America for more than a century, “none of them have found anything like this,” study lead researcher Lidio Valdez told Live Science. Inca Empire
Valdez and his colleagues found the mummified llamas (
Lama glama) at Tambo Viejo, an archaeological site on the Pacific coast of Peru, in 2018. These sacrifices not only honored the gods, which the Inca associated with successful harvests, healthy herds and war victories, but also may have made the Inca Empire popular among the local culture, because the sacrifices came along with a huge feast.
[Read more: Sacrificed llama mummies unearthed in Peru ] Groups poorly with others
(Image credit: Sea Life Helsinki)
A grumpy-faced grouper named Mikko in a Finland aquarium was more down-in-the-mouth than usual, after the facility temporarily closed to the public due to the
pandemic. So the aquarium’s staff threw him a birthday party. coronavirus
Mikko missed seeing human visitors at the Sea Life Helsinki’s Sea Lab ocean laboratory, because he had no fish companions in his tank … due to the fact that he wouldn’t stop eating them, an aquarium representative told Live Science in an email.
shutdown in the spring, Mikko’s caretakers noted that the already-solitary fish seemed listless and apathetic, though he was still physically healthy. To cheer him up, they recently brought him a special treat to celebrate his 16th birthday: a salmon “cake.” In a video COVID-19 on Oct. 12, the birthday fish enthusiastically devoured the delicacy — and he didn’t have to share it with anyone. shared on Facebook
[Read more: Famous fish that ate all his friends gets cheered up by 16th birthday party ] The new organ in your throat
(Image credit: The Netherlands Cancer Institute)
Scientists have discovered a new organ: a set of salivary glands set deep in the upper part of the throat.
This nasopharynx region — behind the
— was not thought to host anything but microscopic, diffuse, salivary glands; but the newly discovered set are about 1.5 inches (3.9 centimeters) in length on average. Because of their location over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius, the discoverers of these new glands have dubbed them the tubarial salivary glands. The glands probably lubricate and moisten the upper throat behind the nose and mouth, the researchers wrote online Sept. 23 in the journal nose . Radiotherapy and Oncology
The discovery was accidental. Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute were using a combination of
and positron emission tomography (PET) scans to study CT scans . Upon finding the glands, the researchers imaged 100 patients (99 of them men due to the focus on prostate cancer) and found that all of them had the newly discovered glands. prostate cancer
[Read more: Scientists discover new organ in the throat ] Baby sharks
(Image credit: Addison Miller)
About 24 million years ago, baby shark ancestors of the giant beast called
needed a place to grow big before heading into the open ocean, so they swam around a coastal spot replete with easy-to-catch prey — a nursery in what is now South Carolina, according to new research. megalodon
Until now, scientists knew of just two fossil shark nurseries: a 10 million-year-old
in Panama and a 5 million-year megalodon nursery in Chile. In addition to being the third such nursery, the new discovery is also the first nursery on record for Carcharocles angustidens, a megatoothed shark that lived during the great white shark nursery (34 million to 23 million years ago). Oligocene epoch
When the researchers examined one of the shark teeth from the nursery site, they found another surprise; it came from the largest C. angustidens on record, according to an equation that calculates a shark’s body length based on its tooth size. The new estimate changes the understanding of how big these ancient carnivores could get. The mighty shark measured 29 feet (8.85 meters) long.
[Read more: 24 million-year-old nursery for baby megasharks discovered in South Carolina ] Nazca cats
(Image credit: Johny Isla/Ministerio de Cultura)
Archaeologists have discovered a gigantic cat geoglyph adorning a hillside in southern Peru, making it the latest of the
— a group of mysterious and enormous human-made outlines of animals, plants and fantastic figures in the desert dating to Pre-Columbian times — to be uncovered in recent years, according to Peru’s Ministry Of Culture. Nazca Lines
The kitty, which looks like the most gigantic children’s doodle ever, was found while archaeologists with the Nazca-Palpa Management Plan, which is supported by the Ministry of Culture, were remodeling a natural viewpoint in the Pampa de Nazca,
. according to an Oct. 15 statement from the ministry
At first, the workers could barely see the cat, because natural erosion on the hillside had almost erased the ancient feline outline. However, after about a week’s worth of conservation, archaeologists restored the geoglyph, which dates to between about 200 B.C. and 100 B.C., according to the ministry.
[Read more: New Nazca Line geoglyph discovered: A 120-foot-long cat ] The unicorn of birds
(Image credit: Photo by Annie Lindsay/Powdermill Nature Reserve, Carnegie Museum of Natural History)
Biologists recently made a “once-in-a-lifetime” discovery of a bird that’s male on the right side and female on the left. Researchers captured the bird, a rose-breasted grosbeak (
Pheucticus ludovicianus), at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Nature Reserve, an environmental research center in Rector, Pennsylvania.
Plumage colors usually signal if a grosbeak is male or female, but this bird has both sexes’ signature shades. Scientists who captured the bird saw male coloration — pink wing “pits,” a red breast splash and black wing feathers — on the right side of its body. But the bird’s left wing was browner and had yellow “pits,” a color combination found in females, museum representatives
. said in a statement
This condition, in which an animal possesses male and female traits divided down the middle of its body, is called bilateral gynandromorphism. In birds,
is thought to stem from an error during egg formation. gynandromorphy
[Read more: Half-male, half-female songbird discovered in Pennsylvania ] Unearthing a warlord
(Image credit: University of Reading)
Archaeologists have unearthed the rich burial of a sixth-century man thought to be an Anglo-Saxon warlord in southern England, after it was first discovered by metal detectorists.
The skeleton of the man, dubbed the “Marlow Warlord” after the Berkshire town near where the remains were found, was buried with several weapons, including a sword in a decorated scabbard. He would have stood at about 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall at a time when the average male height in Britain was about 5 feet 7 inches (1.7 m).
The warlord’s sword is made of iron and is held in a decorated scabbard made of bronze, leather and wood. The prominent burial site and the rich grave goods of the Marlow Warlord are evidence of his prestige, the researchers said.
[Read more: Anglo-Saxon warlord unearthed by metal detector hobbyists ]
Originally published on Live Science.