First dinosaurs in Arabian peninsula identified

Updated 29 April 2014

First dinosaurs in Arabian peninsula identified

STOCKHOLM: An international team of paleontologists has for the first time identified dinosaur species that lived in the Arabian peninsula, Swedish scientists said Tuesday.
The researchers found teeth and bones dating from around 72 million years ago in the northwestern part of the region, along the coast of the Red Sea in what is today Saudi Arabia, Uppsala University said in a statement.
The area now a desert, but at the time it was a beach on the African coast, and the Arabian landmass was largely underwater.
The remains are tail vertebrae from a titanosaurid sauropod, an herbivore which was probably longer than 20 meters (65 feet), and teeth belonging to an abelisaurid, a carnivorous theropod which was around six meters long.
“These are the first taxonomically recognizable dinosaurs reported from the Arabian peninsula,” Australian paleobiologist Benjamin Kear said in the statement.
“Dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare in the Arabian peninsula, with only a handful of highly fragmented bones documented this far.”
The finding is very rare because sedimentary rocks deposited in streams and rivers in the region during the Age of Dinosaurs are quite uncommon.
“Similar dinosaurs have been found in North Africa, Madagascar and as far away as South America,” the researchers said in the statement.
The finds, jointly authored by Australian, Saudi and Swedish researchers and under the auspices of the Saudi Geological Survey, were published in late December on the scientific journal PLOS ONE.


Japan spacecraft starts yearlong journey home from asteroid

Updated 13 November 2019

Japan spacecraft starts yearlong journey home from asteroid

  • The spacecraft will travel 180 million miles on its journey back to Earth
  • It will bring back soil samples that provide clues to life in space

TOKYO: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft departed from a distant asteroid on Wednesday, starting its yearlong journey home after successfully completing its mission to bring back soil samples and data that could provide clues to the origins of the solar system, the country’s space agency said.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the spacecraft left its orbit around the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth.
Hayabusa2 on Wednesday captured and transmitted to Earth one of its final images of Ryugu, or “Dragon Palace,” named after a sea-bottom castle in a Japanese folk tale, as it slowly began moving away from its temporary home, JAXA said. Hayabusa2 will continue its “farewell filming” of the asteroid for a few more days.
Then Hayabusa2 will adjust its position on around Nov. 18 after retreating 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the asteroid and out of its the gravitational pull. It will then receive a signal from JAXA to ignite a main engine in early December en route to the Earth’s vicinity.
Hayabusa2 made touchdowns on the asteroid twice, despite difficulties caused by Ryugu’s extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during its 1½-year mission since arriving there in June 2018.
In the first touchdown in February, it collected surface dust samples. In July, it collected underground samples for the first time in space history after landing in a crater it had earlier created by blasting the asteroid surface.
Hayabusa2 is expected to return to Earth in late 2020 and drop a capsule containing the precious samples in the Australian desert.
It took the spacecraft 3½ years to arrive at the asteroid, but the journey home is much shorter thanks to the current locations of Ryugu and Earth.
JAXA scientists believe the underground samples contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors that could tell more about the origin of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and may help explain how Earth evolved. Hayabusa2 scientists also said they believe the samples contain carbon and organic matter and hope they could explain how they are related to Earth.