Scientists reveal secrets of Earth’s magnificent desert star dunes

A view of the Lala Lallia star dune of the Sahara Desert, in Erg Chebbi, Morocco, as seen in an undated handout image from 2008 and obtained by Reuters on March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)
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A view of the Lala Lallia star dune of the Sahara Desert, in Erg Chebbi, Morocco, as seen in an undated handout image from 2008 and obtained by Reuters on March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)
A view of the Lala Lallia star dune of the Sahara Desert, in Erg Chebbi, Morocco, as seen in an undated handout image from 2008 and obtained by Reuters on March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)
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A view of the Lala Lallia star dune of the Sahara Desert, in Erg Chebbi, Morocco, as seen in an undated handout image from 2008 and obtained by Reuters on March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 05 March 2024
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Scientists reveal secrets of Earth’s magnificent desert star dunes

Scientists reveal secrets of Earth’s magnificent desert star dunes
  • The researchers used ground-penetrating radar to peer inside the dune and employed luminescence dating to determine how long Lala Lallia has taken to form, a method based on the amount of energy trapped inside the grains of sand

WASHINGTON: They are among the wonders of our deserts: star dunes, the vaguely pyramid-shaped sand formations up to about 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall with arms stretching out from a central peak to give them a star-like appearance when viewed from above.
Scientists on Monday unveiled the first in-depth study of a star dune, revealing the internal structure of these geological features and showing how long it took for one of them to form — more quickly than expected but still a process unfolding over many centuries.
The study focused upon a star dune in eastern Morocco called Lala Lallia, meaning “highest sacred point” in the local Berber language, situated within the Sahara Desert in a small sand sea called Erg Chebbi about 3 miles (5 km) from the town of Merzouga, close to the border with Algeria.




A view of the Lala Lallia star dune of the Sahara Desert, in Erg Chebbi, Morocco, as seen in an undated handout image from 2008 and obtained by Reuters on March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)

Lala Lallia rises about 330 feet (100 meters) above the surrounding dunes and is approximately 2,300 feet (700 meters) wide, containing about 5-1/2 million metric tons of sand.
The researchers used ground-penetrating radar to peer inside the dune and employed luminescence dating to determine how long Lala Lallia has taken to form, a method based on the amount of energy trapped inside the grains of sand. The answer: about 900 years, accumulating roughly 6,400 metric tons annually as wind relentlessly blows sand through the desert.
Star dunes make up just under 10 percent of the dunes in Earth’s deserts and are the tallest ones, surpassing other types such as crescent-shaped barchan dunes and straight and lengthy linear dunes. They also have been spotted on Mars and on Saturn’s large moon Titan.




A view of the Lala Lallia star dune of the Sahara Desert, in Erg Chebbi, Morocco, as seen in an undated handout image from 2008 and obtained by Reuters on March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)

“I first encountered star dunes in Namibia 20 years ago, and was instantly amazed at the size of them. I have a vivid memory of the long climb to the top, struggling up very loose sand in the heat of the day,” said geographer Geoff Duller of Aberystwyth University in Wales, co-author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“I find desert dunes very beautiful,” Duller added. “The sight of the sinuous curves, and the way that the light and shadow changes with the sun mean that they always look different, whether that is in the cool of the morning, the midday sun or near sunset. The different colors of sand in different deserts are also very striking, with yellow, white, red and even black dunes in different parts of the world.”
The ground-penetrating radar revealed the layers within the Lala Lallia dune, showing how it was constructed over time through accumulating sand and how parts of its internal structure resembled other types of dunes.
“Star dunes are formed in areas with complex wind regimes, which means winds blowing from different directions, and net sand accumulation, points within the desert where big piles of sand can be blown around to form giant dunes,” said Birkbeck University of London sedimentologist and study co-author Charlie Bristow.
The researchers also determined that Lala Lallia is moving westerly at a speed of about 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) annually.
While many star dunes are known today, only a single ancient one has been found preserved as sandstone in the geological record, dating to about 250 million years ago, in Scotland. By revealing their internal structure, the researchers said their findings provide a guide for geologists to identify more sandstone remnants of ancient star dunes.
Earth’s largest star dunes are found in the Badain Jaran desert in western China. Star dunes also are found in places including the Namib Sand Sea in Namibia, large sand seas in Algeria such as the Grand Erg Oriental and Grand Erg Occidental, and Rub’ al Khali in Saudi Arabia. In North America, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado contains a series of them.
“They form extraordinary and awe-inspiring landscapes,” Bristow said. “From the ground they can be intimidating, mobile mountains of sand.”

 


Used missiles for sale: Iranian weapons used against Israel are up for grabs on Jordan-based website

Used missiles for sale: Iranian weapons used against Israel are up for grabs on Jordan-based website
Updated 16 April 2024
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Used missiles for sale: Iranian weapons used against Israel are up for grabs on Jordan-based website

Used missiles for sale: Iranian weapons used against Israel are up for grabs on Jordan-based website
  • Debris used in attack listed on OpenSooq online marketplace

LONDON: Fragments of missiles launched by Iran during the recent attack on Israel have been discovered for sale on Jordan’s prominent OpenSooq website, which is known for trading goods, including vehicles and real estate.

Al Arabiya reported on Sunday that the shrapnel was being advertised, with pieces described as “Used Iranian ballistic missile in good condition for sale,” and “One-time use ballistic missile for sale at an attractive price.”

The sellers had provided specifications and images of the missiles, describing them as “excellent type,” and mentioned their involvement in an “accident” resulting in “severe damage to the body.”

Some listings even included installment payment options.

Iran launched drones and missiles toward Israel late on Saturday as it retaliated following a suspected Israeli strike on the consulate annex building adjacent to the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, earlier this month.

While most projectiles were intercepted by a joint response from Israel, the US, UK, France, and Jordan, the attack marked Iran’s first direct military assault on Israeli territory, escalating tension and uncertainty in the region.

Following the attack, individuals shared photographs online showing debris that had fallen on Jordanian territory in areas such as Al-Hasa, Marj Al-Hamam, and Karak Governorate.

The Jordanian government confirmed that it had intercepted some flying objects in its airspace, with no reported damage or injuries.

Debris from such incidents often holds economic value. Metal debris from the Iraq War has been used by Iran-backed groups to finance their activities.

Similar items are sold online as military memorabilia, and there has been a surge in demand for such artifacts, as seen in Australia last year, preceding the country’s ban on the sale of hate symbols.


Google Doodle celebrates Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan

Google Doodle celebrates Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan
Updated 15 April 2024
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Google Doodle celebrates Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan

Google Doodle celebrates Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan
  • Etel Adnan rose to fame for her 1977 novel Sitt Marie Rose about the Lebanese civil war

DUBAI: Google released its latest Doodle on Monday honoring Etel Adnan, a Lebanese-American poet, essayist and visual artist, considered one of the most accomplished Arab-American authors of her era.

The poet, who rose to fame for her 1977 novel Sitt Marie Rose about the Lebanese civil war, was born in Lebanon in 1925 to a Greek mother and a Syrian father, and grew up in multiple cultures, languages, nationalities and religions. Sitt Marie Rose won the France-Pays Arabes award and become a classic of war literature, so much so that it is taught in American classrooms.

In 1949, Adnan went to Paris to study philosophy at the Sorbonne before going to America to study at Harvard and Berkeley.

From 1958 to 1972, she taught philosophy in California, during which time she also started painting and writing poetry. She developed her literary voice in English and said abstract painting was the entry point into her native Arabic.

Adnan returned to Beirut, where from 1972 to 1976 she worked as the arts editor for two newspapers. She returned to California in 1979, then spent her later years living between Paris and Beirut.

In 2003, Adnan was named “arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today” by the academic journal MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States.

Adnan’s most recent honor was in 2020. Her poetry collection “Time,” which is a selection of her work — translated from French by Sarah Riggs — won the Griffin Poetry Prize.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, earlier this year opened an eponymous exhibition in her honor – “Etel Adnan: Between East and West” –  showcasing 41 of her works. The space at Ithra’s gallery is the first solo exhibition of Adnan’s work in Saudi Arabia, running until June 30.

The works on display span from the beginning of Adnan’s artistic career in the late 1950s through to her final creations in 2021, shortly before her death that year aged 96.

Some of the works are on loan from significant international institutions such as the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sfier-Semler Gallery and Sursock Museum. Some are part of private collections.


‘HELP’ written in palm fronds lands rescue for Pacific castaways

‘HELP’ written in palm fronds lands rescue for Pacific castaways
Updated 12 April 2024
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‘HELP’ written in palm fronds lands rescue for Pacific castaways

‘HELP’ written in palm fronds lands rescue for Pacific castaways
  • The trio became stranded on Pikelot Atoll, a tiny island in the remote Western Pacific, after their motor-powered skiff malfunctioned
  • A US Navy aircraft saw the "help" sign and a ship came later to rescue the stranded trio, all experienced mariners in their 40s

LOS ANGELES: Sometimes all you have to do is ask for “HELP“: That’s what three men stranded on a deserted Pacific island learned earlier this week, writing the message in palm fronds which were spotted by US rescuers.

The trio, all experienced mariners in their 40s, became stranded on a lonely island after setting off from Micronesia’s Polowat Atoll on March 31 in their motor-powered skiff which subsequently experienced damage.
They were reported missing last Saturday by a woman who told the US Coast Guard her three uncles never returned from Pikelot Atoll, a tiny island in the remote Western Pacific.
“In a remarkable testament to their will to be found, the mariners spelled out ‘HELP’ on the beach using palm leaves, a crucial factor in their discovery,” said search and rescue mission coordinator Lt. Chelsea Garcia.
She reported that the trio was discovered Sunday on Pikelot Atoll by a US Navy aircraft.
“This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location,” she said.
The aircraft crew dropped survival packages, and rescuers one day later dropped a radio which the mariners used to communicate that they were in good health, had access to food and water, and that the motor on their 20-foot (six-meter) skiff was no longer working.
On Tuesday morning a ship rescued the trio and their equipment, returning them to Polowat Atoll, the Coast Guard said.
In August 2020, three Micronesian sailors also stranded on Pikelot were rescued after Australian and US warplanes spotted a giant “SOS” they had scrawled on the beach.
 


Dining hall with Trojan War decorations uncovered in ancient Roman city of Pompeii

Dining hall with Trojan War decorations uncovered in ancient Roman city of Pompeii
Updated 12 April 2024
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Dining hall with Trojan War decorations uncovered in ancient Roman city of Pompeii

Dining hall with Trojan War decorations uncovered in ancient Roman city of Pompeii
  • One fresco depicts Paris and Helen, whose love affair caused the Trojan War, according to classical accounts
  • Pompeii and the surrounding countryside was submerged by volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius exploded in AD 79

ROME: A black-walled dining hall with 2,000-year-old paintings inspired by the Trojan War has been discovered during excavations at the Roman city of Pompeii, authorities said on Thursday.
The size of the room — about 15 meters long and 6 meters wide — the quality of the frescoes and mosaics from the time of Emperor Augustus, and the choice of characters suggest it was used for banquets, Pompeii Archaeological Park said.

A fresco of a mythological character inspired by the Trojan War is seen in this handout picture taken in the ancient archeological site of Pompeii and released on April 11, 2024. (Parco Archeoligico di Pompei/Handout via REUTERS)

“The walls were painted black to prevent the smoke from the oil lamps being seen on the walls,” Gabriel Zuchtriegel, head of the park, said.
“People would meet to dine after sunset, and the flickering light of the lamps had the effect of making the images appear animated, especially after a few glasses of good Campanian wine.”
Pompeii and the surrounding countryside was submerged by volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius exploded in AD 79, killing thousands of Romans who had no idea they were living beneath one of Europe’s biggest volcanoes.
The site has seen a burst of archaeological activity aimed at halting years of decay and neglect, largely thanks to a 105-million-euro ($112 million) European Union-funded project.

A fresco of a mythological character inspired by the Trojan War is seen in this handout picture taken in the ancient archeological site of Pompeii and released on April 11, 2024. (Parco Archeoligico di Pompei/Handout via REUTERS)

The dominant theme of the newly discovered paintings is heroism and fate.
One fresco depicts Paris and Helen, whose love affair caused the Trojan War, according to classical accounts. Another one shows doomed prophetess Cassandra and the Greco-Roman god Apollo.
According to Greek mythology, Cassandra predicted the Trojan War after receiving the gift of foresight from Apollo, but no-one believed her. This was because of a curse Apollo put upon her for refusing to give herself to him.


Bosnian Formula One fan brings speed dreams to the mountains

Bosnian Formula One fan brings speed dreams to the mountains
Updated 10 April 2024
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Bosnian Formula One fan brings speed dreams to the mountains

Bosnian Formula One fan brings speed dreams to the mountains
  • The 36-year-old mechanic bought the car from another racing superfan in the capital Sarajevo last year
  • Since purchasing the vehicle, he has been methodically making tweaks to its exterior, while nursing hopes of one day replacing its engine

KLJUC, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Far from the glitzy racetracks where legendary drivers made their mark in the world of Formula One, Himzo Beganovic has turned his dreams of speed into reality along the dirt roads of northwestern Bosnia.
“I always wanted to own a Formula One car, to have it in front of the house, to be able to go for a spin,” Beganovic told AFP, as he tuned up a replica “Ferrari red” race car outside his home near the Bosnian town of Kljuc.
The 36-year-old mechanic bought the car from another racing superfan in the capital Sarajevo last year.
The replica, which took two years to build, remains a ramshackle mock-up, crafted with sheet metal — a far cry from the advanced carbon fiber used in the multimillion-dollar cars of Formula One teams.
Despite Beganovic’s limited means, he still hopes to make his car more efficient, bit by bit.
Since purchasing the vehicle, he has been methodically making tweaks to its exterior, while nursing hopes of one day replacing its engine.
Along with a more powerful motor, Beganovic hopes to install an automatic gearbox and better tires.
“When you drive Formula One, you feel like you are flying. It is not like a car,” he said.
“It is the only one in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are no others.”
A self-professed lover of “fast driving” and taking “dangerous turns,” Beganovic has been turning heads along Bosnia’s mountain roads where he reaches speeds of up to 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour).
Other times he simply parks the car in a popular area and lets people check it out.
“I sometimes put it on a trailer to take it to other places in the country. People come, photograph it, and ask questions,” he said.
“The feeling is indescribable.”
For Beganovic, there was no question of what color the car would be.
As a longtime fan of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, the Ferrari-red paint pays tribute to the driver who won five titles with the famous Italian team.
Since the legendary German champion’s skiing accident in 2013 in the French Alps, Beganovic said he has yet to find another driver that interests him as much.
With Schumacher in mind, he hopes to put an Audi V-8 engine into his car soon.
“When a German engine and Bosnian ingenuity combine, you get an Italian car,” laughed one of Beganovic’s neighbors.