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Remember last November when new material of the enigmatic theropod dinosaur Deinocheirus mirificus was announced, and it turned out to be a giant sail-backed basal ornithomimosaur?

Well, it gets even better. The head was still missing at that point, but at the beginning of this month some Deinocherius material was repatriated to Mongolia — including a glimpse of a very odd skull.

And it’s not a standard ornithomimosaur head at all. The long, wide, and almost spoonbill-like shape of Deinocherius' mouth seems to suggest convergent evolution with hadrosaurs, making the complete anatomy of this dinosaur even more bizarre than we could have possibly imagined.


This is a picture I took with my phone at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands. It is a scale showing how 1L (liter) of granite is lighter than 1L of basalt. This helps us visualize why plate tectonics never results in continents sinking underneath the ocean. Because continental crust is made of granite and oceanic crust is made of basalt, continents will never sink under the ocean because continents are always lighter than the ocean floor.

The pen is there for scale.


Molecular clouds in the whirlpool galaxy appear to be embedded in fog

A multi-year study of the Whirlpool galaxy (M51) has changed our understanding of giant molecular clouds, in which stars are born. The new study, which mapped 1,500 such clouds, shows that, instead, they are embedded in a kind of molecular fog, which permeates the whole of the galactic disc. Pressure exerted by this fog is crucial in determining whether or not new stars will form within the clouds. The study, led by Eva Schinnerer from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, made extensive use of the millimeter telescopes of IRAM, the Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique.

Most of a galaxy’s stars are born within giant molecular clouds - accumulations of hydrogen molecules with total masses between a thousand and several million times that of our Sun. As a region within such a cloud collapses under its own gravity, it contracts until pressure and temperature are high enough for nuclear fusion to set in: a new star is born.

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