Science Over the Edge

A Mix of News, Events, History and Gossip

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

January 1999

In the News:

Researchers are studying a ship sunk in the waters off of North Carolina some three centuries ago. It is thought, but has not yet been proven, that the hulk now sitting in 25 feet of water is the infamous pirate Blackbeard's flagship Queen Anne's Revenge. The vessels was discovered in 1996 and scientists hope that by studying the remains of the vessel they can discover changes in the coastline environment over the past 300 years.

Scientists have announced they believe they have discovered evidence of a asteroid hit in southeastern Argentina some 3.3 million years ago. A greenish-colored glassy substance, known as escoria, is one of the most important clues pointing toward a scorching heat created at the time of impact. While this asteroid was smaller than the one supposedly responsible for killing the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, it may have caused the extinction of local species such as the giant armadillos and ground sloths which once inhabited the region.

Pottery found in an ancient royal cemetery in Egypt have called into question the conventional wisdom that writing first appeared with the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. The new Egyptian discoveries are thought to date as far as 3,400 BC whereas the Sumerian writing is thought to only date back to 3000 BC.

The finishing touches are being put on the FUSE (Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) orbiting telescope that is supposed to be launched in mid-Febuary this year. By placing the telescope outside the Earth's atmosphere researchers hope to observe ultraviolet light which is normally absorbed by the air. These observations may allow scientists to answer some questions about the origin of the universe.

In History:

On January 1, 1976, two young girls playing in a backyard some 5 miles south of Harlingen, Texas, reported seeing a "horrible-looking" black bird of enormous size. Other reports followed, some seemingly indicating that the creature was a pterosaur: A winged reptile that should have gone extinct with the dinosaurs. The sightings faded away in a few months, but some people still wonder what caused them.

For more information about this story, and pterosaurs, click here!

In the Sky:

For early risers: Mars will be spectacularly bright this month( and the next few months). On January 12 it will be in conjunction with the bright star Spica. Look for it in the SW or SSW an hour before sunup. Carefully watching Mars over the next few months will provide a view of the planet's retrograde motion. It will move eastward till March, then appear to move backwards until it is again close to the star Spica. Mars does not actually move backwards, but the apparent motion is caused by the combination of Earth and Martian orbits.


There were several reports of a blue-glowing UFO in the area of Florence, Kentucky, during December 13th and 14th. Some observers reported seeing a triangular shaped object, others a disc. Some also connect a power blackout experienced by Florence with the sightings.

On the Tube:

Public television will be starting out the month with The Beast of Loch Ness. Nessie will be the topic of this NOVA on January 12, at 8PM ET on PBS.

Curse of the Pharaohs Week will be featured on the History Channel starting January 11. Runs through the 15 every night at 8PM ET/ 9PM PT. Episodes in order are: Mysteries of King Tut, Rameses the Great, Akhenaten, Pyramids of Giza, Egypt's Great Queen.


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Copyright Lee Krystek 1998. All Rights Reserved.