The Dry, Dusty Decline of Empires


Cave’s climate clues show ancient empires declined during dry spell

The decline of the Roman and Byzantine empires in the Eastern Mediterranean more than 1,400 years ago may have been driven by unfavorable climate changes.

Based on chemical signatures in a piece of calcite from a cave near Jerusalem, a team of American and Israeli geologists pieced together a detailed record of the area’s climate from roughly 200 B.C. to 1100 A.D. Their analysis, to be reported in an upcoming issue of the journal Quaternary Research, reveals increasingly dry weather from 100 A.D. to 700 A.D. that coincided with the fall of both Roman and Byzantine rule in the region.

The researchers, led by University of Wisconsin-Madison geology graduate student Ian Orland and professor John Valley, reconstructed the high-resolution climate record based on geochemical analysis of a stalagmite from Soreq Cave, located in the Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve near Jerusalem.

“It looks sort of like tree rings in cross-section. You have many concentric rings and you can analyze across these rings, but instead of looking at the ring widths, we’re looking at the geochemical composition of each ring,” says Orland.

Using oxygen isotope signatures and impurities — such as organic matter flushed into the cave by surface rain — trapped in the layered mineral deposits, Orland determined annual rainfall levels for the years the stalagmite was growing, from approximately 200 B.C. to 1100 A.D.

While cave formations have previously been used as climate indicators, past analyses have relied on relatively crude sampling tools, typically small dental drills, which required averaging across 10 or even 100 years at a time. The current analysis used an advanced ion microprobe in the Wisconsin Secondary-Ion Mass-Spectrometer (Wisc-SIMS) laboratory to sample spots just one-hundredth of a millimeter across. That represents about 100 times sharper detail than previous methods. With such fine resolution, the scientists were able to discriminate weather patterns from individual years and seasons.

Their detailed climate record shows that the Eastern Mediterranean became drier between 100 A.D. and 700 A.D., a time when Roman and Byzantine power in the region waned, including steep drops in precipitation around 100 A.D. and 400 A.D. “Whether this is what weakened the Byzantines or not isn’t known, but it is an interesting correlation,” Valley says. “These things were certainly going on at the time that those historic changes occurred.”

The team is now applying the same techniques to older samples from the same cave. “One period of interest is the last glacial termination, around 19,000 years ago — the most recent period in Earth’s history when the whole globe experienced a warming of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius,” Orland says.

Formations from this period of rapid change may help them better understand how weather patterns respond to quickly warming temperatures.

Soreq Cave — at least 185,000 years old and still active — also offers the hope of creating a high-resolution long-term climate change record to parallel those generated from Greenland and Antarctic ice cores.

“No one knows what happened on the continents… At the poles, the climate might have been quite different,” says Valley. “This is a record of what was going on in a very different part of the world.”

In addition to Valley and Orland, the paper was authored by Miryam Bar-Matthews and Avner Ayalon from the Geological Survey of Israel, Alan Matthews of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Noriko Kita of UW-Madison.

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Paradise Deferred


Paradise deferred: John Milton still divides readers

Next week is the 400th anniversary of John Milton’s birth. Epic poet, champion of freedom, attack-dog for the English republic, he still divides readers. Boyd Tonkin looks at his legacy

Never before have I dared to suggest that Simon Schama might be – not wrong, but in sore need of an extra footnote. Viewers and readers of his The American Future may recall its fervent praise for the “Statute of Religious Freedom” that Thomas Jefferson drafted for the state of Virginia in 1779. This trumpet-call for liberty of conscience was, Schama enthused, “arguably the greatest and bravest thing he ever wrote”, and a cornerstone of the freedom that America would export to the world. And very fine Jefferson’s words sound too, with their affirmation that “Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself”. Almost as fine, in fact, as the words written 135 years before by a radical Englishman in the pamphlet that, surely, buzzed somewhere in the back – or front – of Jefferson’s brain.

“Let her and Falsehood grapple,” proclaimed John Milton in Areopagitica, the 1644 tract against censorship that began the poet’s second career as a polemicist: “Whoever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?” From Massachusetts to Virginia, the Londoner’s chimes of freedom echoed in revolutionary minds. As Milton’s new biographers, Gordon Campbell and Thomas N Corns, put it: “In intellectual terms, Milton is one of the founding fathers of America.”

Next Tuesday will mark the 400th anniversary of Milton’s birth on 9 December 1608 to a property-dealing family living in Bread Street in the City. But the United States that put some – not all – of his most cherished ideals into constitutional practice seems to be surging ahead in the birthday stakes. Here, we have had solid commemorations at Christ’s College, the Cambridge seat of learning where the young prodigy failed to thrive, at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and at St Giles Cripplegate, the City church – now marooned in the Barbican – where Milton was buried in 1674 despite having stayed away from all churches for 30 years.

In the US, whose founders inwardly digested Milton’s thoughts about church, state and liberty, they do things with a little more pizzazz. A few weeks ago, the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center in Brooklyn hosted the “Grand Paradise Lost Costume Ball”. Guests in Edenic or Satanic garb celebrated the epic that crowned Milton’s career in bittersweet triumph, after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 had destroyed the Republican cause to which he devoted almost 20 years as a spin-doctor and civil servant.

The walls were bedecked with 90 works of art inspired by the poem’s war-in-heaven set-pieces and its earthly drama of Adam, Eve and the seductive serpent – part of a tradition of barnstorming illustration that dates to John Baptist Medina’s engravings in 1688. Later visualisers of the poem include William Blake, Henry Fuseli, John Martin, Gustav Doré; even Salvador Dalí.

Prominent among the modern takes on Paradise Lost were the paintings of Terrance Lindall, who once drew for Marvel Comics and published some of his Milton phantasmagorias in Heavy Metal magazine. A New York Times reviewer surveyed the Brooklyn pandaemonium (a word Milton created) and sneered that the artworks’ fleshy style suggested “that the poem made particular mention of … naked female breasts”. Which just goes to show that contemporaries who seek to judge Milton without knowing about him will drop into a pit of their own making.

In Book IV of Paradise Lost, Milton takes care to portray the torrid intensity of sin-free sex between Adam and Eve in their unfallen state. At one point, Eve “half embracing leaned/ On our first father”, when “half her swelling breast/ Naked met his under the flowing gold/ Of her loose tresses hid”. Innocent bliss, free of death and time – this, rather than year-round sub-tropical harvests, makes his paradise, and makes its loss a howling tragedy only Jesus can redeem. I suspect Milton might have trusted his vision to a heavy-metal illustrator more readily than to any licensed preacher, then or now.

Licensed preachers have more or less given up on Milton. He defeats their categories. Keen on chastity in theory, he married three times (though his daughters spurned him as a tyrant). He rhapsodised over “connubial” passion, and was the opposite of what we call a “puritan”. Indeed, he spent years railing against the puritan takeover of the English revolution and their theocratic urge to set up a state religion and persecute “heretics”. Oliver Cromwell, whom he served as a letter-writing diplomat and attack-dog in the international pamphlet media, at root agreed. But the ancestors of today’s canting “religious right” prevailed in the 1650s. Milton, who hated all “establishments”, hated this type too.

The preachers may stay silent, but Milton’s critics make a devilish din. One positive effect of the quatercentenary has been the publication of a handful of books that prove how richly contentious this supreme controversialist remains. For the novice, Neil Forsyth in John Milton: a biography (Lion Hudson, £10.99) does his friendly and fair-minded best to make lucid sense of a life and work misted at every turn by the fogs of war – both military and intellectuual. Much more original, but less welcoming to non-specialists, Campbell and Corns’s John Milton: life, work and thought (Oxford, £25) goes doggedly about its scholarly work of disenchantment. It aims to drive away illusions and reveal hidden corners of the truth about a “self-contradictory, self-serving, arrogant, passionate, ruthless, ambitious and cunning” writer. Like many scrupulous researchers, they show their quarry a tough sort of love.

Most biographers praise Milton’s anti-monarchical tract The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. In 1649, it lent crucial propaganda muscle to the regicides who had just beheaded Charles I for treason, and so helped win the fiery radical his job – at £288 per annum – as foreign-languages secretary for the new Council of State (later, he worked for Cromwell’s Protectorate). Only Campbell and Corns pay equal attention to the Observations on rebellion in Ireland which, in the same year, paved the way for Cromwell’s bloody campaigns. Unable to resist a topical spin of their own, they maintain that “Milton produced a tendentious dossier designed to launch and excuse a dubious war of aggression. He would not be the last public servant to do so; though he may, perhaps, have been the first.”

Far closer in spirit to the idolatry that made Milton the idol of Georgian Whigs and Victorian Liberals, Philip Pullman has laboured angelically to rescue Milton from the library stacks and seminar rooms. His own trilogy His Dark Materials (reference: Paradise Lost, Book II, line 916) is inconceivable without the model of Milton’s epic imaginings of the pitfalls of proud authority, and the glorious adventures of free will. Oxford has reissued its illustrated edition of Paradise Lost (£9.99) with Pullman’s notes. He champions his version of the temptation-and-fall theme as a vindication of “the necessity of growing up, and a refusal to lament the loss of innocence”. Pullman agrees with William Blake that witty Satan, not whiny God, wins every rhetorical game – “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”. For Blake, Milton “was of the devil’s party without knowing it”.

Now turn to Theo Hobson’s Milton’s Vision (Continuum, £16.99), a peppery defence of the writer as a lost pioneer of “liberal Protestantism”. Hobson combines literary bad manners and big-hearted vituperation – both features of Milton’s own polemical prose. He sees any attempt to strip Christian doctrine out of Milton as absurd, and curses Pullman as “the chief cliché-monger of our time”. As for Blake’s oft-cited one-liner, it is “the silliest thing in the history of criticism”. Hobson backs Milton’s infamous reluctance to grant Roman Catholics the same liberty as other sects on modern grounds, likening the Counter-Reformation papacy to the “Islamic extremism” that scorns democracy today. Milton still lives in the clatter and smoke of battle.

Take the heart-clutching chamber-tragedy of Samson Agonistes. As his sightless hero pulls down the Philistine temple, does the ageing Milton – dejected by the corrupt court of Charles II – advocate the sort of terrorism that crushes powerful and powerless alike? For all the interior anguish of a work in which the long-blind poet (from “intermittent close-angle glaucoma”, Campbell and Corns conclude) imagines Samson “dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon”, politics returns.

With Milton, whose lyric drama can make Shakespeare sound dull, it somehow always does. If Samson fails to stir as a parable of political violence, then sultry Delilah’s deceptions will rock the critical boats. In her readable and well-balanced biography Milton: poet, pamphleteer and patriot (Bloomsbury, £14.99), Anna Beer deems that “the misogyny of Samson Agonistes does belong to its author”. As for Eve in Paradise Lost, she splits the house as utterly as ever – perhaps because she tore Milton apart. Feminist critics such as Diane McColley have argued that Milton’s portrayal is not only far less “sexist” than the tradition he drew on, but more respectful than the secular radicals who damn him so glibly. Beer, a reliable guide for newcomers on this and many other issues, insists that “Eve is not demonised after the Fall”. Milton “demonstrates her quiet heroism”.

The freedom Milton hailed in politics and religion also meant, to the poet, the freedom to fall. He views liberty not as a stroll in the garden but as the root of tragedy – a necessary, uplifting tragedy. Doomed to freedom, Eve and Adam leave paradise to find that the story of humankind begins. “The world was all before them” – the same world of choice, conflict and difficult togetherness that Milton’s heirs, from Jefferson to Pullman, have sought to interpret by his lights. “They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow/ Through Eden took their solitary way.”

Marvel or misogynist?

Stevie Davies

Novelist and critic

He was ‘Eikonoklastes’, the breaker of images – and I’m sure he stands behind the West’s movements towards freedom of thought, speech and press … On women, the ‘Lady of Christ’s’ misogyny streaks much of his writing with something dark and painful, born somehow of his own visceral pain. Yet the reader of ‘Paradise Lost’ can hardly fail to notice the waves of tender feeling,,, in his portrait of Eve … Wherever you look, Milton is cloven, fissured, riven – and it is in those rifts and flaws that his greatest poetry roots itself. ‘Paradise Lost’ was prized by American slaves for its libertarianism … Some of his modern-seeming liberalism springs from the root of his illiberal religious prejudice. His attitude to Islam … was more tolerant than his attitude to European Catholics.

Anna Beer


It can be argued that Milton’s religious beliefs informed his political beliefs. Above all, he wished for religious tolerance, freedom of conscience. He would support any political system that would deliver this, and safeguard it … Above all, however, Milton is fascinated with language and power – he is particularly fascinated with the ways those who exert tyranny are often the best orators. Satan is, of course, the prime example. Milton reminds us … that the citizens of a free country must have the ability (created by education) to sift the false from the true. Without that, we are prey to tyranny: religious tyranny, domestic tyranny, political tyranny. The three are related constantly by Milton. To insist that we must attend to one, and not the others, is to stunt Milton.

Claire Tomalin

Biographer and critic

The relationship with his daughters is pretty unforgivable. It’s terribly sad that they hated him. But, in a sense, the fact that he believed that marriage should be companionate, and that he wrote in favour of divorce, is a good thing. He does show a rather wonderful marriage in ‘Paradise Lost’… You read ‘Paradise Lost’ because it’s cracking good story with a wonderful use of language. Satan is a compelling Jacobean villain. On the other hand, you have this exquisite picture of Adam and Eve in paradise … There will always be, please God, children who have a piece of poetry put in front of them and are enraptured by it. There is something magical about well-written poetry.

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Rolling With the Jollbot


This robot can roll like a ball

London (IANS): The first robot that can jump like a grasshopper and roll like a ball could play a key role in space exploration.

The ‘Jollbot’, created by Rhodri Armour, PhD student from University of Bath, can jump over obstacles and roll over smoother terrain, could be used for space exploration or land survey work.

One of the major challenges that face robots designed for space exploration is being able to move over rough terrain. Robots with legs are generally very complex, expensive to build and control, and encounter problems if they fall over.

Wheels are a simpler solution to this, but are limited by the size of obstacles they can overcome, said a Bath release. Accordingly, Rhodri and colleagues at the University’s Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies have been looking to nature for inspiration – designing a robot that jumps obstacles in its path like an insect.

The ‘Jollbot’ is shaped like a spherical cage, which can roll in any direction, giving it the manoeuvrability of wheels without the problem of overturning or getting stuck in potholes.

The robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a kg, meaning it’s not damaged when landing after jumping and is therefore less expensive than conventional exploration robots. Armour explained: “Others in the past have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but we’ve made the first robot that can do both.

“We’ve made a robot that jumps in a similar way to the grasshopper, but uses electrical motors to slowly store the energy needed to leap in its springy skeleton.

Armour, who has just submitted his PhD thesis, took measurements using a high speed camera to analyse how the robot jumped and to predict how it might behave in a low-gravity environment, such as in space.

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Pterosaurs Bigger Than Cars


Ancient flying reptile bigger than a car

A fossil of a toothless flying pterosaur, with a body bigger than some family cars, represents the largest of these extinct reptiles ever to be found and has forced the creation of a new genus, scientists announced on Thursday.

Pterosaurs ruled the skies 115 million years ago during the dinosaur age. They are often mistaken for dinosaurs.

Mark Witton of the University of Portsmouth identified the creature from a partial skull fossil. Witton estimates the beast would have had a 5.5-yard (5-meter) wingspan. It stood more than a yard (about 1 meter) tall at the shoulder.

“Some of the previous examples we have from this family in China are just 60 centimeters (about two feet) long – as big as the skull of the new species. Put simply, it dwarfs any chaoyangopterid we’ve seen before by miles,” Witton said.

The finding also is significant because it originated in Brazil and is the only example of the Chaoyangopteridae, a group of toothless pterosaurs, to be found outside China.

Witton has christened the new species Lacusovagus, meaning “lake wanderer,” after the large body of water in which the remains were buried. The findings are detailed in the November issue of the journal Palaeontology.

He was asked to examine the specimen which had lain in a German museum for several years after its discovery in the Crato Formation of the Araripe Basin in North East Brazil, an area well known for the its fossils and their excellent state of preservation. However, he said that this fossil was preserved in an unusual way, making its interpretation difficult.

“Usually fossils like this are found lying on their sides but this one was lying on the roof of its mouth and had been rather squashed which made even figuring out whether it had teeth difficult,” Witton said.

“Still, it’s clear to see that Lacusovagus had an unusually wide skull which has implications for its feeding habits – maybe it liked particularly large prey. The remains are very fragmentary, however, so we need more specimens before we can draw any conclusions.”

The discovery of this pterosaur fossil in Brazil, so far away from its closest relatives in China, demonstrates how little scientists still know about the distribution and evolutionary history of this group of creatures, Witton said.

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Meet Jonathan, the World’s Oldest Living Animal


World’s oldest living animal discovered after he is pictured in 1900 photograph

By Richard Savill and Richard Alleyne

As a photograph it looks fairly unremarkable – a tortoise nibbles at the grass in front of a Boer War prisoner and guard.

But the pictures helps to mark the reptile as the oldest animal on the planet.

Jonathan, the tortoise, is believed to be 176-years-old and was about 70 at the time the black and white picture was taken.

He was photographed during the Boer War around 1900, and his life has spanned eight British monarchs from George IV to Elizabeth II, and 50 prime ministers.

It was taken on the South Atlantic island of St Helena, where Jonathan still lives today, along with five other tortoises David, Speedy, Emma, Fredricka and Myrtle, in a plantation.

The previous oldest tortoise was widely thought to be Harriet, a giant Galapagos Land tortoise, who died in 2005 aged 175 in Australia.

Despite his old age, locals say he still has the energy to regularly mate with the three younger females.

A spokesman for the island’s tourist board said Jonathan is owned by the St Helena government and lives in the specially built plantation on the governor’s land.

He said: “Jonathan is the sole survivor of three tortoises that arrived on St Helena Island in 1882.
“He was already mature when he arrived and was at least 50-years-old.

“Therefore his minimum age is 176-years-old. He is the oldest inhabitant on St Helena and is claimed to be the oldest living tortoise in the world.

“He lives in the grounds of Plantation House which is the governor’s residence with five other tortoises who are much younger than him.

“Apparently he remained nameless for the most part of his residence in St Helena until he was named by Governor Sir Spencer Davis in the 1930s.

“He feeds on the grass of the main paddock.

“Jonathan is still very active despite his age and adores attention, he is a real poser.

“He seems to be sightless in one eye, but does not let that slow him down.”

It is thought Jonathan, from the species Testudinipae cytodira, was brought to St Helena from the Seychelles as a mature adult in 1882.

His remarkable existance has come to light after the photograph was discovered as part of a collection of Boer War images taken by a man named L.A. Innes who had a studio in the British overseas territory’s capital Jamestown.

The pictures were recently sold at auction for £4,000 by Andrew Smith and Son auctioneers near Winchester, Hants.

Further investigation by the auctioneers revealed the tortoise in the picture was Jonathan who was still alive.

St Helena has a population of more than 4,200. Its greatest claim to fame came when Napoleon was exiled there in 1815.

He was held prisoner there until his death in 1821 and is buried there.

Another tortoise, Timothy, who was a ship’s mascot in the Crimean War, died at his home at Powderham Castle, near Exeter, Devon, in 2004, aged 160. The castle’s Rose Garden had been his home since 1935.

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Older Humans?

Humans 80,000 Years Older Than Previously Thought?

by Kate Ravilious

Modern humans may have evolved more than 80,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study of sophisticated stone tools found in Ethiopia.

The tools were uncovered in the 1970s at the archaeological site of Gademotta, in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. But it was not until this year that new dating techniques revealed the tools to be far older than the oldest known Homo sapien bones, which are around 195,000 years old.

Using argon-argon dating—a technique that compares different isotopes of the element argon—researchers determined that the volcanic ash layers entombing the tools at Gademotta date back at least 276,000 years.

Many of the tools found are small blades, made using a technique that is thought to require complex cognitive abilities and nimble fingers, according to study co-author and Berkeley Geochronology Center director Paul Renne.

Some archaeologists believe that these tools and similar ones found elsewhere are associated with the emergence of the modern human species, Homo sapiens.

“It seems that we were technologically more advanced at an earlier time that we had previously thought,” said study co-author Leah Morgan, from the University of California, Berkeley.

The findings are published in the December issue of the journal Geology.

Desirable Location

Gademotta was an attractive place for people to settle, due to its close proximity to fresh water in Lake Ziway and access to a source of hard, black volcanic glass, known as obsidian.

“Due to its lack of crystalline structure, obsidian glass is one of the best raw materials to use for making tools,” Morgan explained.

In many parts of the world, archaeologists see a leap around 300,000 years ago in Stone Age technology from the large and crude hand-axes and picks of the so-called Acheulean period to the more delicate and diverse points and blades of the Middle Stone Age.

At other sites in Ethiopia, such as Herto in the Afar region northeast of Gademotta, the transition does not occur until much later, around 160,000 years ago, according to argon dating. This variety in dates supports the idea of a gradual transition in technology.

“A modern analogy might be the transition from ox-carts to automobiles, which is virtually complete in North America and northern Europe, but is still underway in the developing world,” said study co-author Renne, who received funding for the Gadmotta analysis from the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

Morgan, of UC Berkeley, speculates that the readily available obsidian at Gademotta may explain why the technological revolution occurred so early there.

Complicated family tree

The lack of bones at Gademotta makes it difficult to determine who made these specialist tools. Some archaeologists believe it had to be Homo sapiens, while other experts think that other human species may have had the required mental capability and manual dexterity.

Regardless of who made the tools, the dates help to fill a key gap in the archaeological record, according to some experts.

“The new dates from Gademotta help us to understand the timing of an important behavioral change in human evolution,” said Christian Tryon, a professor of anthropology from New York University, who wasn’t involved in the study.

If anything, the story has now become more complex, added Laura Basell, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford in the U.K.

“The new date for Gademotta changes how we think about human evolution, because it shows how much more complicated the situation is than we previously thought,” Basell said.

“It is not possible to simply associate specific species with particular technologies and plot them in a line from archaic to modern.”

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Omega Centauri

This is the stuff of SF adventures and pure wonder. Just look at this immense cluster of stars… it contains over 10 millions stars! What worlds and perhaps life lies within it? Oh, the Jack Vance of it all!


Omega Centauri: Glittering Giant Of Southern Skies

Omega Centauri is one of the finest jewels of the southern hemisphere night sky, as ESO’s latest stunning image beautifully illustrates. Containing millions of stars, this globular cluster is located roughly 17 000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus.

Sparkling away at magnitude 3.7 and appearing nearly as large as the full moon on the southern night sky, Omega Centauri is visible with the unaided eye from a clear, dark observing site. Even through a modest amateur telescope, the cluster is revealed as an incredible, densely packed sphere of glittering stars. But astronomers need to use the full power of professional telescopes to uncover the amazing secrets of this beautiful globular cluster.

This new image is based on data collected with the Wide Field Imager (WFI), mounted on the 2.2-metre diameter Max-Planck/ESO telescope, located at ESO’s La Silla observatory, high up in the arid mountains of the southern Atacama Desert in Chile. Omega Centauri is about 150 light-years across and is the most massive of all the Milky Way’s globular clusters. It is thought to contain some ten million stars!

Omega Centauri has been observed throughout history. Both the great astronomer Ptolemy and later Johann Bayer catalogued the cluster as a star. It was not until much later, in the early 19th century, that an Englishman, the astronomer John Frederick William Herschel (son of the discoverer of Uranus), realised that Omega Centauri was in fact a globular cluster. Globular clusters are some of the oldest groupings of stars to be found in the halos that surround galaxies like our own Milky Way. Omega Centauri itself is thought to be around 12 billion years old.

Recent research into this intriguing celestial giant suggests that there is a medium sized black hole sitting at its centre. Observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope (see heic0809 ) and the Gemini Observatory showed that stars at the cluster’s centre were moving around at an unusual rate — the cause, astronomers concluded, was the gravitational effect of a massive black hole with a mass of roughly 40 000 times that of the Sun.

The presence of this black hole is just one of the reasons why some astronomers suspect Omega Centauri to be an imposter. Some believe that it is in fact the heart of a dwarf galaxy that was largely destroyed in an encounter with the Milky Way. Other evidence (see ESO 07/05 and heic0708) points to the several generations of stars present in the cluster — something unexpected in a typical globular cluster, which is thought to contain only stars formed at one time. Whatever the truth, this dazzling celestial object provides professional and amateur astronomers alike with an incredible view on clear dark nights.

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