Easter Island Heads have Bodies

The enduring image in the public's mind of the mysterious heads on Easter Island is simply that - heads.

So it comes as quite a shock to see the heads from another angle - and discover that they have full bodies, extending down many, many feet into the ground of the island.

The Easter Island Statue Project has been carefully excavating two of 1,000-plus statues on the islands - doing their best to uncover the secrets of the mysterious stones, and the people who built them, as best they can.

Inside the Easter Island statues: Experts have known about the bodies before, but when these images started circulating readers doubted their authenticity

The team also found large quantities of red pigment, some of which may have been used to paint the statues

Project director Jo Anne Van Tilburg said: 'Our EISP excavations recently exposed the torsos of two 7 m tall statues.

'Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors to the island have been astonished to see that, indeed, Easter Island statues have bodies!

'More important, however, we discovered a great deal about the Rapa Nui techniques of ancient engineering.'

Among their discoveries, the team have discovered:
- The dirt and detritus partially burying the statues was washed down from above and not deliberately placed there to bury, protect, or support the statues
- The statues were erected in place and stand on stone pavements
- Post holes were cut into bedrock to support upright tree trunks
- Rope guides were cut into bedrock around the post holes
- Posts, ropes, stones, and different types of stone tools were all used to carve and raise the statues upright

The remote island - one of the remotest in the world, tucked away in the South Pacific Ocean - was once home to a Polynesian population, whose history remains mysterious.

They likely sailed to the islands in canoes - a 1,500-mile journey over the open waters, and then, once they landed, they began relentessly carving the stone statues.

This led to their own downfall: By the time Europeans discovered the island in the 1700s, the population had decimated nearly all the trees in the island to help with the statue construction, and the knock-on effect on the island's ecology led to their decline.

The team working on the dig as they unveil the secrets of the heads - excavations recently exposed the torsos of two 7m tall statues

Here's something not many people know: The Easter Island statues have bodies which go down many feet

Remote: Easter Island, in the South Pacific sea, is a 64miles-square island - one of the most remote in the world

The team also discovered that ceremonies were certainly associated with the statues.

On the project website, Van Tilburg said: 'We found large quantities of red pigment, some of which may have been used to paint the statues.

'Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, we found in the pavement under one statue a single stone carved with a crescent symbol said to represent a canoe, or vaka.

'The backs of both statues are covered with petroglyphs, many of which are also vaka. A direct connection between the vaka symbol and the identity of the artist or group owning the statue is strongly suggested.'


Lyrid meteor shower & Aurora Borealis from Space

Astronaut Don Pettit loves sharing his holiday pictures. Which is good for the rest of the world, because few of us will ever experience the view from 240 miles up. The astronaut's latest spectacular video, strung together from his images taken from the International Space Station, even captures a cameo appearance from the Lyrid metorite shower at its peak in the early hours of Sunday, April 22.

The meteorite streaks by as the Aurora Borealis glimmers in the background, while the lights of the Florida Keys break through the darkness of the night, and isolated lightning strikes splatter the skies.
Scroll down for video:

Streaker: The Lyrid meteor burns up as it hits our atmosphere at around 100,000mph. The lights of Florida are clearly visible to the left of the meteor, as are flashes of lightning

At the start of the video, the aurora glows over the horizon as the ISS hits the dark side of the Earth

More storms can be seen - and also the glare of the combined light of our cities reflecting off the upper reaches of the atmosphere

Don, who has been beaming back dozens of great videos since he started his second space mission in December, used six-second exposures to create his images.

The images - while gorgeous - also serve a purpose. NASA rearchers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will combine Don's images with their own earthbound observations, which in turn will help them test out various theories relating to meteorite showers.

The Lyrids have been reported in our skies for more than 2,600 years now, and occur as Earth moves throw the trail of dust left behind by the comet Thatcher. the shower occurs every year in mid-April, and cause spectacular light-shows across the world as the meteors hit the upper levels of our atmosphere at up to 110,000mph.

Last month Nasa released a compilation of the best of its time-lapse photography from space - many filmed by Don - accompanied by a suitable theme tune.

To the haunting sounds of Walking In The Air, written by Howard Blake for the film The Snowman, the four-minute tape zooms over the earth's surface from the International Space Station, shot by the Expedition 30 crew who boarded in November.

The breathtaking footage captured enchanting light displays and vivid weather systems across the globe in the last five months. it includes the Aurora Australis over the Indian Ocean, Comet Lovejoy streaking across the sky and storms over Africa. Sadly, on July 1, Pettit will return to Earth, but hopefully he will leave his camera behind for the next visitors.

Don Pettit's 'Lyrid from Space' video:

Images and video of NASA's 'Walking in the Air' video:

Switched on: The images, including this of Central Europe to the Middle East, were shot by Expedition 30 since they set up home in the International Space Station last November

Heavenly: Comet Lovejoy captured on camera from the ISS when it tore across the sky in November

Out of this world: Aurora Australis above the Indian Ocean casts an eerie glow over the world which the astronauts captured 240 miles up

Spaced out: The astronauts use their time on board the ISS to carry out research and beam stunning images of earth back home

Over African skies: Storms throw vivid displays as the space station floats above the continent

Sparkling: Northern United States to Eastern Canada taken since by astronauts using time-lapse photography

Fly me to the moon: The footage was compiled by the astronauts to the soundtrack Walking In The Air


Top 10 Sea Stacks in the World

A stack or sea stack is a rock formation made up of a steep or upright column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast. They are formed when part of a headland is eroded by water crashing against the rock or as a result of wind erosion. These impressive formations are intricately created by nature only through time, tide and wind. Here are 10 famous sea stack formations from around the World.

1. Dun Briste, Ireland

Dun Briste, a spectacular sea-stack, estimated to be approximately 50 metres (165ft) in height, stands 80 metres (260ft) off Downpatrick Head, in the town-land of Knockaun, east of Ballycastle, Ireland. Downpatrick Head is where the Atlantic has gouged a huge bay from the mighty cliffs and their summits scoured of all vegetation except grass by the ceaseless ocean winds.

Each year, Downpatrick is frequented by birdwatchers, who come to observe and record the many different species which take up positions on the stratified face of the stack as the seasons change. In May and early June, the headland itself is a blaze of colour when the sea-pink comes into bloom.

2. Sail Rock, Russia

Sail Rock is a natural sandstone monolith located on the shore of the Black Sea, in Krasnodar Krai, Russia. It resembles the outline of a ship’s sail, hence its name. The monolith lies 17 km (10.5mi) to the southeast of Gelendzhik, near the village of Praskoveyevka (which is about 500 meters (1,650ft) from the coast) and the farmstead of Dzhankhot (approximately twice that distance from the coast).

Sail Rock has a sheer vertical slope confronting the shore of sea, isolated from the mass of basic rock by geological forces. It is more than three-fourths revealed by the tide and lies perpendicular to the coast. What is most remarkable about this landmark is its proportions. While the cliff is only a little more than a meter (3ft) thick, its height is about 25 meters (82ft) and its length about 20 (66ft). Thus, the form of the cliff is described as resembling the outline of a quadrangular sail.

3. Old Man of Hoy, Scotland, UK

The Old Man of Hoy is a 449 feet (137m) sea stack on the island of Hoy. It is a distinctive landmark from the Thurso to Stromness ferry and was first climbed in 1966. This stack is an red sandstone stack, perched on a plinth of basalt rock. It stands close to Rackwick Bay on the west coast of the island of Hoy, in the Orkney Islands, Scotland.

The stack is probably less than 400 years old and may not get much older, as there are indications that it may soon collapse. On maps drawn between 1600 and 1750, the area appears as a headland with no sea stack. William Daniell, a landscape painter, sketched the sea stack in 1817 as a wider column with a smaller top section and an arch at the base, from which it derived its name. A print of this drawing is still available in local museums. Sometime in the early 19th century, a storm washed away one of the legs leaving it much as it is today, although erosion continues.

4. Risin og Kellingin, Faroe Islands

Risin og Kellingin (Risin and Kellingin) are two sea stacks just off the northern coast of the island of Eysturoy in the Faroe Islands close to the town of Eiði. The name Risin og Kellingin means The Giant and the Witch and relates to an old legend about their origins. The Giant (Risin) is the 71m (233ft) stack further from the coast, and the witch (Kellingin) is the 68m (223ft) pointed stack nearer land, standing with her legs apart.

The stacks can be viewed by walking north from Eiði then turning east towards the coast and following the low cliffs for a short way. Other good views can be had on a clear day from Tjørnuvík on the island of Streymoy. Faroese geologists predict that Kellingin, which currently stands on two legs, will fall into the sea sometime in the next few decades during the winter storms. Already part of the stack broke off at the beginning of the twentieth century.

5. Ko Tapu, Thailand

Ko Tapu is a limestone rock about 20 metres (66 ft) tall with the diameter increasing from about 4 metres (13 ft) near the water level to about 8 metres (26 ft) at the top. It lies about 40 metres (130 ft) to the west from the northern part of Khao Phing Kan (a pair of islands on the west coast of Thailand).

A scientific version of the Ko Tapu formation says that the area was a barrier reef. Then, upon tectonic movements, it ruptured, and its parts were dispersed over the area and flooded by the rising ocean. Wind, waves, water currents and tides gradually eroded the islands thus formed, sometimes producing peculiar shapes, such as Ko Tapu. Tide-related erosion is visible at the bottom of the rock.

6. Ball’s Pyramid, Australia

Ball's Pyramid is 20 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of Lord Howe Island in the Pacific Ocean. It is 562 metres (1,844 ft) high, while measuring only 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) in length and 300 metres (980 ft) across, making it the tallest volcanic stack in the world. Ball's Pyramid is part of the Lord Howe Island Marine Park.

In 2001, a large species of insect commonly known as a tree lobster or Lord Howe Island stick insect was discovered clinging to the stack eighty years after it was believed to have gone extinct. Rats introduced to the larger islands are to blame for the six-inch insect’s demise. Scientists captured several insects to breed, which they finally did successfully, and may be introduced to the mainland.

7. Kicker Rock, Galapagos, Ecuador

Kicker Rock, also called the Sleeping Lion is a rocky formation and popular dive destination on the western side of Isla San Cristobal, the easternmost island in the Galápagos archipelago.

This gigantic rock raises 500 feet (152m) straight from the ocean and represents the remains of a lava cone, now split in two. There is a mild current that passes through the two rocks, which attracts hammerhead and Galápagos sharks. Kicker Rock is also home to a large colony of sea birds.

8. Old Harry Rocks, UK

The Old Harry Rocks are two chalk stacks located on the Dorset coast in the south of England. The rocks mark the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast. The cliffs here are mainly made up of chalk, with some bands of flint within them.

The sea stacks are continuously being eroded by the sea and are therefore an ever-changing feature. In the 18th century, people could still walk from the mainland to Old Harry, which is the stack at the end nearest to the sea.

9. The Twelve Apostles, Australia

The Twelve Apostles is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park, by the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. Their proximity to one another has made the site a popular tourist attraction.

Tourism activities (including helicopter tours) are conducted from a visitor centre, situated on the inland side of the Great Ocean Road; with parking and viewing areas. Parks Victoria classifies the structure as nationally significant, with the area being one of Victoria's major tourist features; attracting approximately two million visitors a year. Parks Victoria was responsible for the construction of board-walks, tracks, and viewing areas.

10. Tri Brata, Russia

At the entrance of Avacha Bay lies Tri Brata, a trio of scenic stacks which is considered a symbol of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the main city of Kamchatka Krai, Russia.

The name is Russian which literally means "Three Brothers". Legend has it that three brothers who went to defend a town from a tsunami turned into pillars of stone.


Is There a Planet X ?

The evidence for 'Planet X' - the mysterious hypothesised planet on the edge of our solar system - has taken a new turn thanks to the mathematics of a noted astronomer. Rodney Gomes, an astronomer at the National Observatory of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, says the irregular orbits of small icy bodies beyond Neptune imply that a planet four times the size of Earth is swirling around our sun in the fringes of the solar system.

Planet X - perhaps mis-named now that Pluto has been demoted to a dwarf planet - has been widely hypothesised for decade, but has never been proven. Gomes measured the orbits of 92 Kuiper belt objects - small bodies and dwarf planets - and said that six objects appeared to be tugged off-course compared to their expected orbits.

The hypothetical planet - four times the size of Earth - will float beyond Neptune and Pluto and cause disturbances in the Kuiper belt of asteroids

He told astronomers at the American Astronomical Society on Tuesday that the most likely reason for the irregular orbits was a 'planetary-mass solar companion' - a distant body of planet size that is powerful enough to move the Kuiper belt objects. He suggested the planet would be four times bigger than Earth - around the size of Nepture and would be 140 billion miles from the sun, or about 1,500 times further than the Earth.

Alternatively an object the size of Mars on an irregular orbit that bought it to within five billion miles of the sun - close to Neptune's orbit - could be the solution. However, due to the distances involved, it will be tough to for Earthbound astronomers to catch a glimpse of the hypothetical newest member of our solar system. Even non-planet Pluto is hard to spot thanks to the distances involved.

The Kuiper belt lies on the outskirts of our solar system, and calculations imply a planet also lurks out there

The solar system as we know it, showing (l-r), Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiters, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune

While other astronomers are on the astronomical fence, they have applauded his methods. Rory Barnes, from the University of Washington told National Geographic that Gomes 'has laid out a way to determine how such a planet could sculpt parts of our solar system. 'So while, yes, the evidence doesn't exist yet, I thought the bigger point was that he showed us that there are ways to find that evidence. 'I don't think he really has any evidence that suggests it is out there.'

Hal Levison, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said: 'It seems surprising to me that a [solar] companion as small as Neptune could have the effect he sees. '[But] I know Rodney, and I'm sure he did the calculations right.' The previous ninth planet, Pluto, is one of the largest of the Kuiper belt dwarf planets, at some 1,400 miles wide. It got downgraded by the International Astronomical Union in 2006 for failing to meet all the criteria of a 'planet', namely that its mass is not sufficient enough to clear its orbit of surrounding objects.


The Real Hogwarts Castle

With the epic series complete, the Warner Brothers Studio in Leavesden has opened their doors to the public, revealing things the camera doesn’t show with never-seen-before exhibits, sets, costumes, visual effects and props. Leavesden studios has been the home of the Harry Potter films for over a decade and every single film was shot here.

One of the tour’s biggest exhibits is the Hogwarts Castle Model which offers a total 360-degree view of the incredible, hand sculpted 1:24 scale construction. It is the crown jewel of the Harry Potter Art Department and was originally built for the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone.

Below you will find some pictures of this astonishing castle along with additional information about the work and detail of this monumental model. Enjoy!

The Real Life Hogwarts Castle
- It took 86 artists and crew members to construct the first version which was then rebuilt and altered many times over for the next seven films
- The work was so extensive that if one was to add all the man hours that have gone into building and reworking the model, it would come to over 74 years!
- The model was used for aerial photography, and was digitally scanned for CGI scenes
- The model, which sits at nearly 50 feet in diameter, has over 2,500 fibre optic lights that simulate lanterns and torches and even gave the illusion of students passing through hallways in the films
- To show off the lighting to full effect a day-to-night cycle will take place every four minutes so you can experience its full beauty
- All the doors are hinged, real plants are used for landscaping and miniature birds are housed in the Owlery
- To make the model appear even more realistic, artists rebuilt miniature versions of the courtyards from Alnwick Castle and Durham Cathedral, where scenes from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were shot
- Bafta award-winning production designer Stuart Craig designed and built the castle with the rest of his team

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London provides an amazing new opportunity to explore the magic of the Harry Potter films – the most successful film series of all time. This unique walking tour takes you behind-the-scenes and showcases a huge array of beautiful sets, costumes and props. It also reveals some closely guarded secrets, including facts about the special effects and animatronics that made these films so hugely popular all over the world.

Here are just some of the things you can expect to see and do:

- Step inside and discover the actual Great Hall
- Explore Dumbledore’s office and discover never-before-seen treasures
- Step onto the famous cobbles of Diagon Alley, featuring the shop fronts of Ollivanders wand shop, Flourish and Blotts, the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Eeylops Owl Emporium
- See iconic props from the films, including Harry’s Nimbus 2000 and Hagrid’s motorcycle
- Learn how creatures were brought to life with green screen effects, animatronics and life-sized models
- Rediscover other memorable sets from the film series, including the Gryffindor common room, the boys’ dormitory, Hagrid’s hut, Potion’s classroom and Professor Umbridge’s office at the Ministry of Magic


20 May 2012 Solar Eclipse Pictures

Skywatchers from Mount Fuji to the Grand Canyon enjoyed a treat: the moon nearly blotting out the sun to create a dramatic 'ring of fire' over a narrow strip of eastern Asia and the western United States. The annular eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges, was visible in Asia early Monday. It then moved across the Pacific - and the international dateline - and was seen in parts of the western United States Sunday afternoon.

In Japan, 'eclipse tours' were arranged at schools and parks, on pleasure boats and even private airplanes. Similar events were held in China and Taiwan as well, with skywatchers warned to protect their eyes.

In the U.S., viewing parties were held at observatories in Reno, Nevada, and Oakland, California, and elsewhere. In some areas, special camera filters for taking photographs have been sold out for weeks in anticipation of the big event.

The ring of fire: the rare annular eclipse as seen from Albequerqe, New Mexico, one of the western states where it was most visible

Stunning: The unusual event stood out against the evening sky in Odessa, Texas

Partial eclipse: The moon moving between the earth and the sun, blocking out some of the light

Clear: Cloudless skies above the Grand Canyon allowed observers a great view of the astronomic event
People from Colorado, Oklahoma and as far away as Canada traveled to Albuquerque to enjoy one of the best vantage points at a park on the edge of the city.

Members of the crowd smiled and cheered and children yelled with excitement as the moon crossed the sun and the blazing halo of light began to form. Some watched the eclipse by placing their viewing glasses on the front of their smartphones.

Eventually, the moon centered and covered about 96 percent of the sun.

'That's got to be the prettiest thing I've ever seen,' said Brent Veltri of Salida, Colorado.

Excitement: A family watches the eclipse from Chico, California - with the precaution of special lenses

Hi-tech: A man uses a special film to protect his tablet computer as he photographs the eclipse

Even pets need protection: A dog decked out in stylish but practical eyewear to enable him to watch the eclipse from Tokyo

The eclipse was broadcast live on TV in Tokyo, where such an eclipse hasn't been visible since 1839. Japanese TV crews watched from the top of Mount Fuji and even staked out a zoo south of Tokyo to capture the reaction of the chimpanzees - who didn't seem to notice.

A light rain fell on Tokyo as the eclipse began, but the clouds thinned as it reached its peak, providing near perfect conditions.

'It was a very mysterious sight,' said Kaori Sasaki, who joined a crowd in downtown Tokyo to watch event. 'I've never seen anything like it.'

Progression: This image shows how the sky changed above the Pueblo Bonito ancient building at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Nageezi, Arizona

Phases: A composite image of the annular eclipse as seen from Tokyo on Sunday night

At the Taipei Astronomical Museum in Taiwan, the spectacle emerged from dark clouds for only about 30 seconds. But the view was nearly perfect against Manila's orange skies.

'It's amazing. We do this for the awe [and] it has not disappointed. I am awed, literally floored,' said astronomical hobbyist Garry Andreassen, whose long camera lenses were lined up with those of about 10 other gazers in a downtown Manila park.

Hong Kong skywatchers weren't so lucky.

The big C: The annular solar eclipse is spotted in the sky above Chandler, Arizona

Fire in the sky: This photo shows the solar eclipse from downtown Fort Worth, Texas

Several hundred people gathered along the Kowloon waterfront on Hong Kong's famed Victoria Harbor, most of them students or commuters on their way to work. The eclipse was already underway as the sun began to rise, but heavy clouds obstructed the view.

The eclipse followed a narrow 8,500-mile path for 3 1/2 hours. The ring phenomenon lasted about five minutes, depending on location. People outside the narrow band for prime viewing saw a partial eclipse.

'Ring of Fire' eclipses are not as dramatic as a total eclipse, when the disc of the sun is entirely blocked by the moon. The moon is too far from Earth and appears too small in the sky to blot out the sun completely.

What a sight: An aeroplane flies past the annular solar eclipse from Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines

Light show: The eclipse is seen reflected in a pool of water in Beijing, China

Doctors and education officials have warned of eye injuries from improper viewing. Before the event started, Japan's Education Minister Hirofumi Hirano demonstrated how to use eclipse glasses in a televised news conference. Police also cautioned against traffic accidents - warning drivers to keep their eyes on the road.

Sky stunner: The solar eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges, is seen briefly during a break in clouds over Taipei, Taiwan

'I've never seen anything like it': A partial eclipse is seen from Tokyo as the sun and moon aligned over the earth in the rare astronomical event

View: A plane flies above the annular solar eclipse in a stunning image from Irving, Texas

Path: The eclipse begins in eastern Asia on Monday then crosses the north Pacific to end in western U.S.