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The first known example of Neanderthal rock art

These lines scratched into a cave might be proof that Neanderthals had more intellectual capacity than previously thought.   Some experts claim they're the first known examples of Neanderthal rock art.

These lines scratched into a cave might be proof that Neanderthals had more intellectual capacity than previously thought. Some experts claim they’re the first known examples of Neanderthal rock art.

To the eye of a modern Internet user, it looks like nothing so much as a hashtag … #neanderthalsrock! But experts say this cross-hatched impression in the rock of Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar represents the first known example of rock art by Neanderthals. More, they say it represents Neanderthals’ capacity for abstract expression.

Andromeda Galaxy

Photo credit: Tom Wildoner

Photo credit: Tom Wildoner

Beautiful shot of M31 – closest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way – by our friend Tom Wildoner.

Orion the Hunter well up before dawn in September

Orion is noticeable for his three medium-bright Belt stars.  Look for this short, straight row of three stars high in the east before dawn.

Orion is noticeable for his three medium-bright Belt stars. Look for this short, straight row of three stars high in the east before dawn.

Orion the Hunter is always behind the sun as seen from Earth in June. It comes back to the predawn sky every year in late July. By early September, Orion is rising in the wee hours and is well up in the southeast an hour before dawn, as shown on today’s chart. Orion will soon be up by midnight, then 10 p.m. … and by December you’ll find it rising in early evening.

Death Valley sliding stone mystery solved

The video above shows a famous sliding stone of Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa in motion. See it? It’s the big rock in the foreground. Watching this video, you become one of the first people on Earth to see a sliding stone in motion. Although their tracks across Racetrack Playa – a dry lake bed in Death Valley – have been observed and studied since the early 1900s, no one had ever seen the stones in motion … until now. What’s more, the researchers who captured this video say they now know what causes the stones to move.

Lava at Iceland volcano, with what’s left of Hurricane Cristobal

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 A considerable eruption occurred this weekend along the fissure that stretches to the northeast from Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano, currently the most-watched volcano in the world. The eruption was up to 50 times bigger than what occurred on Friday, August 29. GlacierHub reports:

At the Holuhraun lava field, lava has been erupting since Sunday morning. These lava fountains reach more than 50 meters high. Though they are dramatic, they do not release ash that would interfere with aviation. This activity is about five kilometers from Dyngjujökull Glacier. If the fissure opens under the glacier, floods might result.

This date in science: Pioneer 11 swept past Saturn

Image credit:  NASA/Ames

Image credit: NASA/Ames

September 1, 1979. On this date, NASA’s Pioneer 11 came within 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometers) of Saturn, making it the first spacecraft ever to sweep closely past that place. The spacecraft found a new ring for Saturn – now called the “F” ring – and also a new moon, Epimetheus. There were two Pioneer spacecraft. They were used to investigate Saturn’s rings and determine if a trajectory through the rings was safe for the upcoming Voyager visits. They paved the way for the even-more-sophisticated Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977.

Fav photos of last night’s moon, Saturn and Mars

Vegastar Carpentier in France used a telescope to capture this view of Saturn (above) and the moon.

Vegastar Carpentier in France used a telescope to capture this view of Saturn (above) and the moon.

Did you see the moon near the planets Saturn and Mars Sunday evening? Thanks to all EarthSky friends who captured and shared these beautiful images.

Waxing moon moves past Mars and Saturn, nears star Antares

2014-sept-1-antares-mars-moon-saturn-night-sky-chart

The wide waxing crescent moon has moved eastward of the planets Mars and Saturn on the sky’s dome, and is now heading for Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. The name Antares is Greek for “like Ares,” probably because the color of this star resembles that of its namesake planet, the Greek Ares or the Roman Mars.

What’s the birthstone for September?

The Logan Sapphire Brooch, the second largest sapphire known (at 422.99 carats), is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Image Credit: Andrew Bossi

The Logan Sapphire Brooch, the second largest sapphire known (at 422.99 carats), is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Image Credit: Andrew Bossi

Happy birthday to all you September babies!

Your birthstone, the sapphire, was said to represent the purity of the soul.

Late August and September 2014 guide to the five visible planets

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Mars and Saturn appear at nightfall. Watch for them near the moon on August 31 and September 1. From southerly latitudes, you can also view Mercury near the sunset horizon. The morning planets are Jupiter and Venus.