The picture above is of a new set of geoglyphs discovered in the Valley of El Ingenio in the Nazca plains of Peru. The glyphs include a bird, a camel, and a 60-meter (197-foot) long snake.
The new images were discovered after violent winds of up to 60 miles per hour blew through the region last week, creating a number of sandstorms.
The “Nazca lines” come from a time when the Ica region in Peru was transitioning from the ancient Paracas culture (800 BC – 100 BC) to the Nazca culture (100 BC – 800 AD).
During this time, the Nazca people created a number of large animal figures on the Peruvian plains, made up of miles and miles of lines in the earth.
We still don’t know for sure what purpose these figures served. There are a number of theories though.
A number of researchers believe the images served spiritual purposes. Some think that the Nazca were trying to create something that their gods could see from above, or that the lines were used to guide important ceremonial processions.
Others have theorized that the figures represent a sort of astronomical almanac that kept track of the days and seasons while also aiding in the planting and harvesting of crops.
But despite the lines being studies by anthropologists, archaeologists, and astronomers, among others, no conclusive evidence has ever been found for a theory.
Check out some images of other Nazca lines below. Click an image to enlarge:
In a few short weeks, engineers in the Chilean Coastal Ranges of the Andes Mountains in South America will be blowing off the top of Cerro Armazones. Standing at 10,000 feet, it’s one of the tallest peaks in the region. Here’s Gird Hudepohl, the head engineer for the project:
“We will take about 80ft off the top of the mountain to create a plateau – and when we have done that, we will build the world’s biggest telescope there.”
The Coastal Ranges region is extremely arid, which increases visibility since water vapor in the air obscures a telescope’s vision (this is also why telescopes at high elevations have much better vision than those closer to sea level).
This isn’t Hudepohl’s first rodeo. He works for the European Southern Observatory and was in charge of the demolition of another nearby peak (Cerro Paranal) which is now home to one of the world’s most advanced observatories.
The observatory at Cerro Paranal is equipped with four VLTs (Very Large Telescopes), each the size of “a block of flats” and each equipped with an 8m wide primary mirror (thats more than 24 feet).
Here’s some pictures of the European Southern Observatory (click an image to enlarge):
The new telescope, however, will be bigger than all four of those VLTs combined. The E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope- they’re not very creative with the names obviously) will be equipped with a massive 39m (128ft) primary mirror made up 800 segments, each 1.4 meters in diameter but only a few centimeters thick. Each segment must be calibrated with microscopic precision for the telescope to function correctly.
When it’s finished (projected completion is 2025), the telescope will be housed in a 74m (~243ft) dome and weigh in at almost 3,000 tons. The project has a price tag of $1.34 billion.
The telescope is obviously extremely expensive, but the potential benefits it will provide are well worth it. Here’s Cambridge University astronomer Professor Gerry Gilmore explaining why the E-ELT will be such a major breakthrough:
“[Right now] we can see exoplanets but we cannot study them in detail because – from our distant perspective – they appear so close to their parent stars. However, the magnification which the E-ELT will provide will mean we will be able to look at them directly and clearly. In 15 years, we should have a picture of a planet around another star and that picture could show its surface changing colour just as Earth does as the seasons change – indicating that vegetation exists on that world. We will then have found alien life.”
Machu Pichu is a 15th-century Inca site located in the Andes Mountains in Southeast Peru. Click an image to enlarge.
Bonus picture: wild llama roam freely around the site, which led to this epic photo-bomb that I just had to share.
Most archaeologists believe Machu Pichu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti who ruled from 1438-1472.
It was built around 1450 but abandoned a century later when the Spanish invaded the region.
The combination of the Spanish invaders, as well as a number of epidemics of European diseases including influenze, typhus, diptheria, measles and multiple outbreak of smallpox led to the fall of the Inca Empire in the late 16th-century.