Pufferfish may be carving mysterious ‘crop circles’ near Australia

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Japan’s white-spotted pufferfish are renowned for producing complex, ringed patterns in the sand. Now, 5,500 kilometers away in Australia, scientists have discovered what appear to be dozens more of these creations.

While conducting a marine life survey out on Australia’s North West Shelf near subsea gas infrastructure with an autonomous underwater vehicle, marine ecologist Todd Bond spotted a striking pattern on the seafloor, more than 100 meters deep.  “Immediately, I knew what it was,” recounts Bond, of the University of Western Australia in Perth. Bond and his colleagues continued the survey, ultimately finding nearly two dozen more.

Until now, these undersea “crop circles” were found only off the coast of Japan. First spotted in the 1990s, it took two decades to solve the mystery of what created them. In 2011, scientists found the sculptors — the diminutive males of what was then a new species of Torquigener pufferfish. The patterns are nests, meticulously plowed over the course of days and decorated with shells to entice females to lay their eggs in the center. 

A hovering autonomous underwater vehicle (HAUV) deployed along subsea natural gas infrastructure off Australia’s coast in September 2018 captured footage of something surprising: a rippled ring carved into the sand. Researchers eventually discovered nearly two dozen of these circles, similar to the elaborate nests crafted by white-spotted pufferfish males near Japan, making it the first such find outside Japan. While it’s not known what species created the Australian rings, an unidentified pufferfish was seen fleeing the site of one of them.

While there’s no video confirmation that pufferfish are building the nests in Australia, the structures are nearly identical to those in Japan, even sharing a similar number of ridges, Bond and his colleagues report in the November 2020 Journal of Fish Biology. And when a


NASA expert identifies mysterious extraterrestrial object as old Centaur rocket booster

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Earth may get a new “mini-moon” soon.

But it’s probably just an old rocket booster from 1966.

The mysterious extraterrestrial object once called “asteroid 2020 SO” now appears to be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing mission 54 years ago, according to NASA’s leading asteroid expert Paul Chodas.

The “asteroid” was on track to get nabbed by Earth’s gravitational pull and become a small moon next month.

The formerly known asteroid may actually be the Centaur upper-rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966. According to NASA, the lander ended up colliding into the moon after one of its thrusters failed to ignite.

Last month, this mysterious object was detected by a telescope in Hawaii, according to Space.com’s Meghan Bartels. The object is roughly estimated to be 26 feet based on its brightness—near the length of the old Centaur, which now would be less than its original 32 feet long, according to NASA.

“I’m pretty jazzed about this,” Chodas told the Associated Press’ Marcia Dunn. “It’s been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I’ve been doing it for decades now.”

Observation will further help confirm the object’s identity.

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The one thing that drew Chodas to debunking the theory that Earth has a new mini-moon was that the mysterious object’s orbit around the sun is similar to the Earth’s, which is unusual for an asteroid, according to Space.com.

“I suspect this newly discovered object 2020 SO to be an old rocket booster, because it is following an orbit about the sun that is extremely similar to Earth’s, nearly circular, in the same plane, and only slightly farther away from the sun at