Researchers from Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago are using advanced technology to unwrap the mysteries of an 1,800-year-old mummy. They say the high-energy X-ray beams from a synchrotron will provide molecular information about what is inside the mummy of the little girl. Argonne says it’s the first time the beams have been used in this way. Researchers say the technology allows them to study what’s inside the mummy while leaving the 5-year-old girl’s remains and wrappings intact. Scientists are examining the rare find in hopes of learning more about how the girl died. And they say studying the wrapping materials may shed new light on ancient Egyptian culture.

Big black hole is farthest ever found

Astronomers have discovered a supersize black hole hearkening back to almost the dawn of creation. It’s the farthest black hole ever found. A team led by the Carnegie Observatories’ Eduardo Banados reported in the journal Nature that the black hole lies in a quasar that formed just 690 million years after Big Bang. That means the light from this quasar has been traveling our way for more than 13 billion years. Banados said the quasar provides a unique baby picture of the universe, when it was just 5 percent of its current age.

3.6 million-year-old skeleton revealed

Researchers in South Africa have unveiled what they call “by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor older than 1.5 million years ever found.” The University of the Witwatersrand displayed the virtually complete Australopithecus fossil last week. The skeleton dates back 3.6 million years. Its discovery is expected to help researchers better understand the human ancestor’s appearance and movement. The researchers say it has taken 20 years to excavate, clean, reconstruct and analyze the fragile skeleton. The skeleton, dubbed Little Foot, was discovered in the Sterkfontein caves, about 25 miles northwest of Johannesburg.

Kiwi birds a bright spot in extinction list

Two types of New Zealand kiwi birds are a rare bright spot in a mostly grim assessment of global species at risk of extinction. The Okarito kiwi and the Northern Brown kiwi have been upgraded from endangered to vulnerable thanks to New Zealand’s progress in controlling predators like stoats and cats. But the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said the Irrawaddy dolphin and finless porpoise are now designated as endangered, imperiled by entanglement in fishing nets and other human activities.

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