Evolution

Leftover debris could tell scientists about the evolution of the solar system

Ultima Thule
Ultima Thule viewed on Jan. 1, 2019. Image: NASA/JHU-APL/SwRI/NOAO

Newly analyzed results from NASA’s New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule reveal clues about the evolution of our solar system, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

Why it matters: New Horizons found that Ultima Thule appears to be leftover debris from the early days of the solar system and has remained largely untouched by the heat of the sun since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. This means that any data gathered could help researchers piece together the ancient history of our solar system.

Sherpa clue: Early human species find at high altitude in Tibet

Fossilized jaw discovered in Tibet
Photo: Dongju Zhang/Lanzhou University/American Association for the Advancement of Science

The confirmation a 160,000-year-old fossilized jaw unearthed in Tibet belongs to the Denisovans, a species distinct from modern humans and Neanderthals, sheds new light on the hominid and indicates another link to Himalayan people.

Details: A Buddhist monk found half of the lower jaw of the Denisovans, an extinct sister group of Neanderthals, in a cave in the 1980s. He gave it to a local religious leader before it reached scientists, who studied it for 9 years. Previous bone fragment discoveries and DNA analysis led to the hypothesis that the Denisovans lived near Siberia, but the new study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, confirms the Denisovans were more widespread.