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New Book by Museum Anthropologist

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Located high up in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the now-deserted Inka city of Huánuco Pampa was a place of festivals, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from the surrounding area. Only a few hundred people lived in the city year-round, working to prepare the massive complex for religious and political social functions. This unique urban center is explored in a book recently released as a volume of the Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History.

Tags: Anthropology

The Hayden Letters

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In 1950, the Museum’s Hayden Planetarium began accepting reservations for the first trip into space as part of a publicity campaign for its exhibition Conquest of Space. Letters poured in from around the world with requests to book trips to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and beyond, capturing the public’s passion and curiosity for space exploration. One would-be space traveler even drew detailed diagrams of how he would get to space, what he would wear, and where he would live—appearing to anticipate some of the designs highlighted in Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration.

Tags: Hayden Planetarium, Rose Center for Earth and Space

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Stray Western Hummingbird Visits the Museum’s Flowers

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Earlier this week, a crowd gathered around the shrubbery at the Museum’s 81st Street entrance.

They were looking for a Western hummingbird that found its way to the Museum grounds. Noah Burg of the Museum’s Education Department first spotted the stray on Wednesday, though it may have been there for several days.

Tags: Birds

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Researchers Create the Largest Seed Plant Tree of Life

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Working with colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the New York Botanical Garden, and New York University, Museum scientists have created the largest genome-based tree of life for seed plants. Their findings plot the evolutionary relationships of 150 different species of plants based on advanced genome-wide analysis of gene structure and function. This new approach, called “functional phylogenomics,” allows scientists to reconstruct the pattern of events that led to the vast number of plant species we see today and could help identify genes used to improve seed quality for agriculture.

The research, performed by members of the New York Plant Genomics Consortium, was funded by the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Program to identify the genes that caused the evolution of seeds, a trait of important economic interest.

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Studying Massive Supernovas at AMNH

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The fifth floor of the Rose Center for Earth and Space is home to the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, which includes a research group of two dozen graduate students, research scientists, and postdocs. Michael Shara, curator of the new exhibition Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, is one of three curators in the department. Below is the first in a series of features on the curators’ areas of research.

Curator Michael Shara studies stellar populations in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies. Over the last decade, he has focused on stars known as Wolf-Rayets—hot, ephemeral bodies that start their lives 20 to 80 times more massive than the Sun and then shed much of that mass over a lifespan of a few hundred thousand years until they explode as Type 1b or 1c supernovae, which occur when a massive star’s core collapses. There are now 600 Wolf-Rayet stars known in the Milky Way, an 80 percent increase since 2006. Shara’s team has found and characterized the majority of them. His “best” and rarest specimens are from the far side of the Milky Way, which is still terra incognita to astronomers.

Tags: Hayden Planetarium, Rose Center for Earth and Space

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