Asteroid Close-Up, Giant Fungus and Tomato Blight

BY Jenny Marder  August 2, 2011 at 12:20 PM EDT

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Spacecraft Dawn’s Detailed Images of Asteroid Vesta

Mysterious tracks around asteroid Vesta’s equator suggest that a tremendous impact by another unknown asteroid must have blasted Vesta during its early days. This comes from new images of Vesta (pictured above) snapped by the NASA spacecraft Dawn, which has just swung into a yearlong orbit around the asteroid.The pictures, extraordinarily detailed, “were the first ever to bring such focus to an object in the distant asteroid belt where hundreds of rocky objects are all flying between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.” (David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle)

Giant Fungus Discovered in China

BBC Nature.jpg“The most massive fruiting body of any fungus yet documented has been discovered growing on the underside of a tree in China,” BBC Nature reports. The fungus, thought to be about 20 years old, was fueled by dead and decaying wood. (Matt Walker, BBC Nature)

Humans May Have Crowded Out Neanderthals, Study Says

LA Times.jpgModern humans in early Europe may have outnumbered Neanderthals 10 to 1, this study says. Indicators of population size included the number of dwelling sites, the size of those occupied areas and the densities of stone tools and food remains. Human sites were larger, more numerous and more densely populated, researchers concluded. The study was published in the journal, Science last week. One scientist quoted here suggests that there were too many unknowns to make such an estimate. (Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times)

Why Supermarket Tomatoes Suck

OnEarth.jpgThis is an older one, but still worthy of summer reading. A book excerpt, it starts by posing an intriguing question. If Florida soil has so little nitrogen that tomato seedlings can’t sprout on their own, how can the state be home to one-third of the country’s tomato crop? And that’s not the only element hostile to tomatoes. The humid weather is especially kind to blight, pests and disease, And there’s this interesting tidbit: “The majority of the state’s tomatoes are raised in sand. Not sandy loam, not sandy soil, but pure sand, no more nutrient rich than the stuff vacationers like to wiggle their toes into on the beaches of Daytona and St. Pete.” (Barry Estabrook, OnEarth)

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