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  1. Abstract Ancient DNA is transforming our ability to reconstruct historical patterns and mechanisms shaping modern diversity and distributions. In particular, molecular data from extinct Holocene island faunas have revealed surprising biogeographic scenarios. Here, we recovered partial mitochondrial (mt) genomes for 1300–1400 year old specimens ( n  = 2) of the extinct “horned” crocodile, Voay robustus , collected from Holocene deposits in southwestern Madagascar. Phylogenetic analyses of partial mt genomes and tip-dated timetrees based on molecular, fossil, and stratigraphic data favor a sister group relationship between Voay and Crocodylus (true crocodiles). These well supported trees conflict with recent morphological systematic work that has consistently placed Voay within Osteolaeminae (dwarf crocodiles and kin) and provide evidence for likely homoplasy in crocodylian cranial anatomy and snout shape. The close relationship between Voay and Crocodylus lends additional context for understanding the biogeographic origins of these genera and refines competing hypotheses for the recent extinction of Voay from Madagascar.
  2. Kassite Babylonia counts among the great powers of the Late Bronze Age Near East. Its kings exchanged diplomatic letters with the pharaohs of Egypt and held their own against their Assyrian and Elamite neighbors. Babylonia’s internal workings, however, remain understood in their outlines only, as do its elite’s expansionary ambitions, the degrees to which they may have been realized, and the nature of ensuing imperial encounters. This is especially the case for the region to the northeast, where the Mesopotamian lowlands meet the Zagros piedmonts in the Diyala River valley and where a series of corridors of movement intersect to form a strategic highland-lowland borderland. In this paper, we present critical new results of regional survey in the Upper Diyala plains of northeast Iraq and excavations at the Late Bronze Age site of Khani Masi. Not only do our data and analyses expand considerably the known extent of Babylonia’s cultural sphere, but also the monumental character of Khani Masi and its wider settlement context prompt a fundamental rethinking of the nature and chronology of Babylonian presence in this transitional landscape. As such, this paper contributes an important new case study to the field of archaeological empire and borderland studies.
  3. We report the discovery of a Neptune-like planet (LP 714-47 b, P = 4.05204 d, m b = 30.8 ± 1.5 M ⊕ , R b = 4.7 ± 0.3 R ⊕ ) located in the “hot Neptune desert”. Confirmation of the TESS Object of Interest (TOI 442.01) was achieved with radial-velocity follow-up using CARMENES, ESPRESSO, HIRES, iSHELL, and PFS, as well as from photometric data using TESS, Spitzer , and ground-based photometry from MuSCAT2, TRAPPIST-South, MONET-South, the George Mason University telescope, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope network, the El Sauce telescope, the TÜBİTAK National Observatory, the University of Louisville Manner Telescope, and WASP-South. We also present high-spatial resolution adaptive optics imaging with the Gemini Near-Infrared Imager. The low uncertainties in the mass and radius determination place LP 714-47 b among physically well-characterised planets, allowing for a meaningful comparison with planet structure models. The host star LP 714-47 is a slowly rotating early M dwarf ( T eff = 3950 ± 51 K) with a mass of 0.59 ± 0.02 M ⊙ and a radius of 0.58 ± 0.02 R ⊙ . From long-term photometric monitoring and spectroscopic activity indicators, we determine a stellar rotation period of about 33more »d. The stellar activity is also manifested as correlated noise in the radial-velocity data. In the power spectrum of the radial-velocity data, we detect a second signal with a period of 16 days in addition to the four-day signal of the planet. This could be shown to be a harmonic of the stellar rotation period or the signal of a second planet. It may be possible to tell the difference once more TESS data and radial-velocity data are obtained.« less
  4. Gaia16aye was a binary microlensing event discovered in the direction towards the northern Galactic disc and was one of the first microlensing events detected and alerted to by the Gaia space mission. Its light curve exhibited five distinct brightening episodes, reaching up to I  = 12 mag, and it was covered in great detail with almost 25 000 data points gathered by a network of telescopes. We present the photometric and spectroscopic follow-up covering 500 days of the event evolution. We employed a full Keplerian binary orbit microlensing model combined with the motion of Earth and Gaia around the Sun to reproduce the complex light curve. The photometric data allowed us to solve the microlensing event entirely and to derive the complete and unique set of orbital parameters of the binary lensing system. We also report on the detection of the first-ever microlensing space-parallax between the Earth and Gaia located at L2. The properties of the binary system were derived from microlensing parameters, and we found that the system is composed of two main-sequence stars with masses 0.57 ± 0.05 M ⊙ and 0.36 ± 0.03 M ⊙ at 780 pc, with an orbital period of 2.88 years and an eccentricitymore »of 0.30. We also predict the astrometric microlensing signal for this binary lens as it will be seen by Gaia as well as the radial velocity curve for the binary system. Events such as Gaia16aye indicate the potential for the microlensing method of probing the mass function of dark objects, including black holes, in directions other than that of the Galactic bulge. This case also emphasises the importance of long-term time-domain coordinated observations that can be made with a network of heterogeneous telescopes.« less