Original image

5 Things You Need to know about the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Original image

dome-wall.jpg1. When the Roman Emperor Titus pillaged the Holiest of Holies in 70 C.E. and had the Second Temple burnt to the ground, he gave instructions for his legions to leave part of the outer, western retaining wall intact. This was to demonstrate to posterity not only how well fortified the city of Jerusalem was, but to show the Jews, or any other citizens who thought they could challenge the Emperor's customs and laws, just how intrepid and formidable Rome's armies were.

western-wall-tunnels3-cc-ramikey.jpg2. As it's seen today, the Western Wall, as it's come to be called, stretches over 60 feet in the air, though technically it's much taller as it also extends another 40 feet down into the earth below.

3. Most of the wall is actually obscured by adjoining buildings, but the entire length of what the Romans left for posterity is actually over five football fields long. One reason the remnant has lasted as long as it has, withstanding repeated earthquakes over the centuries, is because some of the lower stones underground are over 40 feet wide and weigh over 100 tons.

4. In Hebrew, the Western Wall is called the Kotel Ma'aravi, literally "the wall west." Arabs who governed the city for hundreds of years often heard Jews crying as they recited prayers at the Kotel and therefore named it El-Mabka, or "the Place of Weeping." When the British took Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917, they anglicized El-Mabka into "The Wailing Wall," another term you'll often hear describing the Western Wall.

5. There's a really good live webcam (not that start/freeze stuff you're used to) right over here. And you can send a note to the wall! This is something people often do when they visit "“ a private prayer, something for a loved one departed, or for someone who couldn't make the trip. Now, thanks to technology, you can do it online. Check it.

Original image
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
Original image
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former War World II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]


More from mental floss studios