Considering how much we don’t yet know about the world and the universe, it is amusing how much the mind gets perplexed and frustrated when it encounters a mystery. Whether you are a historian, a geologist, an astronomer, or just someone with no particular specialty, mysteries are equally appealing and solving them is the only way to appease the mind. Many an enthusiast throughout the history has worked years, decades, or even a lifetime to solve them and they still do. We have listed some of these solved mysteries that we are sure you would find interesting.
1. Launched in the 1970s, the Pioneer spacecraft appeared to slow down by one kilometer per hour, more than expected due to Sun’s gravity after reaching outer Solar System. Decades later in 2012, they found the reason to be thermal recoil which caused an extremely small deceleration of 0.000000000874 m/s2.
The Pioneer 10 space probe was launched in 1972 and in 1973, it became the first of the five artificial objects with the escape velocity to leave the Solar System. It was also the first to take pictures of Jupiter. The next space probe was Pioneer 11 which was launched in 1973 to study the asteroid belt and the environment around Jupiter and Saturn.
Scientists first noticed their anomalous accelerations as early as 1980, but serious investigations did not start until 1994. Though radio communications ceased from Pioneer 10 in 2003 and Pioneer 11 in 1995, research into the data they sent up to that point continued, including their deviations from predicted trajectories.
Suggestions that the effects of their thermal coil were underestimated when first made in 1998. By 2012, several papers by various groups reanalyzed the thermal radiation pressure forces inherent in the spacecraft. One paper published by physicist Slava Turyshev et al. stated that “once the thermal recoil force is properly accounted for, no anomalous acceleration remains.” (source)
2. The burial place of British monarch Richard III who was killed in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field and hastily buried remained unknown for centuries until 2012 when his remains were found under a parking lot.
Fought on August 22, 1485, the Battle of Bosworth Field was the last battle of the War of the Roses fought between the Houses of Lancaster and York. It is estimated that the royal army of Richard III had 8,000 men while Henry Tudor’s army had 5,000. However, Lord Stanley, the fourth husband of Henry Tudor’s mother, Sir William Stanley, and Henry Percy abandoned Richard leading to his defeat and death.
According to Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet, a Welshman used a halberd to strike a blow with such force that Richard’s helmet was driven into his skull. Early sources suggest that his naked body was tied to a horse and taken to the Collegiate of Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of the Newarke where it was displayed before burying him at Greyfriars Church in Leicester.
Other sources also suggested that his body was thrown into the River Soar. There is also evidence that a memorial stone which King Henry paid £50 (equivalent to £37,713 in 2016) for, was visible in 1612 in the Greyfriars’ garden. The site was, however, lost due to 400 years of development in the area until in September 2012, archaeological investigations lead to its discovery. Following the examination and confirmation of his remains, they were reburied on March 26, 2015, in Leicester Cathedral. (source)
3. There was a Pennsylvanian urban legend about someone called “The Green Man” or “Charlie No-Face” about a strange-looking creature wandering the streets at night. It was, in fact, a real man named Raymond Robinson whose face was severely disfigured due to an accident with a power line.
When Robinson was nine years old, he was severely injured on the Morado Bridge near Beaver Falls which had electrical lines of both 1,200 volts and 22,000 volts that claimed the life of another boy the previous year. Though doctors were not optimistic about Robinson, he made it through but suffered severe disfigurement. He lost his eyes, nose, and his right arm.
Robinson lived in the borough of Koppel at his relatives’ home and made doormats, wallets, and belts for a living. Not wanting to create panic in public, he was always stayed indoors during the day and went for long walks in the night along the State Route 351. His walks aroused the curiosity of locals who would gather to find him. While some showed friendly curiosity and would trade cigarettes or beer in exchange for a conversation or a photograph with him, others were cruel. He was even struck by cars a few times.
Nothing stopped Robinson from taking his nightly walks, feeling his way with a walking stick along the road. He became a myth and an urban legend which many generations in Pennsylvania grew up with. Exaggerations about him, such as the green color of his skin which resulted from electrocution or that he hides in an abandoned house, persist. The fact that he actually existed and was liked by his family and neighbors often comes as a surprise to many who only know the urban legend. (source)
4. First documented in 1915, the sailing stones are a geological phenomenon where rocks move and inscribe long tracks along a smooth valley floor. No one knew how it happened until 2009 when technological developments allowed researchers to observe the stones using time-lapse cameras.
Aptly named, the Racetrack Playa, or simply “The Racetrack,” is a dry lake located above the northwestern side of the Death Valley, California. It is 3,714 feet (1,132 meters) above sea level and is exceptionally flat with very fine sediment that is often seen as firm, hexagonal, mud cracks. Most of the sailing stones are found in the southern portion of the playa and measure between 15 to 46 centimeters (six to 19 inches) in diameter. The tracks they leave are often up to 100 meters (330 feet) long, between eight to 30 centimeters (three to 12 inches) wide, and usually less than 2.5 centimeters (one inch) deep.
Study of the rocks began in 1900, but all that researchers could get was hypotheses and no confirmations. Research continued throughout the 20th century, but without knowing when or under what conditions the movement occurred, it was impossible to solve the mystery. In 2009, the development of inexpensive time-lapse cameras allowed researchers to capture their movement.
In 2014, a time-lapse video was published clearly showing what happens. When there is water in the lake, thin ice sheets a few millimeters thick form on the surface during cold nights. During sunny days, the sheets break up. The winds move the ice sheets and the rocks along with them at up to five meters per minute leaving tracks in the fine sediment. Some rock movements lasted up to 16 minutes. (source)
5. In the 1970s, several US submarines were forced back to base to repair damage, fearing they were being attacked by an unknown weapon. Later, they found out it was cookiecutter sharks that were biting chunks off the neoprene on sonar domes, impairing navigation.
The cookiecutter shark, also known as “cigar shark,” is a small species of shark reaching just 42 to 56 centimeters (16.5 to 22 inches) in length. They are commonly found in warm oceanic waters throughout the world. Their name refers to the way they feed by gouging out round pieces of flesh off larger animals, like whales, seals, sharks, stingrays, and bony fishes. They are even known to attack submarines, underwater cables, fishing nets, and, in rare instances, humans. They have lips that work as suction cups and bandsaw-like teeth that help them latch onto the prey and cut off a chunk of flesh.
The attacks on US submarines resulted in the sound-transmitting oil to leak, impairing navigation. In the 1980s, around 30 submarines were attacked by cookiecutter sharks damaging the rubber-sheathed electric cable connected to the sounding probe that ensures safety when surfacing in shipping zones. In both cases, the material was covered by a fiberglass coating. Apart from submarines, oceanographic equipment, and telecommunications cables also suffer attacks from them. (source)
6. Found unconscious, without identification or clothes, behind Burger King’s dumpster in 2004, Benjaman Kyle suffered severe dissociative amnesia. Despite extensive search and publicity, neither he nor anyone could identify him, until 2015.
Benjaman Kyle was found in Richmond Hill, Georgia, on August 31, 2004, by a Burger King employee. He was sun-burnt, had three dents in his skull, and was also covered in red ant bites. Kyle woke up in the hospital with cataracts in his eyes which were only operated on nine months later after a charity raised money. When asked for his name, he couldn’t remember and chose “Benjaman Kyle” instead. When he first saw himself in the mirror, he realized that he was 20 years older than he remembered.
After being discharged, Kyle was homeless and had to do odd jobs. He couldn’t find any employment as he was unable to recall his Social Security number or provide identity. A petition on We the People failed to get enough signatures by the deadline. Kyle was invited to Dr. Phil show and his story was reported on the news, none of which helped find his identity. In 2011, he was the subject of a documentary titled Finding Benjaman which was also shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and Cannes. He also did Reddit AMA both in 2012 and 2013 to no avail.
The media coverage, however, helped him receive support from politicians and viewers alike who offered him work and shelter. On September 16, 2015, Kyle announced on his Facebook page that his identity has finally been established by a team lead by genetic genealogist CeCe Moore and his name was announced in November 2016 as William Burgess Powell. (source)
7. Deep Throat, who provided key details in 1972 about the involvement of Nixon’s administration in the Watergate scandal, remained anonymous for three decades. In 2005, his identity was finally revealed as Mark Felt, FBI’s Associate Director, the second-highest-ranking post.
Following the arrest of five men on June 17, 1972, in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in Watergate Complex, Washington, reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward pursued the story for two years. In their book All the President’s Men, they wrote that their key anonymous informant was someone they dubbed “Deep Throat,” alluding to the “deep background status of the information” as well as a widely publicized pornographic film of the same name.
In the book, Woodward described their methods of communication. He claimed that, when they needed to meet, he would move a red-flagged pot in the balcony. If Deep Throat wanted to meet them, he would circle the page number 20 on Woodward’s The New York Times copy and draw a clock indicating the time. Their usual meeting place was an underground garage over the Key Bridge in Rosslyn.
On May 31, 2005, around 31 years after Nixon’s resignation and 11 years after his death, Mark Felt reportedly revealed in an online article by John D. O’Connor on Vanity Fair that, “I’m the guy they used to call Deep Throat.” Woodward, Bernstein, and Benjamin C. Bradlee, Washington Post‘s executive editor at that time, confirmed the claims. (source)
8. Star Dust, a British South America Airlines airliner, disappeared in 1947 on a flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago after sending the famous last message “STENDEC”. Its fate remained unknown until 1998 when mountain climbers found the wreckage in the Andes. The most likely explanation for the crash was a navigational error.
After traveling from London on an Avro York airliner named Star Mist on July 29, and landing in Buenos Aires on August 1, the six passengers continued their journey to Santiago on Star Dust on August 2 at 1:46 p.m. with five crew members. At 5:45 p.m., the radio operator at the Santiago airport received the Morse Code message “ETA SANTIAGO 1745 HRS STENDEC.” As he did not recognize the last word, he requested clarification and received “STENDEC” twice before losing contact completely with the aircraft.
Despite extensive search operations by Chilean and Argentine teams, as well as by the British South American Airlines, no trace of the plane was found. The lack of hard evidence lead to wild theories, including sabotage for political reasons and alien abduction. However, in 1998, two Argentine mountaineers climbing Mount Tupungato in the Andes found an aircraft engine, twisted pieces of metal, and shredded clothes at an elevation of 15,000 feet (4,600 meters). In 2000, the Argentine Army found more wreckage and some human remains. In two more years, five bodies were found and identified through DNA.
It is believed that Star Dust flew into a jet stream, fast-flowing air currents not well understood back then, which slowed down the aircraft. The crew misjudged that they were traveling faster than they really were and thought they already had flown past the Andes. The clouds must have obscured Mount Tupungato causing them to crash. The impact of the crash likely caused an avalanche that buried the wreckage, hiding it from the searchers. Over the years, the wreckage became incorporated into the glacier as the snow compressed into ice. More debris is expected to be found in the future due to glacier motion and melting. (source)
9. Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia was rumored to survive the extrajudicial killings by communist revolutionaries in 1918 who killed the rest of her family. Since then, several women falsely claimed to be her. Her remains found in 2007 and her identity confirmed through DNA tests.
Anastasia was the 17-year-old daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. She had three older sisters and one younger brother. On July 17, 1918, she and her family, along with four retainers who chose to stay with them, were taken to Yekaterinburg where they were executed in a botched manner in a small basement by their drunken Bolshevik captors.
Despite the 70 bullets fired, most of the family was not hit and had to be bayoneted and shot in the head. To cover it up, they used sulfuric acid to disfigure the bodies beyond recognition, and two bodies were burned to the bone. They were buried few meters away of each other to throw off suspicion.
The Bolsheviks announced only the Tsar’s death at first and reported that his wife and son were sent to a secure location. This led to several impostors claiming to be members of the family. The most famous of these impostors was Anna Anderson who managed to convince many that she was Anastasia. Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse and the Tsarina’s brother, proved through a private investigation he funded that she was a Polish factory worker with a history of mental illness.
The family’s burial site was discovered by an amateur detective in 1979 who kept it secret until the fall of the Soviet Union. The remains in the site were exhumed in 1991 and through DNA identification were proved to belong to the Tsar, Tsarina, and their three daughters. In 2007, another small grave nearby was exhumed and tests confirmed them to belong to one daughter and the son. It confirmed that they include the remains of Anastasia. So, the remains of the parents, the four daughters, and one son are all accounted for as each had their unique DNA profile disproving rumors of her survival. (source)
10. In 2009, the Air France flight 447 disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean killing 228 and no one knew why for two years. The reason for the crash was the formation of ice crystals that disconnected the autopilot, and manual piloting led to an aerodynamic stall from which the plane could not recover.
AFR447 was a scheduled flight that was traveling from Rio de Janerio to Paris on June 1. It was crewed by three pilots and designed to be flown by two pilots while one rested. After the captain went to rest, the pilots warned the passengers of turbulence two or three minutes after which icing started. Though the engine’s anti-ice system came on, ice crystals formed in the pilot tubes, devices that provide critical information about the plant’s speed through the air, disengaging the autopilot.
After that, the two pilots began to fly manually, trying to adjust for the turbulence when the stall warnings sounded twice. An aircraft depends on how the air flows around it to be able to fly. Keeping the nose up just a little bit lets the aircraft fly up and maintain altitude while it moves forward using fuel. The angle between the airflow and the aircraft should always be less than 15 degrees. If the angle increases, instead of flying forward it starts to climb up, a situation known as stalling, and after that starts to quickly lose altitude.
Due to the inconsistency in the readings and confusion in the cockpit as one of the co-pilots kept the nose up, the plane climbed to its maximum altitude of 38,000 feet (12,000 meters). As the plane began to descend, the angle reached 30 degrees, and, at 35,000 feet (11,000 meters), it was 40 degrees. It soon began to descend at 10,912 feet per minute (55.43 meters per second) and crashed belly-first into the Atlantic. The plane broke up upon impact killing everyone instantly. It took two years to find the flight recorder and understand what happened. (source)