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September 13, 2012 | By Deborah Netburn
On Thursday night, an asteroid about the size of a 14-story building will hurtle past Earth at the mind-bending speed of 7 miles per second. And one month ago, scientists didn't even know it existed.  Asteroid 2012 QG42 was just discovered on Aug. 26 by astronomers at the  Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. It has been classified as a PHA (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid) by the Minor Planet Center based in Cambridge, Mass.  That sounds kind of scary, but scientists say there's no need to worry -- at least not yet. The asteroid is not expected to get closer to Earth than 7.5 x the distance of the moon from Earth.  (The moon's distance from Earth fluctuates, but it averages 230,600 miles)
February 24, 2014 | By Deborah Netburn
The oldest known material on Earth is a tiny bit of zircon crystal that has remained intact for an incredible 4.4 billion years, a study confirms. The ancient remnant of the early Earth may change the way we think about how our planet first formed.  The crystal is the size of a small grain of sand, just barely visible to the human eye. It was discovered on a remote sheep farm in western Australia, which happens to sit on one of the most stable parts of our planet. "The Earth's tectonic processes are constantly destroying rocks," said John Valley, a professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who discovered and dated the crystal.
October 8, 2013 | By Amina Khan
Scientists studying Martian clouds have created them right here on Earth. Using a cloud chamber in Germany and rock from the Mojave Desert, their experiment shows that the Red Planet's ice clouds often need far more humidity to form than clouds on Earth. The findings, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, show that Martian clouds form under very different conditions than many scientists once thought - which may help researchers to better understand the planet's water cycle.
June 19, 2013 | By Karen Kaplan
Earthlings, get ready to say cheese! NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be taking your picture next month -- from 898 million miles away. If you happen to have your eyes closed or your hair is out of place, don't worry. All of planet Earth will fit into 1.5 pixels in the final image. Most of the frame will be filled by Saturn and its gigantic rings (though some of the edges will be cut off). Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge are taking the picture - actually, a mosaic of images - because they can. It just so happens that Cassini and the sun will be on opposite sides of Saturn, allowing the spacecraft to see the planet and its famous rings with unusual clarity.
May 24, 2013 | By Kate Mather
The Happiest All-Nighter on Earth? Hundreds of people flocked Friday to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Friday, which opened for 24 straight hours beginning at 6 a.m. The Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando, Fla., was also opened for the "Monstrous Summer All-Nighter," part of the promotion for the entertainment giant's upcoming movie, "Monsters University. " The event marked the first time all-night opened for all three parks, Disney officials said. The last 24-hour event at Disneyland -- on Leap Day 2012 -- caused several headaches after a large after-work crowd overwhelmed the park , prompting officials to close gates for several hours.
May 17, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn, This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
It's 1.7 miles long. Its surface is covered in a sooty black substance similar to the gunk at the bottom of a barbecue. If it impacted Earth it would probably result in global extinction. Good thing it is just making a flyby. Asteroid 1998 QE2 will make its closest pass to Earth on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. PDT. Scientists are not sure where this unusually large space rock, which was discovered 15 years ago, originated from. But the mysterious sooty substance on its surface could indicate it may be the result of a comet that flew too close to the sun, said Amy Mainzer, who tracks near-Earth objects at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge . It might also have leaked out of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, she said.
April 11, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
Early Thursday morning, solar observers watched as a dark spot on the sun erupted with an enormous flash of light, causing the biggest solar flare of 2013. Solar flares themselves don't last long, but this one was powerful enough to cause a bubble of solar material called a CME (coronal mass ejection) to come bursting off the sun. Up to billions of tons of that solar material is now hurtling through space at the mind-bending speed of more than 600 miles per second, and it is heading directly toward Earth.
November 19, 2012 | By Morgan Little
Looking for a sign that the Republican Party might have some leaders who can appeal to younger voters? Mitt Romney cited the Beach Boys, Garth Brooks and the Eagles among his favorite musicians, but Sen. Marco Rubio raised some eyebrows Monday with hat tips to N.W.A and Public Enemy. Rubio, 42, who has sparked early 2016 presidential hype with a headlining visit to Iowa over the weekend, spoke to GQ about a number of topics, but his opinions on music and the Earth's age overshadowed his perspective on President Obama and young Republicans.
December 11, 2012 | By Deborah Netburn
Asteroid 4179 Toutatis will zip past Earth this week. At its closest approach Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, it will come within 18 lunar distances of the planet. That's 18 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. That may not sound too close, but the asteroid's erratic orbit occasionally has it zipping by a little too close for comfort. That's why the asteroid has been designated "potentially hazardous. "  In 2004 for example, the asteroid's orbit took it even closer to the Earth -- just about four lunar distances.
July 30, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
Poring over images of Saturn's icy moon Iapetus, planetary scientists have discovered massive landslides in which the falling ice travels much farther than should be possible given the coefficient of friction of the falling ice. In one spectacular case in the moon's Malun crater, ice broke off the wall of the 5-mile-deep crater and surged 22 miles across the crater floor -- an unusually long distance. Given that cold ice has a relatively high coefficient of friction, such long distances should not be possible unless there are forces at work that researchers don't yet know about, said planetary scientist William McKinnon of Washington University in St. Louis, who led the team studying the landslides.
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