June 8, 2013 |
An asteroid the size of a truck zipped past Earth on Friday night, and you probably missed it. Asteroid 2013 LR6 is 30 feet in length, or a bit more than half the size of the space rock that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February. It made its closest approach to our planet on Friday night at 9:42 p.m. PDT, according to a release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. At that time, the asteroid was just 65,000 miles from the Earth's surface, or about a quarter of the average distance between Earth and the moon.
November 8, 2013 |
Heads up! A satellite is expected to fall to Earth sometime Sunday night or Monday morning, and scientists can't say yet where it will land. The satellite, known as GOCE, has been circling our planet since 2009, when it was launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) to map Earth's gravity. It weighs 2,425 pounds, and its altitude has been dropping since late October, after it ran out of fuel. GOCE is a bit bigger than a Volkswagen van, but it won't be crashing to Earth in one piece.
September 19, 2013 |
Scientists have done the math, and according to their calculations, life on Earth has 1.75 to 3.25 billion years left to thrive. And that's if a giant asteroid or a nuclear war doesn't finish us off first. Yes, there is a big difference between 1.75 billion and 3.25 billion years, but predicting the end of life on our planet is not an exact science, at least not yet. To arrive at that 1.5-billion-year doomsday spread, graduate student Andrew Rushby of the University of East Anglia in Britain created two slightly different equations that estimate the length of time Earth will remain in the "habitable zone" around the sun. A planet is considered to be in the habitable zone when liquid water can exist on its surface.
September 13, 2012 |
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)
October 8, 2013 |
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 |
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.
April 11, 2013 |
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.
May 17, 2013 |
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.
December 11, 2012 |
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 |
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.