Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A new year in space and other space and astronomy news

Original here.

After two snow days, today is now the first day of classes for the new semester.  Normally, I'd post something related to my teaching; in fact, I have two articles about population that would serve nicely.  However, a couple of the stories in the compilation I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Winter Storm Ion) on Daily Kos are already out-of-date, so I decided to hurry up and program them to auto-post while I'm on my way home.

I begin with Discovery News looking ahead to 2014: A New Year in Space.

There's a lot coming in space exploration in 2014! Trace tells you about the top 3 space missions he's looking forward to in the new year.
Looks like it will be a good year despite the Satan Sandwich.

Next, NASA Television presents one last look back at the year that was in Happy New Year 2014.

The Year in Review.
Follow over the jump for more from NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope, and

JPL/NASA: What's Up for January 2014

Jupiter at opposition. Venus at conjunction. A Juno mission update. And the Quadrantid meteor shower.
As if that's not enough, Hubble Space Telescope gives its preview of the month in Tonight's Sky: January 2014.

Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." In January, Jupiter blazes through the night, and Mars rises after midnight.
Now the rest of the space news from Mars to Earth's atmosphere. 10 Years on Mars: NASA Rover Mission Celebrates 10th Martian Birthday
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer
January 03, 2014 04:02pm ET
Ten years ago today, NASA dropped the first of two rovers onto the surface of Mars, kicking off a wildly successful mission that continues to beam home data about the Red Planet and its wetter, warmer past.

NASA's Spirit rover touched down on the night of Jan. 3, 2004 (Jan. 4 GMT), followed three weeks later by its twin, Opportunity. The two robots were originally supposed to explore Mars for 90 days, searching their disparate landing sites for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet.

Both rovers found plenty of such evidence and just kept chugging along, far outlasting their warranties. Spirit got stuck in a sand trap in 2010 and was declared dead a year later, but Opportunity continues to operate today and shows no signs of slowing down. Moon Dust Mystery Solved With Apollo Mission Data
By Megan Gannon, News Editor
January 03, 2014 08:00am ET
A revisited trove of data from NASA's Apollo missions more than 40 years ago is helping scientists answer a lingering lunar question: How fast does moon dust build up?

The answer: It would take 1,000 years for a layer of moon dust about a millimeter (0.04 inches) thick to accumulate, the researchers found. That rate may seem slow by the standards of Earth but it's 10 times faster than scientists had believed before, and it means moon dust could pose big problems for astronauts and equipment alike.

"You wouldn't see it; it's very thin indeed," Brian O'Brien, a physicist at the University of Western Australia, said in a statement. "But, as the Apollo astronauts learned, you can have a devil of a time overcoming even a small amount of dust."
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: Starting Fire in Water

Astronauts on the ISS are experimenting with a form of water that has a strange property: it can help start fire. This fundamental physics investigation could have down-to-Earth benefits such as clean-burning municipal waste disposal and improved saltwater purification. First Asteroid Discovery of 2014 Likely Hit Earth
by Mike Wall, Senior Writer
January 03, 2014 03:18pm ET
Astronomers have spotted the first new asteroid of 2014 - a car-size space rock that apparently slammed harmlessly into Earth's atmosphere just after the New Year began.

Scientists with the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Ariz., discovered the asteroid, known as 2014 AA, early Wednesday (Jan. 1), NASA officials said. Orbit projections suggest that the space rock likely entered Earth's atmosphere sometime between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning (Jan. 2).

"The most likely impact location of the object was just off the coast of West Africa at about 6 p.m. PST (9 p.m. EST) Jan. 1," NASA officials wrote in a press release Thursday.
And that's it for last week's space news.  Stay tuned for more, including the population stories I promised at the beginning of this entry.

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