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Science

    A small, newly discovered asteroid passed near Earth earlier his week and a second one is expected to follow suit Friday, according to scientists with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. >> Read more trending news The asteroids were spotted Sunday by researchers at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona. The first, dubbed 2018 CC, passed within about 114,000 miles of Earth around 3:10 p.m. EST Tuesday, according to NASA. Scientists estimated the asteroid was 50-100 feet in diameter. The second asteroid, called 2018 CB, will pass near Earth around 5:30 p.m. EST Friday at distance of about 39,000 miles, less than one-fifth of the distance between Earth and the moon, according to NASA. It’s slightly larger than the first asteroid, between 50 and 130 feet in diameter. >> Related: Asteroid passes inside Earth’s satellite ring, ’20 times closer than moon’ 'Although 2018 CB is quite small, it might well be larger than the asteroid that entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, almost exactly five years ago, in 2013,' Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release.  >> Related: NASA finds 'lost' lunar spacecraft orbiting moon nearly a decade after it disappeared In February 2013, a fireball lit the skies above Chelyabinsk as a small asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere. The asteroid was estimated to be 55-65 feet in diameter. 'Asteroids of this size do not often approach this close to our planet -- maybe only once or twice a year,' Chodas said.
  • A monster space rock classified by NASA as 'potentially hazardous' is headed toward Earth. Asteroid 2002 AJ129 – which at 0.7 miles is wider than the tallest building in the U.S. (New York's One World Trade Center) stacked on top of itself – is predicted to miss our planet, according to Metro. However, it will pass relatively close in terms of outer space. >> On AJC.com: NASA: Asteroid could destroy Earth in 22nd century NASA classifies any space object surpassing 459 feet wide and passing within 4,660,000 miles of Earth as 'hazardous,' according to a 2013 report on the space agency's website. There are about 1,000 such known space objects monitored by NASA. This asteroid is more than eight times wider than the minimum (3,696 feet) and will pass within just over half the minimum distance (2,615,128 miles) to our planet. >> Read more trending news  For a reference point, the moon orbits Earth at a distance of about 238,855 miles. The giant asteroid is expected to 'narrowly' miss our planet on Feb. 4, whizzing past us at a whopping 67,000 miles per hour. It will be the biggest and fastest space object to fly near Earth this year, according to The Daily Star.
  • The fireball lit up the sky just after 8 p.m. Tuesday. >> Click here to watch The dashboard cam video was shared by Mike Austin as he was driving north on I-75 near Bloomfield Hills, north of Detroit, Michigan.  >> On WHIO.com: 2017 fireball caught on WHIO-TV weather camera The fireball also was seen from northwest Ohio and southwest Ontario, Canada.  >> Read more trending news  It is not known whether the meteorite dissipated in the atmosphere or made it to the ground or into Lake Michigan.
  • The holiday season is officially over, and many are now looking at their New Year’s resolutions, which may include maintaining a healthier lifestyle. >> Read more trending news To get a head start, some are participating in Dry January, a month-long break from alcohol. But how effective is it? Researchers from the University of Sussex conducted a study, published in Health Psychology, to find out.  They examined more than 850 individuals who gave Dry January a try. They then followed up with a questionnaire one month later and another six months later. >> Related: Just one drink a day can increase your risk of cancer, study warns After analyzing the results, they found that after six months, participants said they drank less and were not getting drunk as much. In fact, 72 percent of the subjects had maintained lower levels of harmful drinking and 4 percent were still not drinking after six months. After just one month, about 62 percent reported having better sleep, 62 percent said they had more energy and 49 percent experienced weight loss. >> Related: Women who use IUDs may have reduced risk of cervical cancer, study says The changes were also seen for those who did not make it to the end of the challenge. “Even if participants took part but didn’t successfully complete the 31 days, it generally led to a significant decrease across all the measures of alcohol intake,” Richard de Visser said in a statement. The scientists believe their findings prove the challenge can be used to help reduce drinking long-term, added Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern, a U.K. charity to combat alcohol harm. “This research,” she said, “is the proof of how, with the help, advice and support we offer throughout the month, our model can really change behaviour and reduce drinking.”
  • Memory loss and confusion are common symptoms of dementia. Now scientists are linking canola oil to the disease in a new report.  >> Read more trending news Researchers from Temple University recently conducted an experiment, published in Scientific Reports, to determine how the common cooking oil may have an effect on the brain. To do so, they examined mice that were six months old, dividing them into two groups. One was fed a normal diet, while the other had “a diet supplemented with the equivalent of about two tablespoons of canola oil,” the authors explained.  After observing the animals for 12 months, they weighed them. They found that the mice on the canola oil diet weighed significantly more than those on a regular diet.  They then assessed their working memory, short-term memory and learning ability by administering maze tests. They discovered the mice that had consumed canola oil suffered damage to their working memory. The canola oil-treated mice had reduced levels of amyloid beta 1-40, a protein that serves a beneficial role in the brain.  “As a result of decreased amyloid beta 1-40, animals on the canola oil diet further showed increased formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, with neurons engulfed in amyloid beta 1-42,” the authors said. “The damage was accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of contacts between neurons, indicative of extensive synapse injury. Synapses, the areas where neurons come into contact with one another, play a central role in memory formation and retrieval.” Their findings suggest canola oil is not beneficial to the brain, especially when it is consumed over long periods of time. Researchers now hope to further their studies to find out exactly how much canola oil can produce changes in the brain and if it can be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.  “Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy,” lead researcher Domenico Pratico said. “Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits.”  
  • Glitter's sparkly days may be over, if scientists get their way. Because glitter is a microplastic, it poses a potential ecological hazard, scientists told The Independent. The threat is particularly serious to marine animals, who have suffered fatal consequences from consuming plastic that makes its way into the ocean. >> Read more trending news Glitter is not just found on cards and decorative items, but also in makeup. Scientists don't necessarily want a complete ban on glitter, but are encouraging the creation of nontoxic, eco-friendly alternatives.
  • If you're looking for a shooting star so you can make your wish come true, this weekend may just be your lucky opportunity. The Leonid meteor shower will peak this weekend, providing ideal viewing conditions for millions across the United States. With clear skies predicted by meteorologists in many parts of the country, even amateur stargazers should be able to catch a glimpse of the cosmic spectacle. >> Read more trending news Experts say 10 to 25 shooting stars will be visible per hour in areas with clear skies this Friday evening and Saturday morning, according to the Smithsonian. Even for the unlucky, such a high number gives anyone decent odds of sighting one of the meteors. For those hoping to view the shower this weekend, here's everything you need to know: What is the Leonid meteor shower? The Leonid meteors are connected to the comet Tempel-Tuttle, according to David Samuhel, senior meteorologist and astronomy blogger at AccuWeather. 'It makes fairly frequent passes through the inner solar system,' he said. 'This lays out fresh debris in the path of the Earth's orbit every 33 years.' The Earth actually passes through the debris of the comet, making the falling particles visible as they burn up in the atmosphere. Thanks to clear skies and the absence of moonlight, this year's display should give stargazers a decent show. Where will the meteor shower be most visible? First of all, stargazers should get as far away from city lights as possible to avoid light pollution. There's no specific spot in the sky to look. But the shooting stars get their name from the Leo constellation, as their paths in the sky can be traced back to those stars. Peak time for viewing is from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. ET Saturday. People living throughout the Southeast, the Northern Plains and California are in luck, as meteorologists are predicting clear skies, ideal for viewing the shower. Those who reside in the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, the central Plains or the Pacific Northwest, however, may have to travel to other areas if they want to spot a falling star. 'A large storm system will be moving from the Plains into the Great Lakes, and cloudy skies are forecast to dominate much of the eastern half of the nation,' meteorologist Kyle Elliot said, according to Accuweather. 'Rain and thunderstorms will put an even bigger damper on viewing conditions in many of these areas.' The shower will actually be most visible, with the highest rates of visible meteors, in East Asia. How intense can a Leonid shower get? While this weekend's display is sure to impress, it's actually considered a light meteor shower, as opposed to a meteor storm. The last Leonid meteor storm took place in 2002. During storms, thousands of meteors can be spotted in an hour. In 1833, stargazers reported as many as 72,000 shooting stars per hour, according to National Geographic. In 1966, a group of hunters reported seeing 40 to 50 streaks per second over the duration of 15 minutes. Scientists currently predict the next major outburst won't take place until 2099. But calculations suggest the comet will be returning closer to Earth in 2031 and 2064, meaning more intense storms may be seen sooner. Smaller showers, such as the one occurring this weekend, happen on a regular basis. So, while you may get another shot at seeing Leonid's shooting stars, this weekend promises to be a great chance for many.
  • This fall marks 20 years since NASA satellites started to continuously observe life on Earth. >> Read more trending news To commemorate the monumental discoveries over the years, NASA is sharing stories and videos about how much views from up above have taught us about life on our home planet and the search for life elsewhere. A new time-lapse animation, shown below, captures 20 years’ worth of the planet’s changing land and ocean life as seen from the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of view Sensor, which launched in 1997. “These are incredibly evocative visualizations of our living planet,” Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a NASA news release last week. “That’s the Earth. That is it breathing every single day, changing with the seasons, responding to the sun, to the changing winds, ocean currents and temperatures.' >> Related: 15,000 scientists warn it will soon be 'too late' to save Earth Over the past 20 years, NASA scientists have monitored the health of crops, forests and fisheries around the globe and have learned more about the long-term changes across continents and ocean basins, the agency wrote in the news release.
  • NASA, in partnership with the NOAA, will launch a satellite Saturday that will help improve weather forecasts. >> Read more trending news The satellite launch was scheduled for earlier this week, but was postponed twice, once because of high winds and once because of technical difficulties. The launch for the JPSS-1 satellite is scheduled at 4:47 a.m. Saturday, according to NASA. >> Related: NASA postpones JPSS-1 weather satellite launch A live stream of the launch will be available on NASA’s website starting at 4:15 a.m. The satellites will help improve NOAA forecasts for the three to seven day time frame. The data collected from the JPSS is fed into the numerical forecast models to help improve them. The satellites will also collect atmospheric measurements, ground conditions and ocean conditions like vegetation, hurricane intensity and atmospheric moisture.  The JPSS-1 will be launch from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California pending proper flight conditions. The launch was originally scheduled for Tuesday. >> Related: NASA scrubs launch of JPSS-1 weather satellite again This satellite is a polar orbiting satellite, which means it will orbit the earth from the one pole to the other passing the equator 14 times a day. Full coverage of the planet will then be provided twice a day. JPSS-2 is planned to launch in 2021, and JPSS-3 and JPSS-4 are anticipated to launch in 2026 and 2031.
  • In findings that could point to a better treatment for HIV infections, Scripps Florida scientists say they’ve found a new way to manage the virus. Scripps Associate Professor Susana Valente says she successfully tested a drug that promises a “functional cure” for HIV: The infection isn’t gone, but the virus lies dormant. >> Read more trending news The results of a study led by Valente were published in October in the journal Cell Reports. Valente and researchers from Scripps Florida, the University of North Carolina and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research used a natural compound known as didehydro-Cortistatin A, or dCA. It stops the spread of HIV by inhibiting the protein Tat. “It is really the proof of concept for a functional cure,” Valente said. Read the full story on MyPalmBeachPost.com