Let's take a moment to tally a few of 2013's highlights of astronomy and space exploration. In brief, it was a very good year on a number of fronts.
From the debut of the world's largest solar plant to Comet ISON, zombified bees to the physics of sailing — it's been another year of diverse storytelling from the KQED Science team. Here's a round-up of our top 10 stories (based on page views) that you've enjoyed in 2013.
Comet ISON is gone, Comet Lovejoy remains and a sun-grazing asteroid, 3200 Phaeton, is showing comet-like behavior. An interesting December to say the least.
In San Francisco this week, NASA scientists presented rare video footage of the Earth and moon, plus a first for citizen space science.
If you had to make a choice to shut down either the Mars rover Curiosity or that explorer of the Saturn system Cassini, would you deliver a pink slip to the young, eager, energetic newbie or force an early retirement on a veteran explorer who has delivered volumes of knowledge?
Comet ISON may not have survived its close brush with the Sun, but astronomers are still going to "study the heck out of it," says Foothill College astronomy professor Andrew Fraknoi.
Steve Jurvetson is a leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist and a board member of rocket maker and launch services company, SpaceX. He shares what it takes to launch a successful start-up in the high-stakes space industry.
Commercial space ventures are taking off and opening up space like never before. With its culture of risk and game-changing startups, Silicon Valley is playing a starring role in many of these new space companies. But risks and costs emerge with the increasing privatization of space.
There's been a great deal of anticipation surrounding Comet ISON—and a great deal of debate about whether it will become a Comet of the Century, or fizzle out like so many other comets of the century have in the past. ISON is now visible in binoculars, which may bode well for a good sky show in the coming weeks.
Every 11 years, the magnetic field of the sun changes its polarity (in fact, this may already be happening) sending a ripple of changing current out way past Pluto, to the outer reaches of the heliosphere. This solar "flip" is happening now.
The Chelyabinsk meteor was a 65-foot hunk of space rock that entered the Earth's atmosphere at about 12 miles per second before exploding with a force equal to 600,000 tons of TNT, enough to level buildings and send 1,200 people to local hospitals.
A NASA scientist sums it up: “If we ever get star travel, we’ll probably see a lot of traffic jams.”
Over centuries of observing the planet Jupiter, we have but scratched the surface of the deep mysteries held secret beneath its thick clouds. Now NASA's Juno probe, currently en route to the king of planets, is preparing to pierce the veil of Jupiter's mystery and give us a peek inside.
Maybe a week before it passes closest to the sun, the dark side of Comet ISON is expected to begin turning into the sunlight. The sudden exposure to the intense radiation could cause a strong outburst of gases into the coma--like a celestial popcorn kernel suddenly bursting.
NASA's "Engineer with a Mohawk" has become a pop culture phenom (62,000 Twitter followers isn't too shabby). But under that comb beats the heart of a true explorer, as we found when he dropped by for a visit.