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NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced Friday that the agency has approved a new infrared space telescope in the effort to help advance planetary defense efforts.

The Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope (NEO Surveyor) will move to the next phase of mission development at JPL after a successful review that moved the mission forward into preliminary design.

The NEO Surveyor was proposed to aid NASA's ability to both discover and characterize near-earth objects, like the "potentially hazardous" asteroid 2021 KT1.

KT1, the size of Seattle's Space Needle, recently hurtled past Earth at a distance of approximately 4.5 million miles and a velocity of 40,000 mph.

According to NASA, a near-Earth object is an asteroid or comet that approaches within 1.3 astronomical units of the sun.

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Our world is hugged by complex layers of gases that make up the atmosphere. They protect and nurture all life as we know it. Now, we're shrinking an entire one of those layers – the stratosphere – thanks to the profound impacts we are having on our planet.

An alarming new study has found that the thickness of the stratosphere has already shrunk by 400 meters (1,312 feet) since 1980. While local decreases in the stratosphere's thickness have previously been reported, this is the first examination of this phenomenon on a global scale.

"It is shocking," one of the research team, University of Vigo Earth physicist Juan Añel told Damian Carrington at The Guardian. "This proves we are messing with the atmosphere up to 60 kilometers."

Enveloping the sky around 20 to 60 kilometers (12 to 37 miles) above us, the stratosphere blankets the atmospheric layer we're breathing (the troposphere). Few clouds venture this high and only the occasional birds. It holds the all-important ozone layer, which we've already wreaked havoc upon through our emissions of CFCs.

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Scientists have watched a high-energy particle speed through the Earth in what they are hailing as a major breakthrough.

The particle fell towards Earth in December 2016, making its way from outer space at almost the speed of light. As it flew into the Earth, it smashed into an electron buried inside an ice sheet at the South Pole – producing a particle that then decayed into a host of secondary particles.

Those particles were picked up by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a huge telescope that is buried underneath the surface of the Antarctic.

The event captured by that equipment is known as a Glashow resonance event. Such events had been predicted, but never directly seen – and finally observing on helps confirm some of the deepest foundations of particle physics, scientists say.

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Before the Apollo era, the moon was thought to be dry as a desert due to the extreme temperatures and harshness of the space environment. Many studies have since discovered lunar water: ice in shadowed polar craters, water bound in volcanic rocks, and unexpected rusty iron deposits in the lunar soil. Despite these findings, there is still no true confirmation of the extent or origin of lunar surface water.

The prevailing theory is that positively charged hydrogen ions propelled by the solar wind bombard the lunar surface and spontaneously react to make water (as hydroxyl (OH-) and molecular (H2O)). However, a new multinational study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters proposes that solar wind may not be the only source of water-forming ions. The researchers show that particles from Earth can seed the moon with water, as well, implying that other planets could also contribute water to their satellites.

Water is far more prevalent in space than astronomers first thought, from the surface of Mars to Jupiter's moons and Saturn's rings, comets, asteroids and Pluto; it has even been detected in clouds far beyond our solar system. It was previously assumed that water was incorporated into these objects during the formation of the solar system, but there is growing evidence that water in space is far more dynamic. Though the solar wind is a likely source for lunar surface water, computer models predict that up to half of it should evaporate and disappear at high-latitude regions during the approximately three days of the full moon when it passes within Earth's magnetosphere.

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