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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Three science events to look out for in 2017


The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft lifts off on from Space Launch Complex 41 on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid, retrieve at least two ounces of surface material and return it to Earth for study. The asteroid, Bennu, may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules found on Earth. Photo by Joel Kowsky / NASA

2016 saw many scientific discoveries like advanced drone technology research, the first space mission to an asteroid launched, and the EMDrive broke the laws of physics, just to name a few. With new innovations and breakthroughs in science happening in the blink of an eye, we decided to make it easier to stay up to date on some important approaching news.

1. New data from the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission

You can expect to hear more about the OSIRIS-REx mission in 2017, as it will be reaching several important milestones throughout the year. First, the spacecraft will begin searching for special types of asteroids, dubbed “Trojan Asteroids” after the famous story in Greek mythology, for twelve days during the month of February. This investigation is just part of the research being collected while the spacecraft is in en route to its target destination, the asteroid Bennu.

RELATED: UA scientists discover water on metal asteroid

Also occurring during 2017 is the OSIRIS-REx flyby of the Earth, scheduled to occur in mid-September. The spacecraft will use the energy it gleans from being sucked into Earth’s gravitational field like a slingshot to help propel itself during the final stretch to Bennu. 

2. Results from an NCAA-funded sleep study are almost here

The results of the study looking at sleep patterns in college athletes are scheduled to be released in January. The UA research team, led by Amy Athey , director of Clinical and Sport Psychology Services with UA Athletics, and Psychiatry Assistant Professor Michael Grandner, studied the sleeping behaviors of student athletes and how those behaviors can impact the physical and emotional well-being of the individual. The study also included an experiment that tested methods of improving the quality and effectiveness of sleep in college athletes. 

This research will provide athletes, coaches, parents and researchers with valuable information on how to enhance the health of student athletes. The results of the study will be presented this month at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. 

3. 2017 is expected to bring the heat 

The new year may have ushered out El Niño and a three-year streak of record-breaking heat, but don’t be in a hurry to exchange your flip flops for a pair of winter boots in 2017. According to a report published by Climate Central,  2017 is expected to be another year of unusually high temperatures. Due to the fact that 2016 saw one of the strongest El Niños on record, 2017 will likely experience a small dip in temperatures, although the dip won’t be significant enough to prevent this year from becoming one of the hottest in 130 years. 

RELATED: University research team identifies the impacts of forest death on other continents

El Niño is contrasted by La Niña, names given to the warm and cool temperature fluctuations that occur between the east-central Equatorial Pacific’s atmosphere and the ocean. Each phase typically lasts around a year, with El Niño associated with warmer temperatures and La Niña associated with cooler temperatures. 

Follow Hannah Dahl on Twitter.

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