A near-Earth <a href="/our_solar_system/asteroids.html&dev=1">asteroid</a> - named 2012 DA14 by astronomers - passed within 17,200 miles from Earth on February 15, 2013. On closest approach at about 1:25 p.m. CST on February 15, although it was within the orbit of the <a href="/earth/moons_and_rings.html&dev=1">Moon</a> and even geosynchronous <a href="/space_missions/satellites.html&dev=1">satellites</a>, it didn't strike Earth!  Find out more from <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/asteroid20130201315144.html">NASA</a>! Fragments of a meteorite hit Chelyabinsk, Russia on 2/15/2013 <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-russia-meteorite-idUSBRE91E05Z20130215">injuring over 500</a>. Learn about <a href="http://www.windows2universe.org/our_solar_system/meteors/meteors.html">meteors and meteorites</a>.<p><small><em>NASA/JPL-CalTech</em></small></p>There are over 900 <a href="/the_universe/uts/megalith.html&dev=1">rings of stone</a> located in the British Isles. The most famous of these stone rings is of course, <a href="/the_universe/uts/stonehenge.html&dev=1">Stonehenge</a>.    The stones of Stonehenge were put in place between 3,000 B.C and 2,000 B.C. by neolithic people.Some speculate that the site was built as a temple of worship of the ancient Earth deities. Some say it was used as an <a href="/the_universe/uts/stonehenge_astro.html&dev=1">astronomical observatory</a> of sorts. Still others say it was a burial ground.<p><small><em>  Image courtesy of Corel Photography.</em></small></p>March 2012 marks the first anniversary of the 9.0 magnitude <a href="/earth/geology/quake_1.html&dev=1">earthquake</a>, <a href="/earth/tsunami1.html&dev=1">tsunami</a>, and resulting nuclear accident in Japan on <a href="/headline_universe/march112011earthquaketsunami.html&dev=1">11 March 2011</a>.  The tsunami did massive damage, wiping out entire villages and killing ~16,000 people, and leading to one of the most serious nuclear accidents in history.  This image shows before and after photos of the area north of Sendai, where 10,000 people were lost.<p><small><em>Photos by <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/13/world/asia/satellite-photos-japan-before-and-after-tsunami.html?hp">GeoEye/EyeQ</a>.</em></small></p>As permafrost thaws, the land, atmosphere, water resources, ecosystems, and human communities are affected. Coastal areas and hillsides are vulnerable to erosion by thawing of permafrost.  Thawing permafrost also causes a positive feedback to global warming, as carbon trapped within the once-frozen soils is released as <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/methane.html&dev=1">methane</a>, a powerful <a href="/earth/climate/cli_greengas.html&dev=1">greenhouse gas</a>.
Watch the NBC Learn video - <a href="/earth/changing_planet/permafrost_methane_intro.html&dev=1">Thawing Permafrost and Methane</a> to find out more.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of the    USGS</em></small></p>Scientists are concerned that melting Arctic sea ice will increase the amount of fresh water in the <a href="/earth/polar/arctic_currents.html&dev=1">Beaufort Gyre</a>, which could spill out into the Atlantic and cause major climate shifts in North America and Western Europe. Watch the <a href="/earth/changing_planet/freshwater_arctic.html&dev=1">Changing Planet: Fresh Water in the Arctic video</a>.<p><small><em> Courtesy of Jack Cook, WHOI (<a href="http://www.whoi.edu">Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute</a>)</em></small></p>Scientists at the University of Michigan have found that <a href="/earth/polar/cryosphere_permafrost1.html&dev=1">permafrost</a> in the <a href="/earth/polar/polar_north.html&dev=1">Arctic</a> is extremely sensitive to sunlight.  Exposure to sunlight releases carbon gases trapped in the permafrost, including <a href="/earth/climate/earth_greenhouse.html&dev=1">climate-warming</a> <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_dioxide.html&dev=1">carbon dioxide</a>, to the <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/overview.html&dev=1">atmosphere</a> much faster than previously thought.<p><small><em>George Kling, The University of Michigan</em></small></p>

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