skip to main | skip to sidebar

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

August 2012 arrival of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars discovered the most valuable samples. The sample of rock contains 20 to 30% of the gray-green rock powder that composed of the clay mineral smectite, which forms in water.1 This hinted that ancient Mars had a watery, moderate pH environment that would have been hospitable to organism.2 The Curiosity team still searches for environments that might have provided more protection for organic compounds.3
Touch down: Curiosity collected rock samples on Mars near
 its landing site in an ancient lake bed. 
Source: Wilson, E.

The National Aeronautics & Space Administration’s Curiosity martian rover landed on Mars and collected samples of environment. The sample, a sedimentary rock bed known as Yellowknife Bay yielded was analyzed that the powered rock samples may be combustion products of organic molecules. This is because the sample rock contains oxychlorine compounds related to perchlorate which could react with organics. The NO finding represents the first detection in a martian rock of nitrogen, an element required by all life forms. Curiosity is currently searching for location and environments that might have provided more protection for organic compounds.3
A panorama of Yellowknife Bay, where Curiosity found nitrogen and simple chlorocarbons. Source: Wilson, E.

1. Wilson, Elizabeth K. Curiosity Finds A Hospitable Mars. C&EN. [Online] 2013, 91, 11. (accessed Apr 10, 2014)
2. Wilson, Elizabeth K. Answering Curiosity Questions on Mars. C&EN. [Online] 2013, 91, 39. (accessed Apr 10, 2014)
3. Wilson, Elizabeth K. Mars Rover Switches Gears. C&EN. [Online] 2013, 91, 50. (accessed Apr 10, 2014)

Written by Joanne Lee

Figure 1:  IPCC report of different scenario’s dependent on 
emissions of greenhouse gases (Source:

Global warming, just hearing the phrase frightens many and can make one feel hopeless in the ability to do something about it. Well, there is some encouraging news coming out of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has released its latest report describing a slowdown on the rate of global warming during the past 12 years1. This study also gives rise to the improved data and climate models from technology that is available now compared to that of the last decade. Emissions from greenhouse gases mainly carbon dioxide, methane, and refrigerants remain the main player in climate change, but with a more efficient way to measure allowing for more accurate results. Climate scientists are perplexed with this slowdown and attribute it to the 1987 Montreal protocol coupled with reduction of methane emissions2. Montreal protocol restricted the use of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons which was once a widely used refrigerant and since 1987 has been regulated2. Scientists also concluded that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are effectively slowing the rate of warming in the short term, which shows there are steps we can all take to help this slowdown. 

The bottom line why it is important to do something now can be modeled by the IPCC, which shows that the average surface temperature would rise by 2 degrees Celsius by the year 20503, which may not sound like much but would have catastrophic effects. These changes would include rising sea levels, increased acidity of our oceans and severe weather events which would harm crops and food supplies. We can all be reminded of what can happen, but on a larger scale with the current drought we are experiencing here in California, not only is it effecting water supply but also prices on produce. So plant a tree, carpool with a friend or do something that can contribute in a positive manner towards slowing down the rate of global warming.
Figure 2: Projected changes in surface temperatures in the year 2081-2100 compared to surface temperature from 1986-2005 are shown in the figure this model is one that shows what can happen without regulation of emissions these are all things that are being addressed from world leaders.
source: chemical and engineering news




Written by Henry Velasco