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8 Years Before, Curiosity Landed On The Red Planet (Astronomy)

NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity successfully landed on the Red Planet at 10:32 p.m. PDT on August 5, 2012 (1:32 a.m. EDT on August 6, 2012). in the Gale Crater on Mars. The one-ton rover touched down onto the Red Planet and began its two-year investigation.

Fig: First images taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover, colorized (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

These were the first images taken by the rover, which landed on Mars the morning of Aug. 6, 2012. They were taken through a ‘fisheye’ wide-angle lens on rover’s rear cameras at one-quarter of full resolution. The clear dust cover on cameras is still on in these views.

As planned, the rover’s early engineering images were lower resolution. Larger color images were expected later in the week when the rover’s mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, was deployed.

Fig: Geological diversity at Curiosity’s landing site (NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU)

The area where NASA’s Curiosity rover landed has a geological diversity that scientists are eager to investigate, as seen in this false-color map based on data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Marks Eight Years of Mars Exploration (Planetary Science / Astronomy)

NASA’s Curiosity rover has seen a lot since August 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the huge basin of Gale Crater.

Fig: Curiosity rover took this selfie on October 11, 2019. The rover drilled twice in this location, nicknamed Glen Etive. Just left of the rover are the two drill holes, called Glen Etive 1 (right) and Glen Etive 2 (left). Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS.

Curiosity, the fourth rover the United States has sent to Mars, launched November 26, 2011 and landed on the Red Planet at 10:32 p.m. PDT on August 5, 2012 (1:32 a.m. EDT on August 6, 2012).

The mission is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and involves almost 500 scientists from the United States and other countries around the world.

Curiosity explores the 154-km- (96-mile) wide Gale Crater and acquires rock, soil, and air samples for onboard analysis.

The car-size rover is about as tall as a basketball player and uses a 2.1-m- (7-foot) long arm to place tools close to rocks selected for study.

Its large size allows it to carry an advanced kit of science instruments, including 17 cameras, a laser to vaporize and study small pinpoint spots of rocks at a distance, and a drill to collect powdered rock samples:

Fig: These 26 holes represent each of the rock samples NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has collected as of early July 2020. A map in the upper left shows where the holes were drilled along the rover’s route, along with where it scooped six samples of soil. The drill holes were taken by the MAHLI camera on the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS.

(i) the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is the rover’s version of the magnifying hand lens that geologists usually carry with them into the field; MAHLI’s close-up images reveal the minerals and textures in rock surfaces;

(ii) the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) shot a color video of the terrain below as the rover descended to its landing site; the video helped mission planners select the best path for Curiosity when the rover started exploring Gale Crater;

(iii) when the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) is placed right next to a rock or soil surface, it uses two kinds of radiation to measure the amounts and types of chemical elements that are present.

(iv) the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument’s laser, camera and spectrograph work together to identify the chemical and mineral composition of rocks and soils;

(v) the Chemical and Mineralogy (CheMin) performs chemical analysis of powdered rock samples to identify the types and amounts of different minerals that are present;

(vi) the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) is made up of three different instruments that search for and measure organic chemicals and light elements that are important ingredients potentially associated with life;

(vii) the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) is helping prepare for future human exploration of Mars; the instrument measures the type and amount of harmful radiation that reaches the Martian surface from the Sun and space sources;

(viii) the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) looks for telltale changes in the way neutrons released from Martian soil that indicate liquid or frozen water exists underground;

(ix) the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) contains all the weather instruments needed to provide daily and seasonal reports on meteorological conditions around the rover;

(x) the Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent and Landing Instrument (MEDLI) measured the heating and atmospheric pressure changes that occurred during the descent to help determine the effects on different parts of the spacecraft.

Since touchdown, Curiosity journeyed more than 23 km (14 miles), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples.


References: (1) https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/overview/ (2) https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/spacecraft/instruments/summary/

Underground Methane Bubbles Create A Dangerous Natural Trampoline (Chemistry)

It’s a fantastical sight — patches of grassy, green Earth wobbling up and down like a waterbed. But there’s nothing fictional about this scene. Over a dozen of these patches were discovered in Siberia in July 2016. And the reality is worrisome: these patches of bouncy grass are the result of enormous methane bubbles trapped beneath the surface. The ground in these areas is like a giant, natural, and extremely dangerous trampoline.

Fig: Scientists discovered 15 ‘bubbles’ filled with methane and CO2. Pictures: Alexander Sokolov/Vesti

What’s dangerous about these wobbly spots is that they could burst if enough pressure is applied. And bursting this bubble means trouble for climate change: methane is twice as potent as carbon dioxide in warming Earth’s atmosphere. It’s unclear how these underground gas pockets formed, but it’s thought that abnormal heat caused the region’s permafrost to thaw, which releases gases.


References: (1) http://siberiantimes.com/ecology/others/news/n0679-trembling-tundra-the-latest-weird-phenomenon-in-siberias-land-of-craters/ (2) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/gas-siberia-underground-earth-bounce-climate-change-siberia-global-warming-a7153486.html

Post-it Notes Began As A Failed Invention (Chemistry)

Post-it Notes are ubiquitous today, but before their invention in 1968, no one knew what they were missing. It was that year that Spencer Silver, a chemist for 3M, was hard at work trying to develop a strong, tough adhesive. What he came up with was nothing of the sort, but had a usefulness all its own: microspheres, which are microscopic bubbles of adhesive that maintain their stickiness but can be removed easily without damaging a surface. Silver knew he had something innovative on his hands, but couldn’t find a use for it. That is, until his colleague Art Fry found one. Every Wednesday night at choir practice, Fry would use scraps of paper to mark the hymns they planned to sing at the upcoming church service. By Sunday morning, many of the scraps would have fallen out of the hymnal. Fry remembered the invention Silver had been touting, and he realized the microspheres could be used to create adhesive, non-damaging bookmarks. The two men partnered to create the new adhesive sheets and soon began writing messages on them to each other. “I thought, what we have here isn’t just a bookmark,” said Fry, according to the brand’s website, “It’s a whole new way to communicate.” With that, an essential office tool was born.

The Government Mind Control Conspiracy Theory Of Chemtrails (Chemistry)

When you see a plane in the sky, you probably notice the white tails trailing behind it. Usually, the tails quickly dissipate, but some people think they stick around longer than is natural.

Are these tails simply harmless contrails (the condensation created in the air from jet exhaust), or are they the more sinister “chemtrails”? Many believers in the chemtrails conspiracy theory think the trails are loaded with unknown chemicals supplied by the government to brainwash the minds of civilians. Other “chemmies” believe the chemicals poison people to “weed out” the ill and elderly. Another idea is that chemtrails are used to worsen global warming. Scientists reject these theories, maintaining that the scientific evidence behind contrails leaves little room for mystery.

Stuff they don’t want you to know- Chemtrials

There Are More Games Of Chess Possible Than Atoms In The Universe (Maths)

To anyone who has ever complained that a game of chess is boring, we can at least guarantee you this: Every game you play will be different. How do we know? Well, it’s estimated that there are more possible iterations of a game of chess than there are atoms in the known universe. In fact, the number of possible moves is so vast that no one has ever been able to calculate it exactly.

In the 1950s, mathematician Claude Shannon wrote a paper about how one could program a computer to play chess. In it, he made a quick calculation to determine how many different games of chess were possible, and came up with the number 10^120. This is a very, very large number — the number of atoms in the observable universe, by comparison, is only estimated to be around 10^80.

Shannon’s number came from a rough calculation that used averages instead of exact figures. It assumed that at any point in the game you’d have an average of 30 legal moves, for example, and that every game has an average of 80 total moves. But that’s not how chess works. You have many fewer legal moves at the beginning of a game than the end, and games can go much shorter or longer than 80 moves.

There are other complications as well: even if you have 30 possible moves, only a few will make sense strategically. This is why it’s such a challenge to calculate the number of possible games of chess, and why to this day, no one has landed on an exact figure.


References: (1) https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-12/fyi-how-many-different-ways-can-chess-game-unfold/ (2) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/claude-e-shannon-founder/

Chemist Fritz Haber Was Both A Hero And A Villian (Chemistry)

As a patriotic German and an ambitious chemist, the young Fritz Haber was eager to make his country a better place.

The turn of the 20th century saw growing populations and farmland that couldn’t sustain the crops required to feed them. The soil needed nitrogen, and the only ways to get it were costly and inefficient. With engineer Carl Bosch, Haber discovered a way to capture nitrogen and hydrogen from the air and turn it into ammonia, which could then be used for mass quantities of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. This invention, known as the Haber-Bosch process, saved millions from starving and won both men a Nobel Prize decades later. But before receiving that accolade, Haber joined the German war effort and began using his process to create lethal chlorine gas for use at the front lines of battle. Over the course of the war, this and other poison gases that Haber created brought millions of soldiers to gruesome ends. It also eventually led to the creation of Zyklon B, the compound used in Nazi concentration camps to murder prisoners in gas chambers. It’s not clear whether Fritz Haber saved more lives than he ended, but as his godson, historian Fritz Stern once wrote, “He left a rich legacy — the darker sides of which our darker age can better ponder.” To know more please watch the video given below:

This Is How You Can Deep Fry Water (Chemistry)

Sometimes you just need to know if something is possible, no matter how trivial it may be. In this case, we’re talking deep-fried water. Water can be deep-fried through a process called spherification, which is employed to create some culinary works of art at restaurants that specialize in molecular gastronomy. By sealing a membrane of calcium alginate, a gelatinous substance composed of calcium chloride and sodium alginate, around some water, the liquid will hold together even when coated in flour and egg for deep-frying. Though it seems silly, a similar method is being used by at least one company to engineer a waste-free water bottle.

Deep fried water

Icy Brinicles Are Fast-Moving, Deadly-And A Potential Source For Life (Chemistry / Oceanography)

There are icicles…and then there are brinicles, the icicle’s fast-moving, terrifying cousin. Brinicles aren’t just scary, though—they also give scientists an important clue about how live may have evolved.

Fig: There is a fascinating icy landscape under the sea near the ice age at Arrivals heights. Anchor ice grows from the bottom up and brine channels or “brinicles” grow from the top down. Image: Rob Robbins

Brinicles are long tubes of ice that form underwater, shooting downward as they freeze. They freeze so quickly, it can be observed in real time. Also known as “icicles of death,” the brinicle can immediately trap and freeze any aquatic life that is in its way. Once the brinicle hits the sea floor, it creates a web of ice and kills any slow-moving sea life that may be around, such as sea urchins and sea stars.

In 2013, researchers published a study in the American Chemical Society’s journal Langmuir showing just how these icy assassins form. It’s a “chemical garden” process just like the one that forms hydrothermal vents, but from above: when sea ice freezes, the salt and other ions in the water doesn’t freeze with it, instead accumulating in the fissures and compartments within the ice. Once the ice cracks, all that salty water, or brine, leaks out. As anyone who has sprinkled salt on a snowy sidewalk knows, salt lowers water’s freezing point. There isn’t a lot of water in that super cold brine, so water rushes in to fill the void. When it does, it freezes instantly, and boom—brinicle.

Brinicles don’t just take life—they may also help it form.”Inside these compartments inside the ice, you have a high concentration of chemical compounds, and you also have lipids, fats, that coat the inside of the compartment,” LiveScience quoted study author Bruno Escribano as saying. “These can act as a primitive membrane — one of the conditions necessary for life.” They may even contain the building blocks of DNA. There you have it—brinicles aren’t all bad.


References: (1) https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/la4009703 (2) https://www.thoughtco.com/make-your-own-magic-rocks-607653 (3) https://www.livescience.com/29085-how-brinicles-form.html