Archive for September, 2008

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN

Monday, September 22nd, 2008 by Evan Finnes

NASA has chosen a new mission in the Mars Exploration Program to study the Martian atmosphere. The purpose of the $485 million MAVEN mission, (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN), is to study the Martian Atmosphere, climate history, and potential habitability. This mission is intended to take the most detailed measurements ever recorded in the Martian atmosphere.

After the launch in 2013, MAVEN will enter an elliptical orbit from 90 to 3870 miles above the Martian surface where it will take measurements for an entire Earth year. Maven will also descend to an altitude of 80 miles above the surface where it will take detailed measurements of the upper atmosphere. After the mission is complete MAVEN will be used as a communications satellite for future rovers and landers.

The Martian atmosphere is relatively thin, with pressures ranging from .03 kPa to 1.155 kPa, and an average sea-level pressure of about .6 kPa (nearly 170 times less than that of Earth). Even though the atmosphere on Mars is 4 km taller than Earths, its Mass is nearly 206 times less than Earths. The atmosphere is composed of 95% CO2, 3% N, 1.6% Ar, with trace amounts of O2, H2O, and CH4. The atmosphere has been divided into 4 subdivisions: lower atmosphere, middle atmosphere, Upper atmosphere, and exosphere. The lower atmosphere is region that is warmed from airborne dust particles. The middle atmosphere is distinguished only by a jet stream. The upper atmosphere is characterized by very high temperatures, and the atmospheric gasses are stripped apart by the sun. The exosphere, like on Earth, is the boundary-less region where the atmosphere slowly tappers out into space.

Because Mars has the only surface observable from Earth, its climate has been studied since the 17th century. The first up-close climate observations were made in the 60’s by the Mariner missions and the Viking missions of the 70’s. Today the Mars Global Surveyor keeps up where they left off. We know that the Martian climate has some similarities with the Earth, such as changing seasons, ice-ages, and even a sublimating south-pole which could indicate a warming climate. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks water and has a low ability to resist temperature change during a full heating/cooling cycle.

Recent Missions such as the rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have shown that large amounts of water most likely existed on the Martian surface at one time. So with any luck, MAVEN will be able to provide some insight into where this water went, and what happened to a Martian atmosphere that was once able to support water and perhaps life. Even more importantly, MAVEN will help us understand the evolution and the eventual fate of our own atmosphere.

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Xieite: The First New Mineral With A Post-Spinel Structure

Thursday, September 18th, 2008 by Evan Finnes

Twenty-two years ago, the Suizhou meteorite broke into 12 pieces and struck the ground near Hubei, China. This meteorite contained a high-pressure chromite-spinel polymorph called xieite, which was recently classified as the first new mineral with a post-spinel structure. The formation of this mineral requires temperatures between 1800 and 1950 °C, and pressures between 18 and 23 GPa. Because of the high temperatures and pressures required to form this mineral, it is believed that this meteorite suffered from a catastrophic collision.

The discovery of xieite was made by an American-Chinese team from the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Carnegie Institute of Washington, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Geophysical Laboratory. Xieite was given official mineral status by the International Mineralogical Association’s Commission of New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification. To be classified as a mineral, a substance must fit into five characterizations: 1) A mineral must be naturally occurring on Earth or somewhere in the Universe, not in a lab; 2) A mineral must be stable at room temperature (with the exception of ice and mercury); 3) A mineral should be inorganic, meaning it contains no C-C double bonds; 4) A mineral must be describable by a chemical formula– in xieite’s case it is Fe2+ Cr2 O4; and 5) A mineral must have an ordered atomic arrangement.

Spinels are a class of isometric minerals with the general formula XY2O4. These minerals are found in the Earth’s upper mantle, starting at the core mantle boundary, or Mohorovicic discontinuity, and down to depths of about 70 km. Any spinel found at greater depths contain high amounts of chromite. If found in the Earth, post-spinel chromite (which is 10% more dense than spinel-chromite) would have to have formed deep in the mantle, at depths of about 500 km.

Because of the high temperatures and pressures required for the formation of xieite, this new mineral could potentially become a useful tool for astronomers and geophysicists. If xieite is found in other asteroids, astronomers can use it to estimate the pressures and forces that have acted on the asteroid during impact. Likewise, if xieite is found in basaltic lava flows, or igneous intrusions, geophysicists can use the mineral to determine what depths in the mantle the magma originated.

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Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 by Aridian PR

WBZT radio show host Clayton Willis to discuss Null Physics with author Terence Witt.

Terence Witt will appear on “The Clayton Willis Talk Show” Monday, September 22 at 7 p.m. eastern time. The famous radio host discusses political and social issues as well as the arts and other current events. According to his website, Willis has been a presidential advisor as well as a Manager and White House Correspondent for The Evening News Broadcasting Co.

Witt is appearing to discuss his new book, Our Undiscovered Universe: Introducing Null Physics . Some of the topics Witt will discuss include what is Null Physics, what distinguishes Null Physics from other forms of modern physics and what role does quantum mechanics play, and what are the biggest challenges facing Null Physics?
“I am looking forward to the interview with Mr. Willis,” said Witt. “He is a very knowledgeable journalist and I hope to generate stimulating discussion.”
Willis’ program is broadcast on 1230 WBZT in West Palm Beach, Florida. For more information, go to .

To read more about Terence Witt and his latest breakthroughs, go to .

About Terence Witt
Terence Witt is the founder and former CEO of Witt Biomedical Corporation. He holds a BSEE from Oregon State University and lives in Florida. Our Undiscovered Universe: Introducing Null Physics is his first book. To read more about Terence Witt and his latest breakthroughs go to .

Victoria Lansdon
Public Relations Director
Aridian Publishing
(321) 773-3426

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Update on Extrasolar Planet Hunting

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 by Bellatrix

So as fate would have it two days after writing my most recent blog entry, an article was published with the title “First Picture of Planet around Sun-Like Star”. In my previous blog post I mentioned how we had only indirectly observed planets around other stars and had yet to photograph one directly. Well first I must say that even before this new discovery, my statement was not entirely correct. Some people within the last year have claimed that they had photographed planets around stars. I did not mention it because the jury is still out on these pictures as to whether or not what is seen is actually an orbiting planet or perhaps just a background object.

However, even with those couple of photos floating around, this new one is slightly more interesting. Those few photos we have so far of possible planets have all been around very dim stars called red dwarfs or even dimmer brown dwarfs. This new picture is of a star that is very much like our sun. The planet observed is giant (about eight times the mass of Jupiter) and lies far out from its star (about 330 times the Earth-Sun distance). It’s large mass, or size, is one the key factors in being able to view it directly. This planet is extremely far out from its host star; for frame of reference, Neptune is our farthest planet and lies only 30 times the earth-sun distance.

The discovery was made by the Gemini North Telescope on top of Mauna Kea, which is associated with the previously mentioned Subaru Telescope. However, more studies will have to be done to prove this object is in fact orbiting the observed star, but evidence from the indirect method of detection supports the idea that this is not just a background object in the picture.

Given the distance to its star and other strange qualities such as its large mass and hot temperature (about 1500C compared to Jupiter at 110C), we may have to really start looking at our models of planet formation. Currently our theories would not predict, or allow for, such a planet to be where it is and how it is. For those who want to see the pretty picture of the planet, Google the star name 1RXS J160929.1-210524 (nice name huh?) or should be available from the Gemini observatory’s website.

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