The Hubble telescope has identified oxygen and carbon in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet for the first time. The oxygen and carbon are evaporating from a "hot jupiter" planet HD 209458b, orbiting a star lying 150 light-years from Earth. HD 209458b is only 4.3 million miles from its Sun-like star, completing an orbit in less than 4 days. This is not a sign of life!
A physicsweb.org article states that an international team working at the ISOLTRAP mass spectrometer at CERN has determined the masses of two isotopes of argon (32Ar and 33Ar) with the highest precision ever. This is important if you want "to place constraints on aspects of the weak interaction that are not included in the Standard Model".1
In a letter to Nature E. Kim and M. H. W. Chan (Pennsylvania State University, USA) note that when liquid 4He is cooled below 2.176 K, it undergoes a phase transition and becomes a superfluid with zero viscosity. They claim that in addition to superflow in the liquid phase, superflow can also occur under some conditions in the solid phase of one of the helium isotopes (4He), and present results to back this up. In other words - evidence for a "supersolid". A supersolid behaves like a superfluid (flows without resistance) although it has crystalline solid characteristics.1
"The highlands of Venus are covered by a heavy metal 'frost', say planetary scientists from Washington University.
Because it is hot enough to melt lead at the surface, metals vaporise and condense at cooler, higher elevations.
This may explain why radar observations made by orbiting spacecraft show that the highlands are highly reflective.
Detailed calculations, to be published in the journal Icarus, suggest that lead and bismuth are to blame for giving Venus its bright, metallic skin."
A NASA press release indicates that NASA's Spirit, the first of two Mars Exploration Rovers on the surface within Mars' Gusev crater, has identified carbonate minerals "in the rover's first survey of the site with its infrared sensing instrument, called the miniature thermal emission spectrometer or Mini-TES. Carbonates form in the presence of water, but it's too early to tell whether the amounts detected come from interaction with water vapor in Mars' atmosphere or are evidence of a watery local environment in the past, scientists emphasized."
"We came looking for carbonates. We have them. We're going to chase them," said Dr. Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe, leader of the Mini-TES team. Previous infrared readings from Mars orbit have revealed a low concentration of carbonates distributed globally. Christensen has interpreted that as the result of dust interaction with atmospheric water. First indications are that the carbonate concentration near Spirit may be higher than the Mars global average.
After the rover drives off its lander platform, infrared measurements it takes as it explores the area may allow scientists to judge whether the water indicated by the nearby carbonates was in the air or in a suspected ancient lake. http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/20040109a/graph-carb...
The Daily Telegraph web site is carrying a story indicating a possible treatment for Alzheimer's.
Quote:"A drug that is used in the treatment of athlete's foot could be used to treat Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study by British doctors.
The study, by a team from University College, London, found that clioquinol, a drug that is also used to treat ear infections and indigestion, can almost halt the progression of Alzheimer's.
It discovered that clioquinol, which was developed 100 years ago, is able to absorb the zinc and copper atoms that concentrate in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers before dementia sets in.
Prana Technology, an Australian drug firm, provided clioquinol for the first small trial. "
The observation that soot makes global warming "worse" is well covered today. The BBC covers this - largely because it appears that soot is more important for global warming than realised earlier. Dr James Hansen and Larissa Nazarenko, (Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA, and Columbia University Earth Institute) suggest that trying to reduce the amount of soot produced would be easier than cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Concentrations of soot are often high over China and India, where coal and organic fuels are used domestically, and over Europe and North America, where the main source is diesel oil.1
You might be interested in Reactive Reports - a web-based Chemistry Magazine. Reactive Reports provides the chemistry community with "cutting edge reports of exciting developments in the world of the chemical sciences and related fields" and is written by David Bradley who is based at Cambridge in the UK.
The European Space Agency's Beagle 2 is approaching Mars for a landing (bouncy, but hopefully soft) on Christmas Day (will we hear "The Beagle has landed" !). Part of its mission is to look for chemical traces of life. One of the tests will be for methane in the martian atmosphere. Methane is a byproduct of life but will not last long in the Martian atmosphere, so a positive result would be interesting. Other experiments will determine C-12/C-13 ratios since a high value is indicative of life. Two NASA craft will follow on a month later.
Instructions for satellite:
All live transmissions are also carried free-to-air on Astra 2C at 19 degrees East, transponder 57, horizontal, (DVB-MPEG-2), frequency 10832 MHz, Symbol Rate 22000 MS/sec, FEC 5/6. The service name is ESA."
Well it's Christmas so here are a few Christmasy chemistry links.