Friday, October 12, 2012

Mars Curiosity rover uncovers most unusual Martian rock yet

These graphs represent compositions indicated by 350 ChemCam spectra. NASA.

“ChemCam has seen unexpected observations,” said the instrument’s principal investigator, Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, in a press conference on the latest rover findings Thursday.

Specifically, Curiosity’s ChemCam found that the rock contained “a unique composition for each of the 14 points” examined, as NASA explained in a press release, shattering theories that the rock Jake would be homogenous. (Full Story)

What Martian rocks and applejack liquor have in common

14 laser shots in two groupings at two select areas of the football-sized rock, indicated in red. NASA.

The first rock that Curiosity’s science team chose for contact science on Mars has turned out to be an especially interesting one, researchers said during a press conference today.

The big rover arrived at "Jake Matijevic," a triangular hunk one foot wide, on September 20. Curiosity’s intention was to study the chemistry of this igneous rock for more clues about Mars’s history. Though sedimentary rocks are the best for estimating habitability, igneous rocks like Jake are "better behaved," according to Roger Weins of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, principal investigator for Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam). (Full Story)

Neutron research shapes drug design

The Protein Crystallography Station at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. LANL photo.

Researchers at Los Alamos NationalLaboratory have used neutron crystallography for the first time to determine the structure of a clinical drug in complex with its human target enzyme. Seeing the detailed structure of the bonded components provides insights into developing more effective drugs with fewer side effects for patients.

The atomic details of drug binding have been largely unknown due to the lack of key information on specific hydrogen atom positions and hydrogen bonding between the drug and its target enzyme. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in the Los Alamos Monitor

Synopsis: Peeking into Fukushima’s reactors

Schematic of a reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.  LANL image.

Workers at Fukushima Daiichi powerplant have come up with creative ideas to assess the conditions of the reactors damaged in the 2011 nuclear accident, sending balloons and robots to explore the highly radioactive environment.

Writing in Physical Review Letters, Konstantin Borozdin at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, and colleagues propose an alternative method that uses cosmic-ray muons, a part of natural backgroundradiation, to obtain a radiographic image of the reactor cores. (Full Story)

Top five threats to national security in the coming decade

Harshini Mukundan. LANL photo.

Information technology systems that could collect and coordinate the data and give public health officials a picture of where diseases are emerging is only one part of the problem.

The main issue is that the policies and procedures on how to do this have yet to be worked out.

Harshini Mukundan, a scientist in the chemical division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said diseases emerge in food, humans and animals. “They are all interconnected and having separate agencies monitoring each [one] defeats the cause,” she added. (Full Story)

Abq startup could open fuel-cell floodgates

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Gang Wu, left, and Piotr Zelenay examine a new non-precious-metal catalyst. LANL photo.

Pajarito Powder LLC technology is based on breakthroughs at the UNM, Michigan State and Los Alamos National Laboratory. All three have developed non-platinum catalysts that include polymer and metals, such as iron and cobalt, to initiate the chemical reactions that make hydrogen fuel cells work.

The cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. Platinum, or Pajarito’s alternative catalyst materials, cause oxygen to separate into single molecules, creating a negative charge. The materials also break down the hydrogen, freeing up electrons and creating a positive charge. (Full Story)

Coming drought may ruin region's forests

A dead piñon pine in northern NM.  LANL image.

A. Park Williams and colleagues from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey and several tree-ring laboratories developed a new tool for predicting megadroughts called the Forest Drought Stress Index. The scientists combined tree-ring data, temperature and precipitation records, and other climate records to build the tool for predicting the impact of long hot, dry spells on forests. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in the Western Farm Press

NASA’S Swift satellite discovers a new black hole in our galaxy

Swift J1745-26, with a scale of the moon as it would appear in the field of view from Earth. NASA Goddard.

NASA’s Swift satellite recently detected a rising tide of high-energy X-rays from a source toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The outburst, produced by a rare X-ray nova, announced the presence of a previously unknown stellar-mass black hole. Swift is operated in collaboration with Penn State, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Orbital Sciences Corp. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in Florida Weekly

NNMC honors LANL’s Marquez

Richard Marquez.  LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Executive Director Richard Marquez is the namesake for a new leadership andservice award at Northern New Mexico College in Española.

“I am honored and humbled by this recognition from Northern New Mexico College,” Marquez said. “I have been fortunate with regard to my education and career with opportunities and mentors." (Full Story)

Los Alamos ChemCam team update Oct. 2012

 Members of the Los Alamos National Laboratory ChemCam team re-live their experiences during the entry, descent, and landing phase of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, including never-before-seen video from the Science Team viewing area. Then the team updates the Curiosity rover mission with the first laser firing of the ChemCam instrument and follow-on laser firings and first data acquisition details. (See the video here -- or click on the picture)

Couple's college dream in the making

Los Alamos National Laboratory intern Santana García-Chang, left, discusses a drainage project with mentor Debbie Apodaca Pesiri. LANL photo.

They are both first in their families to pursue college degrees. García-Chang, who will receive $11,000 over four years from the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund, is determined. Rael, inspired by her drive, became one of the early winners of a Returning Student/Regional College Scholarship $1,000 award for people whose college careers have been interrupted. The scholarships are administered by the LANL Foundation, with funding from donations by LANL employees and a matching amount from Los Alamos National Security, LLC. (Full Story)

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