Skip to main content

I didn't feel comfortable saying fart in the title, but in the spirit of Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, I really wanted to. The fact is, though that NASA scientists are very interested in the passing of gas, between the surface of Mars and the atmosphere, specifically the same methane gas mainly comprising the aforesaid flatulence as experienced by humans. The investigation and the instruments used, known as the Sample Analysis at Mars apparatus, or SAM are explained in detail in this NASA video.

Here are some highlights from the narration (all transcription errors mine) and I put a complete transcript out in the tall grass.

With our QMS (Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer) we are able to detect the most dominant gas in the Martian atmosphere, carbon dioxide. We've not only measured its abundance and its ratio to other gasses in the Martian atmosphere, but we've also measured its isotopic character.

SNIP

Now, the Tunable Laser Spectrometer has a special role for SAM in that it can very sensitively detect the organic molecule, methane, which has been observed from the Earth telescopically, and also by the Mars Express Orbiter, at very very low limits in the Martian atmosphere. We're trying to discover whether or not we can see this molecule from the Martian surface and if it has any variation from season to season.

The quality, abundance, breadth and accuracy of the measurements possible using the tools of the Mars Science Laboratory are unprecedented in planetary exploration to date.

For all of my Mars diaries and all things Mars on Daily Kos go to Kossacks on Mars.

I'm Pam Conrad, Depuby Principal Investigator of the SAM instrument suite on Mars Science Laboratory, and this is your Curiosity Rover Update. +

While our robotic explorer has been busy characterizing the surface of Mars, The SAM team has also been busy, but we've been looking at something invisible, the Martian atmosphere.

SAM, or Sample Analysis at Mars, is not one instrument but three, all of which are designed to work together to chemically characterize Mars. SAM measures chemical elements in molecules in a mass or size range of between two and five hundred thirty-five mass units and we do this by looking at gasses. We can bake solid samples until they give up their volatile components or their gasses, or we can directly inhale the Martian atmosphere through our inlet ports. With our QMS (Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer) we are able to detect the most dominant gas in the Martian atmosphere, carbon dioxide. We've not only measured its abundance and its ratio to other gasses in the Martian atmosphere, but we've also measured its isotopic character.

The other instruments are the tunable laser spectrometer and the gas chromatograph, the latter being mostly used to look for organic molecules in solids. Now, the Tunable Laser Spectrometer has a special role for SAM in that it can very sensitively detect the organic molecule, methane, which has been observed from the Earth telescopically, and also by the Mars Express Orbiter, at very very low limits in the Martian atmosphere. We're trying to discover whether or not we can see this molecule from the Martian surface and if it has any variation from season to season.

In the coming months, where ever Curiosity goes, SAM will continue to sniff the Martian atmosphere periodically looking for changes on a seasonal, maybe even diurnal basis, and that will tell us something about the nature of the exchange between the surface and the atmosphere.

This has been your Curiosity Rover Update. Check back for more.

 

Originally posted to Kossacks on Mars on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 01:50 PM PST.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  they didn't find any methane (8+ / 0-)

    which just deepens the mystery for me, because it's been detected before.

    pseudoscience can kill

    by terrypinder on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 02:11:45 PM PST

  •  Tipped and rec'd for admirable restraint and (8+ / 0-)

    and good taste; and for providing a good example to others.

    I didn't feel comfortable saying fart in the title, but in the spirit of Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, I really wanted to
    (Aw shucks, LeftOFYou since I don't know you well enough to have a little bit of fun and tease you about being such a refined person, I feel obligated to but this genteel and friendly snark alert here rather than way at the bottom where I will tell you about a 3 paragraph obscene rant one of our Front-Pagers wrote six years ago that was so profane and amazing, reports of it made the front-page of the Wall Street Journal. So until then please pretend to read this as if you don't know I'm pretending while I write the following in total apparent sincerity. :-) )

    I applaud your sensitivity with regard fragile sensibilities of some of our more refined progressives and Democrats who might be distressed, or even shocked to accidentally read such rude and crude expressions right at the top of their recent diaries list, without warning.  

    As Daily Kos expands into the 600,000 UID and becomes more mainstream, we all need to be ever vigilante for these kinds of issues in our increasingly diverse cultural mileu.  

    Perhaps, "methane-based planetary emissions" would be preferable to the still somewhat bold "flat----ce?"

    *************

    So I mean this in good nature fun LeftOfYYou and really tipped and rec's your great post, with the bonus embedded video because I pretty much support all Curiousity, space, NASA, and science post, and most upbeat posts I read by anyone of goodwill, as long as it does not embroil me in accidental controversy.

    But just to illustrate how much our culture has changed from the wild west day, and why it occurred to me to tease you about your "delicate sensitivity," and what I found funny about you hesitating to use the word "fart" in the title.  

    But, I found your "refinement" to be either a really funny satirical intentional inside joke, or an adorably innocent inclination to goodness depending on how much an what  kind of intentionality motivated it.  Either way, bravo!  

    To the best of my imperfect memory, of something they may have had a deeper history because I think this may have been just before I joined, one of the most popular writers here, who may even have been a front pager,  was a constant font of foul and ugly language.

    And if you were new, as I was, and made a complement to him he'd hostilely flame you off accusing you of being a  "suck-up!" or say\ something like "F--- O-- sychophant," which seemed to endear him ever more to the several hundred followers he had here.  They adored him and he'd get 200 tips or recs every time he wrote anything, or even passed "g-s" - or dare I say "gas."  Dang, I should have said "pompous-based emissions."  

    Yes, he was intelligent and entertaining, but one time got so angry about something the right-wing zealot did, or something, he wrote what I think was a front page column, with included 3 paragraphs of obscenities so profane that half the word were not even in the American Dictionary of Slang, and in which he threatened to do such profane things to a pile of mud that they would not only be biological impossible, but to the extent  someone attempted to actual do, they could be arrested under the sodomy law just thrown out by the Supreme Court in 30 states.

    But, it was so shocking, the Wall Street Journal used it as an example in a front-page story asking if the new internet based blogsite's represented such an erosion of western civilization that future generations may be forever lost.  

    I don't want to mention his name because I think he may have been banned and recently returned "rehabilitated," but don't want to get the wrong name.  

    But, sometimes I do miss the old days. Even I used to be a pretty wild and wooly character who never used a spell checker for comments and sometimes even posts, despite having a learning disability about spelling. Being the hard-core rebel I was,, I said "down with the oppressive and stifling oppression of the dominant cultural standards! And, even more for the arrogant condescension of high-brow, martinet,  prigs trying to make us conform to elitist normative straight-jackets of traditionalist spelling and punctuation standards!!! "  
    (See I've reverted to violating the Elements of Style by using 3 exclamation marks just from the electric excitement of the memories.)

    Oh, and you better believe what a wild place it was back in those days.  One could wake up at 4 in the afternoon and discover load of titles done in all caps, and bolded with numerous profane words, dubious punctuation, and excess exclamation marks all in the same title!

    Sometimes I miss the "good ole days."

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 02:48:10 PM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site