Small Rock-Type Stuff to Form Water Ice on the Red Body

What the heck am I talking about?  I decided to take on the Up-Goer Five Challenge of explaining my science using the top ten hundred most used words in the English language (hint:  “thousand” is not one of them).  So here I tackle a major component of my Ph.D. Thesis.  I cheat a tiny amount and use quotation marks to denote special terms (that is, words not in the top ten hundred list).  Enjoy, and try it for yourself here!

Small Rock-Type Stuff to Form Water Ice on the Red Body “Mars”

a.k.a. Chlorine-containing Salts as Water Ice Nucleating Particles on Mars

This paper looks at how water ice forms in the sky on the red body that is in space, called ‘Mars’. On ‘Mars’ and the body where we live, ‘Earth’, there is this small rock-type stuff that you add to most foods called ‘salt’ (not the sweet stuff).  There are many kinds of ‘salt’.  Ice can form in the air on ‘salt’ on ‘Earth’.  Water ice will form on whatever things where it most easily can form.  Earlier studies looked at how well water ice forms on other things in the air, like small pieces of rock called ‘dust’.   In this work, we try to form water ice on different types of things to see if it will form better on stuff like ‘dust’ or better on different types of ‘salt’.

We took a box and made it cold and light in air, like it is in the ‘Mars’ sky.  One type of ‘salt’ (called ‘sodium’ ‘perchlorate’), which is seen on the ground of ‘Mars’, is thought to cause wet water to happen on the ground of ‘Mars’ so many people are interested in it.  We found that the ‘salt’ ‘sodium’ ‘perchlorate’ made it easier to have water ice form in air that is like the sky of ‘Mars’.  It was easier to form water ice on this ‘salt’ than it was ‘dust’ (or the best type of ‘dust’ for forming water ice, ‘clay’ ‘dust’), which is what people who study ‘Mars’ think of as what helps form water ice in the sky of ‘Mars’.   If the ‘salt’ ‘sodium’ ‘perchlorate’ is in the sky of ‘Mars’, it may help more big water ice things (‘clouds’) form in the sky of ‘Mars’.



The New Moon– absolutely still in the picture

The New Moon: That was the title of Andy Chaikin’s public talk this week at the3rd annual Lunar Science Forum, held at NASA Ames Research Center and hosted by the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI).  He claims the title was not inspired by recent pop culture… phenomenon… but that is besides the point.

Some say NASA is abandoning the Moon.  The future of manned spaceflight is unclear right now, and many are experiencing losses of jobs, but I want to look at something else:  Who cares about the beauty of real scientific exploration?  Judging by participation in the Lunar Science Forum this year, I would say a lot of people.  Is the Moon ‘dead’?  A resounding NO, judging from the highest attendance yet for the meeting, the amazing science results, and the many young faces of the Next Generation of Lunar Scientists and Engineers interested in the Moon.  They are not going anywhere, and that message is loud and clear!

Forked impact melt. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

I guess I should give the disclaimer that I work at the NLSI 🙂 but also that I used to be a Mars person.  Mars is still exciting, of course, but  in the past few years the Moon really has become a whole new Moon, most obviously with the discovery of water in amounts different than expected (a simple statement with many scientific papers enveloped in it).

One of the highlights from the meeting for me was hearing that there are craters in the polar regions of the Moon that are estimated to have high levels of water available… less than 50 km from areas with near constant availability of sunlight.  All the recent science about the Moon greatly informs human exploration… and what is better than having science and exploration walk hand in hand?

If you want to know more about the lunar science shared at the Forum, go to; the talks will be posted there shortly.

In the meantime, keep dreaming about all the undiscovered secrets of the Moon:  lava tubes, pockets of water, and combining awesome LROC image data with mini-RF data (really really cool insights!)

And it is only fitting that the Lunar Science Forum is being followed up by aNewSpace Conference.  A New Moon indeed!

Cross-posted at