Astronomers on two research teams, including an astronomer at Penn State, have demonstrated the power of a new technique to determine the chemical composition of the atmospheres of planets far outside our solar system. Using the technique -- called narrow-band transit spectrophotometry -- the teams discovered the element potassium in the atmospheres of giant planets similar in size to Jupiter.
The Earth and Mineral Sciences Library will kick off its fall film series in September with a lineup of titles on a wide range of environmental issues and related topics. All videos will be shown 12:15 p.m. Wednesdays in the Earth and Mineral Sciences Library, 105 Deike Building, University Park.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are lower above the Atlantic Ocean than scientists would expect, based on the amount of CO2 released by power plants, vehicles, and industry in the United States. Since the prevailing winds blow from west to east across North America, our continent seemingly acts as a "carbon sink"—a place where CO2, a greenhouse gas increasing worldwide, is scrubbed from the atmosphere.
"It is practically impossible to find an element of commerce that is not connected to weather and climate, whether it's the production of winter coats or the sale of ice cream cones," said Eric Barron in the sixth of this year's Lectures on the Frontiers of Science. Likewise, weather affects transportation, agriculture, and defense, even how well we preserve ecosystems like the Everglades.
Pennsylvania grew 355 million pounds of button mushrooms—$274 million worth—during 1994-95, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
But many mushrooms became brown and spotted before making it to the soup pots and salad bowls of American homes. Those unsightly mushrooms headed to the cannery—resulting in lost profit for growers and less produce for consumers.
Instead of traveling to Antarctica to study the ozone hole, why not bring Antarctica to Central Pennsylvania?
Penn State graduate students Ed Mereand, Ron MacTaylor, and John Gilligan do something like that every day, recreating the Antarctic atmosphere in the comfort of A. Welford Castleman's chemistry lab.
They can't talk. They're not measurably intelligent. They can't even move on their own. Yet Katherine Freeman of Penn State University's geosciences department has been learning something from common marine algae.
"We're trying to look back in time," says Freeman, "to see if the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was higher when the temperature was higher." By understanding Earth's ancient atmosphere, scientists hope to predict the consequences of modern-day greenhouse gas emissions.