Category Archives: chemistry

Ice and "complex organic materials" on Mercury’s poles

This is one of those perplexing astronomical news that make history and I can’t but mention. US scientists have found, with the help of scout satellite MESSENGER,  that not just suspected Mercury’s polar water ice (in shadowed craters) is indeed that but also that confusing dark regions around it are complex organic materials, possibly darkened by the intense solar radiation that bathes the small inner planet. 

The team found that the probe’s reflectance measurements, taken via laser altimetry, matched up well with previously mapped radar-bright regions in Mercury’s high northern latitudes. Two craters in particular were bright, both in radar and at laser wavelengths, indicating the possible presence of reflective ice. However, just south of these craters, others appeared dark with laser altimetry, but bright in radar.

This confused scientists for a while but eventually they realized that the puzzling regions actually hold water ice at a meter’s depth into the soil, where the heat of the sun can’t reach so easily. 
Radar-reflectant regions (ice) show in yellow
The most interesting part however is that the astronomers are almost certain now that the dark material must be complex organic matter, darkened by the extreme solar radiation.
Is there life in Mercury? 
Source: Science Daily.
Ref studies: 
  1. David A. Paige, Matthew A. Siegler, John K. Harmon, Gregory A. Neumann, Erwan M. Mazarico, David E. Smith, Maria T. Zuber, Ellen Harju, Mona L. Delitsky, and Sean C. Solomon. Thermal Stability of Volatiles in the North Polar Region of Mercury. Science, 29 November 2012 DOI: 10.1126/science.1231106
  2. Gregory A. Neumann, John F. Cavanaugh, Xiaoli Sun, Erwan M. Mazarico, David E. Smith, Maria T. Zuber, Dandan Mao, David A. Paige, Sean C. Solomon, Carolyn M. Ernst, and Olivier S. Barnouin. Bright and Dark Polar Deposits on Mercury: Evidence for Surface Volatiles. Science, 29 November 2012 DOI: 10.1126/science.1229764

Posted by on November 30, 2012 in astronomy, biology, chemistry, science, Solar System


Alexander Shulgin, 85, hospitalized with a stroke. Donations and volunteers asked to preserve his work

Ann and Alexander Shulgin
I just learned via Psychedelic Research that one of the greatest researchers in psychoactive drugs, Alexander Shulgin, 85, has been hospitalized with a stroke. He was surgically intervened two years ago to replace a defective aortic valve and, given his age, he may leave us at any moment. 
Shulgin, a Ph. D. Biochemist, has made extensive research in synthesis drugs such the widely known ecstasy, which he intended to use for the treatment of depression and other psychological disorders.
In 1994 he saw his laboratory raided by the DEA after he published PHiKAL, a chemical love story
The drug knowledge vault, Erowid, is now asking for volunteers (for transcriptions and image enhancement) and donations in order to help preserve his legacy. You can donate here (either to Erowid or directly to the Shulgins) and you can volunteer your services here.
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Posted by on November 18, 2010 in chemistry, drugs, mind, psychology