A Tiny Contributor to a Major Problem

We used to believe melting ice was but an effect of rising temperatures caused by global warming. But, it seems that melting ice has unearthed another contributor further snowballing this problem.

   Phytoplankton are small, single celled organisms that use photosynthesis to create energy. Yet, though they are small, their impact is becoming quite large.

Fig. 1 An image of Phytoplankton

As the arctic ice continues to melt each year, more ocean space becomes open and available for these plankton. Increased light, nutrients, and ocean temperature only stimulate their growth. As they grow in population, their heat grows as well, causing an already warming planet to warm even faster. This problem is complementary to what researchers call the “ice-albedo effect”. As more white, reflective ice melts, more dark, absorbing ocean is unveiled.

Fig. 2 “A comparison of March (left) and September (right) sea ice extent between 1979 (white plus blue) and 2014 (white).”

While light surfaces like ice have a high albedo, and reflect short wave radiation back up to space, cooling the earth, dark surfaces like the ocean have a low albedo, and absorb these short waves of radiation. In turn, the radiation is released in the long wave form of heat, which gets trapped by greenhouse gases accumulating in the troposphere layer of the atmosphere, and sent back down to earth.

Fig. 3 The Greenhouse Effect

Fig. 4 The Albedo Effect

The plankton, (filling) the top layer of the ocean, only further absorb heat and amplify this problem. Greater ocean area, combined with the growing plankton population, could amplify global warming by about 20%.

This new problem, adding to the current trouble of Global warming, make me worry. If a small creature like a phytoplankton can have such a big effect, what other small plants or animals are influencing global warming, and speeding up the affair? There is always talk about humanity’s exponentially expanding amount of carbon emissions. But what if there are even more natural processes that also should be taken into account? And what if they can be stopped, or impeded? If humans cannot be easily stopped, it it our task to find what can be, before greenhouse gases become out of control.

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Wireless Energy Transmissions: Making the Seemingly Impossible Possible

 In 1901, Nikola Tesla began the creation of the Wardenclyffe, a “power tower”, foreseen to one day be able transfer energy wirelessly in all directions around it. But, soon after this project had begun it was scrapped, and the tower with it, due to low funding and lack of investors.

Fig. 1 Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower

One hundred and fourteen years later, scientists have finally taken Tesla’s work to the next step, and have succeeded in transmitting energy wirelessly. JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or the Japanese equivalent of NASA) has harnessed the power of microwaves, directed this power at pinpoint accuracy at a small target, and delivered 1.9 kilowatts of power 55 meters away for the very first time, no wires attached. Scientists aim to use this technology for the generation of solar power in outer space. But 55 meters is miniscule compared to the 22,300 miles away that scientists aim to place these solar stations. Yet, this could be a major breakthrough in renewable energy: humans may one day be able to harness a virtually undisturbable, inexhaustible source of energy. In space, there is never a time of day or type of weather that is unfit for the capture of solar rays. And we still have billion years, give or take a few, until our sun begins to die. 

Fig 2. What the solar panels in space may end up looking like

Technology like this has existed previous, but in different forms. First of all, typically, energy, or in it’s usable form, electricity, is transmitted via power or distribution lines or wires. In addition to wired transfer, there are also two different types of wireless energy transmission: near-field or non radiative, and far-field or radiative. Near-field is somewhat newly conventionalized, but nonetheless relatively commonly used for charging devices, such as phones, electric toothbrushes, and cardiac pacemakers. You may have see this method in your local technology store as a mat that you can place your phone on to wirelessly charge.

Fig. 3 An example of near-field non-radiative technology: the wireless charging mat

The type of wireless energy conveyance that JAXA has just now harnessed is far-field, or radiative transmission. Also known as “power beaming”, radiative transmission occurs via beams of electromagnetic radiation, such as microwaves or laser beams. The solar space stations would use the microwave technique to beam precisely pinpointed streams of energy down to earth.

Fig. 4 Another idea of what the wireless space solar panels may look like

Though inexhaustible radiative wireless energy seems to be faultless, as with any new innovation there are challenges as well as possible flaws. How will JAXA move this gigantic solar system into space? How will they choose to construct it? Maintain it? I assume that this process of but moving from the earth into space, and position will take years. And, what will it look like from earth? Will we be able to see it?

Will it be efficient, more so than existing solar panels? Though they will certainly generate a massive increase in amount, I hypothesize that there will be energy lost along the way, as 22,300 miles is an extremely long distance. And if the beam is concentrated and powered high enough not to be inefficient, what will become of the people, animals or objects that get in it’s way? After reading comments on what informed readers believe will occur, I have come to the conclusion that, because this beam will be incredibly hot, it could cook or vaporize anything in it’s way. Though a JAXA spokesman has said that this beam will not fry a bird or airplane in it’s path due to low-energy density, it is hard to make solid conclusions when this method has only been tested in the range of 55 meters and not yet an exponentially larger scale.

Fig. 5 A third layout of how these panels may be aligned, and how they function

The station itself is bound to cost millions, if not billions of dollars, which will either drive taxes or the cost of energy itself up. In addition, JAXA has been working on this Space Solar Power Systems idea for years, and has only made it to the first, vital step: transmission itself, and for only a short distance. A representative from the Agency has stated that it could take decades before the practical application of the technology becomes a reality. News providers and science enthusiasts have speculated no earlier than the year 2030 or 40.

Fig. 6 A group of JAXA Scientists

Though wirelessly transmitted energy will not be an innovation of the near future, I believe that when the Space Solar Power System is implemented, and the method is working, that it will change the way we think of energy altogether. In fifteen years, nonrenewable resources will begin to dwindle. There will be unrest, and slowly our beautiful earth will begin to be saturated with turbines and panels, streaking across the landscape. An alternate option will be desired, if not necessary. And what better option than putting these energy collectors outside of our world entirely, and making them infinite? It is unavoidable to state that wireless solar space energy could very well be our future. And if so, it will certainly be a bright one.

Bringing Beauty back into Green

It is projected that by 2088, the world will run out of fossil fuels. We could even deplete our oil by 2040, or our natural gas by 2060. This may seem inconceivable, but taking into account the rate that we are guzzling energy, and the fact that this rate is constantly increasing may means that our lights will go out too soon. But do not fear! Renewable energy is forthcoming. There will never be a day when the sun is not shining, or the wind is not blowing, or at least, not in the near, foreseeable future. Renewable energy has minute if any emissions that contribute to global warming, improves public health and the environment, and is inexhaustible. Yet today, the world still uses 81% fossil fuels, with 34% oil, 21% natural gas, and 26% coal/peat. All the renewable energy used in the entire world is less than even one of these resources, at only 13% usage. The advantages of using renewable resources are many, and for a better future, a change needs to be made. So why is it that we still use so much nonrenewable energy?

The world's energy consumption by resource

Fig. 1: The world’s energy consumption by resource

     There are multiple reasons. First, these innovations are pricey. The average home solar system costs a little over $10,000. It’s hard to justify the installation of solar panels, which includes paperwork, construction, and a whole load of hassle, to lower your energy bill in the long run, when you oil bill is already only a few hundred dollars per month. The other downside to renewable energy is that it can be an eyesore. There have been countless complaints from angry citizens who believe that wind turbines have ruined their community’s scenic landscapes.  One man commented his on experience with the installation of turbines, stating “One of the most troublesome problems with the proliferation of industrial wind projects in Maine is their encroachment on the “treasures” of the state that we have purchased to protect for future generations. […] We have leveraged with these funds millions of dollars more from other sources to preserve places like the Mahoosuc Range, Rumford Whitecap, Bald & Speckled Mt, Tumbledown & Jackson Mt., and Schoodic Mt.  All these wonderful places are being surrounded by wind turbines.”

Fig. 2: Wind turbines on a scenic landscape

This problem with wind turbines is even plaguing Scotland, with the Daily Mail reporting that “They are famous Scottish landmarks which have withstood wars, weather and centuries of change – but they could not escape the Scottish Government’s green agenda.”  And I agree: these turbines placed around beautiful mountain ranges, historic sites, and rolling hills are certainly an ugly blot on the landscape.

Fig. 3: The Daily mail comments “The View? Gone with the Wind”

Fig. 4: There are even plans of building turbines “taller than the London eye” surrounding Loch Ness

This leads people to despise the idea of renewable energy. Eventually, the turbines will be disposed of due to unhappiness of the people. This only digs the world deeper into the hole it’s already dug much into: we need renewable energy to be used more, yet it’s becoming disliked, so it’s not. But a new option is emerging, something that blows all other ideas for clean energy implementation out of the water. What if, instead of attacking the world’s energy problem with boring, ugly white turbines, or a black, brooding expanse of solar panels, people were to approach this problem from a different angle? Instead of only productivity, why not combine productivity and beauty to create an efficient masterpiece?

 Yes, there is a solution!

Innovative companies are turning ugly wind turbines into something beautiful. They are, in essence, taking the meaning of the word “green” literally. The first of these companies is NewWind, based in France. NewWind has created an artificial Wind Tree, which uses tiny leaf-shaped turbines to harness the power of the wind. They can utilize anything from the smallest breeze to a giant gust of wind. They are completely silent, as well as modern, sleek, and pleasant to view.

Fig. 5: French people observing the Wind Tree

They produce 3.1 kwh of energy.  Though they are not quite as efficient as your typical turbines, which produce anywhere between 5-10 kwh or more, nonetheless, they have been praised and lauded by countless websites and magazines. They are currently are being used in Brittany, France and are set to be installed at the Place de la Concorde in Paris in March, 2015. In my opinion, they are most certainly energy made beautiful.

Vid. 1: Above is a short video showing the Wind Trees in action

Another emerging invention is the Power Flower created by NL Architects.  The biggest advantage of this power flower is that it minimizes space needed to function. Instead of a huge turbine, it’s a thin, lean build that utilizes vertical turbines for maximum space-saving.

Fig. 6: Wind turbines in comparison to Power Flowers

Just like the Wind Tree, it is basically silent and can absorb wind that blows form any direction. Though there are many plans for the Power Flowers to become domestic energy solutions, there have not been many installed just yet. But, the plans look incredibly promising. This is yet another example of a minimalistic, clean, attractive build that will certainly be admired by customers.

Fig. 7: A plan showing how the Power Flowers could be seamlessly integrated into the landscape.

Lastly, the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is an example of an already functioning innovation that has smoothly merged into Singaporean culture. There are many words to describe the Gardens by the Bay, but the first that come to mind are awe-inspiring, breathtaking, and incredible. They are unbelievable feats of architecture, and look like they have popped out of a futuristic movie. They do not make people turn away, but rather, are an attraction that draw citizens and tourists alike near.

Fig 8: A beautiful shot of the Gardens by the Bay

But these Gardens are more than beautiful. As well as spectacular, they are also incredibly efficient. The trees are layered in solar panels, act as cooling ducts for nearby conservatories, collect rainwater, and de-humidify air before this cooling.

Fig 9: The Trees up close

Singapore is filled with high rises, skyscrapers, and a dense city landscape. Their initiative should be one that is followed by cities around the world: to transform their community into a greener place, both physically and energy-wise.

The world is transforming into a viridescent place, and a more beautiful one, too. I believe these three projects, the Wind Trees, Power Flowers, and Gardens by the Bay, will motivate people to become more excited about energy efficiency, rather than despising of it. They will look forward to the beautiful installations, and benefit from the clean energy that they produce. It was once believed that the stark white wind turbine, or black expanse of solar panels was the future, but I believe that real future is the combination of beautiful architecture and renewable energy.

From Wind to Walking: New Innovative Ways to Harness Energy

Change is all around if you look for it. Today, it seems to the regular citizen that energy innovation has been at a standstill, with the fossil fuels coal, petroleum, and natural gas still making up 81% of the world’s resources used to create energy, and 84% of the United States’.

The World’s Energy Usage by Resource

The USA's Energy Usage by Resource

The USA’s Energy Usage by Resource

Though one may know that solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable resources are much more efficient, they are still not yet commonly found in the general neighborhood. Upon reviewing the NRDC’s Renewable Energy for America Map , I observed that though the United states has much potential for using renewable energy resources, there is a notable deficiency. Only roughly 70% of the country uses wind turbine facilities, along with less than 50% using solar energy. There are many factors that influence this shortage, such as cost, convenience, and appearance.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 10.40.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 10.40.40 PM

But do not fear, environmentally conscious citizen! There are most certainly plans for a greener future. This same map shows planned growth of amount of facilities. And expanding, bright minds are looking to go beyond just photovoltaic solar panels and towering wind turbines. Just as we students are trying to lessen our school’s environmental impact, intelligent minds around the world are creating fascinating innovations, that, if they are to succeed, will vastly lessen the energy impact of not just the United States, but the world.

There are few things that a typical person can say that they do each and every day. There’s our routine, whether it be going to school, brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast. But there’s also the innate: breathing, blinking, and walking. Walking holds kinetic energy that begs to be harvested, and a researcher by the name of Laurence Kemball-Cook has found a way to do just that. People walk up to 150 million footsteps in their lifetime, and he and his company Pavegen have found a way to turn these steps into electricity. Tiles, created from organic materials and easy to install, are planted into the floor. To harness the energy of a footfall, they have a slight, unnoticable give when stepped on. These steps can generate up to 7 watts of energy!

Pavegen works best in places with lots of consistent movement: schools, train stations, and  recently, soccer stadiums. The company has just created a stadium fitted with Pavegen tiles that can fully power itself. This is a major innovation, as it is situated in Brazil, a location where there can be frequent blackouts. However, there are even more ways to harvest energy with only movement. A short time ago, EPGL medical created a contact lense powered by blinking. This power is then used to give medical or any other information to the user.

I believe that these innovations, especially that of Pavegen, will be soon implemented into the world around us. The tiles are cheap, easy, and effective. I certainly hope that they come over from their birthplace in the UK and surrounding regions into the USA, as they have the potential for one small step from a man to one day power the energy for mankind.

Wind energy is another renewable resource with major potential. In a prime wind-filled location, it can generate much power with little environmental detriment. But with positives come negatives. Wind turbines are generally disliked by the general citizen, as they can be an eyesore on the landscape. Rolling treeless hills may be a windy location, but if there are surrounding properties and homes, these people are often not pleased when their view is scarred by technology.

Another problem comes from efficiency. Wind turbines are not active one hundred percent of the time, as it is not windy at all hours. Trying to attack these problems, Altaeros Energies in Boston is working to change the ways we harness wind energy forever. They have created the “BAT”, a sort of balloon turbine that floats up to one thousand to two thousand feet in the air.

This turbine can utilize eight times as much energy as ones on the ground, using stronger, more consistent high altitude winds. They wouldn’t be deployed in heavily populated areas, therefore reducing human and wildlife impact, but instead rural communities, off grid companies, and areas of disaster relief. They would be less noticeable the their counterpart, as well as more cost effective. This is a huge jump in the development of wind harnessing technologies. One can only wait to see if this method spreads, as it definitely seems like a breakthrough in the way that humans can gather their energy.

The future of renewable resources is bright. Every day scientists are working furiously to improve and enhance the ways that we get our energy. Whether it be by wind or humans themselves, power can be found anywhere, if one is willing to look for it. Hopefully, as the world turns greener, one day you’ll be able to stride across Pavegen tiles and squint to see a far off BAT on the horizon.

If you’d like some further information about Pavegen, here’s a Ted Talk: http://vimeo.com/44078683

LEEDing the Way to a Greener World

I stumbled upon LEED while working on the Energy Challenge project in our Environmental Science class. While discussing ways to make buildings, such as our own school, more energy efficient, a classmate brought up the concept of LEED. She mentioned how a school down the street had become “LEED-certified,” making their newly built dorms incredibly environmentally friendly. At first I was puzzled. Based on this explanation, I thought of LEED as just a label, directly meaning clean and energy efficient. But after delving into some research, I discovered that it’s more than that. LEED is a carefully crafted movement designed to inspire businesses, schools, and others to “save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy”.

Figure 1: This colorful and eye-catching LEED logo is one of the many ways that the USGBC is attracting businesses, schools, and others to become more energy efficient.

Figure 1: This colorful and eye-catching LEED logo is one of the many ways that the USGBC is attracting businesses, schools, and others to become more energy efficient.

So what is LEED, actually? LEED, standing for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is an offset of the U. S. Green Building Council. This council was created in 1993 with a mission: to “promote sustainability in the building and construction industry”. And as this committee expanded, the purpose did too, as seven years later, the USGBC created a prestigious certification system to promote environmentally friendly buildings called LEED. LEED, most basically, is a point based rating system. As structures are being created, specific elements are given points for the design of the building itself, the building materials used, and the construction process. Examples of factors that are examined include “the energy envelope, the lighting, the daylighting, choosing non-toxic building materials, using recycled materials, protecting the landscape, plants, water collection and use“. Those who get the most points receive the greenest certification, the platinum award. In descending order, the next best awards include gold, silver, and simplify certified.

Figure 2

So why is LEED important? Having an energy efficient building is more than getting a shiny medal to put on you front desk, is it not? Well, yes, and no. There are cons to this procedure, and as always when combatting energy overuse is cost. First, registration is $1,200. Then, certification fees start at $2,750, but it only goes up from there. After my group for the Energy Challenge and I discussed St. Mark’s in relation to LEED with Mr. Warren, our headmaster, we discovered that large additions, renovations, and new building certifications can cost upwards of $20,000. St. Mark’s, while creating the new center, chose to adhere to LEED specifications but not become officially certified, believing that the money would be better spent elsewhere. As a student, this logic is virtually irrefutable. But as a business, there are major benefits to becoming LEED certified. The first would be the press. Corporations, schools, and homes may seem more desirable if they are more energy efficient, green and environmentally friendly. Secondly, in the long term, they are cheaper to sustain. As quoted from the USGBC website, “LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate, reducing energy and water bills by as much as 40%,”. And people are not shying away. Just this week, Mission College of Santa Clara, California earned a gold certification for it’s new Wilmor center’s features such as a “geothermal system that uses the ground as its heating and cooling agent and solar panels, which will help offset one-third of the building’s power consumption,” as well as “water-efficient landscaping, use of certified wood, efficient lighting controls and use of low-emitting materials“. Office buildings in New York City have set goals to have more green features, and just this past summer 8 West 44th Street received a gold certification. And it’s not just the United States that is part of this movement. Looking at figure 3 below, one can observe that countries around the world have become home to LEED certified buildings. With each day, the world takes a step towards becoming a greener place. Though there are both pros and cons to this LEED, I believe that if more people were to follow their guidelines, there would be major improvements efficiency wise. Though progress will certainly not be immediate, I am sure that LEED is leading the world to become a more environmentally place.

Figure 3: An infographic detailing the spread of LEED throughout the world, and it’s magnitude.

Long Island’s Nitrogen Downfall

The earth carries out it’s cycles day by day without us even realizing. It revolves around it’s axis each day, concurrently revolving around the sun each year. It rains, the sky clears, it rains again. The earth seems to do what it pleases, without any respect to the measly human being. But we as a race have more power than we realize. Our actions change this earth, not always for the better.


fig. 1 Montaulk is an example of a beautiful beach in Long Island

Long Island is a beautiful region of the United States, popular for it’s breath taking beaches and serene oceanside environment. For years, tourists have flocked the sandy seashore, and fishermen have angled the plentiful amounts of crustaceans and aquatic creatures living underneath the surf for profit. But the seeming perfection of this environment has been shattered. New data and observations have shown that the Nitrogen levels of well known areas such as Westhampton Beach, Huntington Bay, Shinnecock and Flanders Bay have skyrocketed, forcing the oxygen levels toxically low. This increase in nitrogen has caused many sea creatures to either leave or die off. These aquatic animals need oxygen to survive. As the number of creatures in the area lowers, unrestrained algae takes over, turning oceans and bays an unsightly and unhealthy green.


fig. 2 In areas of countries like China, this algae increase has become extreme.

But why does this occur? The answer can be found in a lesser known, yet integral cycle of the earth: the nitrogen cycle. Nitrogen is required for life of all plants and animals. Without it, we could not survive. Seventy-eight percent of the atmosphere is made of nitrogen, as well as three percent of our own human body. Nitrogen can be found in proteins and nucleic acids, in other words, in foods, and in DNA. As you can now see, nitrogen, though invisible, is essential. But nitrogen in large amounts can be detrimental to our environment. Large amounts of nitrogen, in the form of pollution, have entered the Long Island waters by way of soil leaching and runoff. Leaching occurs when fertilizer added to the ground does not bind with the soil, due to the nitrate in the substance being negatively charged. Runoff includes that from the sewer and septic pipes.


fig. 3 The nitrogen cycle is a complex process, but is necessary to sustain life on earth.

Other polluting contributors include an outdated waste water system, the use of pesticides, and emissions from power plants and vehicles. As these factors add up over time, nitrogen levels heighten, oxygen levels decrease, and the sea creatures dissipate. But the fish and animals aren’t the only things to disappear. The increase in nitrogen affects more than just the wildlife. It can negatively affect the economy, as it is doing now in New York. Tourists are slowly disappearing, disliking the polluted water, that is steadily becoming greener with algae. The pristine, once picture-perfect beaches may soon be a thing of the past. The fishing industry suffers as well, as their copious supplies run low, and what animals that remain will be sickly and oxygen-deprived. The main economic frame of the area is bending and shifting, all due to too much nitrogen.


fig. 4 Seen in this image is an example of runoff. This runoff is coming directly from the sewers and has many negative affects on the environment.

It seems like there is not much that can be done. Big factories and corporations will not soon change their polluting ways, and nor will ordinary humans, most living their lives oblivious to the the existence of the nitrogen cycle and its importance. Though I usually try to see the bright side in situations, the future does not look promising for Long Island, and possibly other beaches around the country, and world. I believe that pollution, though promoted extensively in a negative light, will not decrease anytime soon. Fertilizers and pesticides are an everyday tools for farmers; they will not risk the health of their crops and cease to use these things. The world takes their white sand and blue rolling surf for granted, but if people do not soon learn of the nitrogen cycle, all will soon turn green… with algae.

How We See Mars is About to Change

On November 18th, 2013, a 670 million dollar spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Scientists rejoiced when it reached space successfully, and NASA enthusiasts were engaged for a short time, but as the shuttle disappeared into the void of space towards its destination, it also disappeared from the public eye.

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The launch of MAVEN (fig. 1)

But, ten months later, on September 21th 2014, it reached its destination: the orbit of Mars. This spacecraft, roughly the length of a school bus, is called MAVEN, or Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, with it’s primary task being to discover how and why Mars evolved into the red planet we see today. More specifically, scientists have described the mission as “the first mission devoted to studying the upper Martian atmosphere as a key to understanding the history of Mars’ climate, water and habitability,” (CNN).
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An artist’s representation of MAVEN orbiting Mars (fig. 2)

          But why research this? Don’t humans already know everything about the planets in our solar system? To answer this question we must first step back and examine our own world, the planet earth. Earth’s atmosphere is composed of five layers, the Troposphere, nitrogen, oxygen and water vapor rich, the Stratosphere, protecting us from the ultra violet rays of the sun, the Mesosphere, the Thermosphere, provider of the northern lights, and lastly, the most outer layer, the Exosphere, which gradually fades into space. Our atmosphere is very complex, as the combination of these layers together is what makes life on our planet possible. Mars has an atmosphere as well, but one much less complicated. It consists of four regions, the lower atmosphere, full of airborne dust, middle atmosphere, where the jet stream flows, and upper atmosphere, also known as thermosphere, the hottest region due to the heat of the sun, and lastly, the Exosphere, which is the same as that of Earths, where Mars’ atmosphere stops and slowly fades into the vacuum of space. The air on Mars consists of 95.3% carbon dioxide and 2.7% nitrogen, with the remaining 2% a combination of other gases. Mars’ atmosphere also is much, much less dense than that of Earth’s. But however thin it is, it exists, as if Mars did not have an atmosphere, pictures from the surface would show a black sky day and night, like the sky observed from Earth’s moon.
tumblr_mmis8vFv2q1qdvdz5o1_500

(fig. 3)

     As one can discern from this information, Mars’ atmosphere is not suitable for human, plant, or animal life. It contains no oxygen, vital for survival, and has an empty, barren surface, devoid of resources or any sort of vegetation. But what drove Scientists to send MAVEN to the red planet was that they believe Mars was not always this way. They hypothesize that billions of years ago, Mars used to look like earth, that it had running water, and forests. Instead of red, the surface was blue and green. They believe that years and years ago Mars’ atmosphere was much more dense, and could support water in its’ liquid form on the surface. Curiosity, a rover from NASA that is currently roaming the planet, has found frozen materials in rocks, and indications of water beneath the exterior surface, showing this hypothesis to be probably true. But over time this seemingly Earth-like atmosphere and environment was lost, due to dramatic climate change. So what happened? Theories include Mars losing gas to space (an encroaching exosphere) over time, the loss of magnetic field, or the sun slowly stripping the atmosphere away. But there have been no real conclusions, as there has never been enough information or evidence to make them. Until, possibly, now. My personal opinion on what I have discovered about MAVEN, first, is that it is fascinating how we, as humans, are still discovering information about our solar system. To answer my earlier question posed: there is still so much we don’t know. After learning about MAVEN, I am itching to know what NASA discovers, if anything. I am hoping the news stations will soon light up some time over this next year, excitedly announcing that NASA has discovered influential and vitally important information about Mars from the MAVEN mission! But we will just have to wait and see.

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What Scientists believe the surface of Mars used to look like (fig. 4)

       As MAVEN begin its one year year long research mission, it will sample the gas and ion composition of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Scientists know now that Mars’ atmosphere is cold and dry place where liquid water cannot exist in a stable state. They believe they know what it used to be like: teeming with green and blue. But soon they may discover what caused the transformation of this now, red, barren planet, and this could change the way we see our universe forever. The age old question “Will we ever be able to live on Mars?” may soon be one step closer to answered, all because of a change in atmosphere.

{Works Cited}

“Ask an Astronomer.” Cool Cosmos. Web. 01 Oct. 2014. <http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/ask/79-Does-Mars-have-an-atmosphere-&gt;.

“Atmosphere of Mars: Planet Mars Atmospheric Pressure, Layers & Sky.” Planet Facts. Web. 01 Oct. 2014. <http://planetfacts.org/the-atmosphere-of-mars/&gt;.

The Comparison of the Atmospheres of Earth and Mars. Digital image. Science Junkie. Oct. 2013. Web. 01 Oct. 2014. <http://science-junkie.tumblr.com/post/50042175706/atomstargazer-a-comparison-of-earths-and-mars#.VC39lC5dUgN&gt;.

Dunbar, Brian. “NASA – NASA Selects ‘MAVEN’ Mission to Study Mars Atmosphere.” NASA. NASA, 15 Sept. 2008. Web. 02 Oct. 2014. <http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/news/maven_20080915.html#.VC38MS5dUgN&gt;.

“The MAVEN Mission.” NASA. NASA. Web. 01 Oct. 2014. <http://www.nasa.gov/content/maven-launch/#.VC2IhS5dUgM&gt;.

“MAVEN.” NASA. NASA. Web. 01 Oct. 2014. <http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/maven/main/#.VCyNxi5dUgM&gt;.

Presto, Suzanne. “MAVEN Spacecraft Enters Mars Orbit to Explore Its Climate Change.” CNN. Cable News Network, 21 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/21/tech/mars-maven-spacecraft-orbit/index.html?iref=allsearch&gt;.