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Why Is Pluto Red Part 2

Ice Chemistry on Outer Solar System Bodies: Electron Radiolysis of N2-, CH4-, and Co-Containing Ices

SUMMARY: In “Why Is Pluto Red Part 1” scientists beamed gases with UV photons; in this sequel, scientists beamed the same ratio of gases (nitrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide at a ratio of 100:1:1) with electrons. It’s thought that because of the higher energy of the electrons compared to the UV photons, the triple bond in the nitrogen gas can be broken. The results of this experiment showed lots of organic compounds that were high in nitrogen such as glycolic acid and urea. There was also more amide groups found on the residue molecules compared to more carboxyl groups on the residue molecules from UV photons.

LESSON COMMENTS: Sequels in scientific journals are great for students to see 1) how experiments build on one another, 2) the same tools are used to identify products, and 3) the setup of the second experiment shows the importance of having only one dependent variable. The same concepts and topics in “Why Is Pluto Red Part 1” are also covered in this article.
Even for younger students learning about the scientific method or creating their own experiments for a science fair, “Why Is Pluto Red Part 1 and 2” can be explained in a simple way to illustrate the importance of dependent and independent variables in an experiment.

Materese, C. K., Cruikshank, D. P., Sandford, S. A., Imanaka, H., & Nuevo, M. (2015). Ice Chemistry On Outer Solar System Bodies: Electron Radiolysis Of N2-, Ch4-, And Co-Containing Ices. The Astrophysical Journal,812(2), 150. doi:10.1088/0004-637x/812/2/150