Van Vleck, "Theory of the microwave Zeeman effect in atomic oxygen
," Physical Review, vol.
Although scientists believe atomic oxygen
makes up 96 percent of the thin atmosphere in low-Earth orbit, Herrero is interested in measuring its density and determining more precisely its role in creating atmospheric drag, which can cause orbiting spacecraft to lose altitude prematurely and plunge to Earth.
The researchers placed the samples in a vacuum chamber and bombarded them with atomic oxygen
. They measured how well the samples reflected light before and after the cleaning.
These hydroxyl radicals will either react with impurities in the air to break them down or react at night with nitrogen dioxide to form nitric acid, which is either washed out of the atmosphere by rain or broken down by sunlight the next day into hydroxyl radicals, nitric oxide, and atomic oxygen
The Whiteshell Lab material will be in the shuttle's cargo bay and will be exposed to atomic oxygen
while in space.
The researchers took advantage of the highly reactive nature of atomic oxygen
. When a single atom of oxygen reacts with carbon compounds, it converts them to carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide gas.
The most startling evidence, Frank says, comes from Polar's unexpected observation of bright ultraviolet emission from atomic oxygen
in the trails, and from the detection of hydroxyl (OH) radicals produced by the breakup of water molecules exposed to sunlight.
dominates this part of the planet's atmosphere, just as it does regions above Earth in which many satellites orbit.
(a single atom of oxygen, instead of the more common O2 molecule) appears to be the antibacterial agent," according to plasma emission spectroscopy obtained during the experiments, she said.
Prior testing of polymers like Kapton had proven that the high atomic oxygen
(AO) flux, subjugation to charged particles, and solar radiation that occur in Earth's orbit harshly degraded the materials.