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Astronomy and Astrophysics

Researchers cook up distant bodies' atmospheres 'in a bottle' at Hopkins lab

Researchers cook up distant bodies' atmospheres 'in a bottle' at Hopkins lab

If Sarah Hörst could travel to Saturn's largest moon to study its atmosphere, she would. Instead, she brought Titan's gases and dust to her Johns Hopkins University lab.

In a metal canister about the size of a shoe box, Hörst and her team of graduate student researchers created "an atmosphere in a bottle." A series of tubes pump in gases like those they believe might be found on a distant body, heat them or cool them to the proper temperature and zap them with an electric charge that acts like a burst of charged particles from a star like the sun.

The results, after a series of chemical reactions too complex for them to reliably predict on paper, can be...

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