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LANL top science news of year

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First of a series

During 2012, Los Alamos National Laboratory made its scientific mark in a variety of areas, and the stories that caught the public’s attention and that of the science community reflect the lab’s broad capabilities.

Top science stories for the year traveled from the canyons of Mars to the high desert forests of New Mexico, from cosmic particles to the structure of proteins and enzymes. Computer models of wildfires and nuclear magnetic resonance signatures of plutonium, and it was fascinating for those following Los Alamos’ science news.

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover and ChemCam

Los Alamos played a role in the success of the Mars Science Laboratory mission and its six-wheeled wonder, the Curiosity rover. The international team of space explorers involved with the mission is relying in part on an instrument originally developed at Los Alamos called ChemCam, which fires an extremely powerful laser pulse to briefly focus the energy of a million light bulbs onto a pinhead-sized area on targets up to 23-feet away from the rover. ChemCam reads the resultant flash of light to determine the composition of the target, and is part of a suite of 10 instruments aboard the SUV-sized mobile laboratory that is determining the Red Planet habitability.


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