The molecule that can recycle itself •

Last update: November 16th, 2019 at 11:00 am

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory shows the global distribution of a molecule called the hydroxyl (OH) radical. This highly reactive molecule acts like a detergent as it sweeps through the air, breaking down other gases such as methane.

The map in the image is based on a model by atmospheric chemist Julie Nicely of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and shows the global production of OH on July 1, 2000.

“OH concentrations are pretty stable over time,” said Nicely. “When OH reacts with methane, it does not necessarily go away, especially in the presence of nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2). The breakdown products from the reaction with methane then react with NO or NO2 to reform OH again. So OH can recycle back into the atmosphere.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory


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