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Greetings Explore! Community

This newsletter is intended to highlight Earth and space science information and opportunities for informal educators. If you have events, resources, news, or activities to share, or would like to give us feedback, please contact us at

Calendar of Events


20 - 24
16 / 23/ 30
Explore! Ice Worlds Web Cast series. Pre-registration required


5 - 8
3 / 10 / 17
Explore! Ice Worlds Web Cast series. Pre-registration required


Spotlight On . . .

LRO at Kennedy Space Center

We'd like to welcome the 28 new trainers from Florida and Georgia who attended the Explore LRO workshop last week. As a part of the two-day workshop, participants joined a Web cast from Dr. Dave Everett about the LRO mission, had a tour of the Kennedy Space Center, visited the launch pads, and more!

Just wanted to say what a wonderful time Jean and I had at the workshop. It was organized very well, very interesting and educational, as well as fun. I can not say enough good things about it. The projects were very well thought out and the food was great too. The tour was also superb and we're very excited about the idea of attending a launch as VIPs. There was so much that we learned and everyone back at the library was envious of our good fortune. All the presenters were just wonderful and deserve bonuses. We look forward to future correspondences from you all.
Sincere thanks,
Linda Girouard

thank you
For the work that you did on this wonderful program.  My brain is racing with ideas and I am having a hard time keeping my feet on the ground with programs I must first implement before I fly off with our  LRO related events.  WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lisa Tarr

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Science@NASA Headline News
The Science@NASA stories range from astronomy to living in space to Earth science to physical sciences and biology. Stories are available on the Web in a friendly, readable format in English and Spanish, and are available for playback or download in English in audio, in the MP3 format.

Lunar nautics : designing a mission to live and work on the Moon
The Lunar Nautics Educator Guide has 40 activities, featuring lessons that address the basics of Newton's Laws of Motion, rocket design, microgravity, and the moon. Students design, test and analyze a model lunar lander, a robot, and a soda bottle rocket. Other activities include building edible models of spacecraft and a solar oven to cook hot dogs. Students can also build a microgravity sled as part of an underwater activity.

EPO’S Chronicles – New Weekly Web Comic
This new educational Web comic is produced in conjunction with the GLAST launch. This weekly Web comic follows the adventures of Epo, a sentient spaceship/observatory, in the distant future. Alkina, a humanoid alien, joins Epo as they quest to regain their memories and learn science along the way. The first series of 'eposodes' focuses on galaxies and is available in English, French and Spanish.

Flat Stanley’s Virtual Trip to the Moon
USGS Astro Kids presents Flat Stanley Goes to the Moon! At this website, move your mouse over the images and zoom images will pop up. Click on the image and a larger view will open in a new window. Click on the links to visit websites about the Moon and the Flat Stanley Project. Of course, Flat Stanley wasn’t really along for the Apollo missions, but it is fun to make believe!

Space Science Is for Everyone: Creating and Using Accessible Resources in Educational Settings
This collection of helpful hints and resources is based on seven highly successful "Exceptional Space Science Materials for Exceptional Students" workshops, the expertise of the participants, and product testing in classrooms around the United States following these workshops. The brochure is offered as a tool for science, technology, engineering and mathematics educators who are working with students with disabilities.

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New Children's Book Releases

New Children's Books

Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System
Kathleen V. Kudlinski, 2008, 32 pp., Dutton Juvenile, ISBN-10: 0525469796
Some people used to think that Earth was smack-dab in the middle of the universe, with all the stars and planets held in the sky by giant glass balls. This book looks at the mistakes, mishaps, and creativity that are part of scientific discovery. From the first humans wondering about the night sky to the demotion of Pluto to dwarf planet status, this book is an entertaining and informative look at how scientific theories change over time. Ages 4-8.

Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars
Mabel Armstrong 2008. 173 pp, Stone Pine Press, ISBN-10: 0972892958
An excellent set of brief biographies of many of the greatest women astronomers. This well-documented biography fills gaps in existing books on astronomers. For young adults.

Atlas of the Universe
Mark A. Garlick 2008, 128 pp. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing ISBN-10: 1416955585
This guide to outer space ranges from detailed planetary topography to the most current facts and figures about our amazing Universe. In addition to extensive maps of outer space, this atlas also includes constellation charts; diagrams and cross sections of space objects like asteroids and meteorites; the latest information on space shuttles and missions; and oversize images that capture exploding supernovas and distant galaxies. Ages 9-12

Stars and Planets
Mike Goldsmith, 48 pp., 2008, Kingfisher; ISBN-10: 0753462303
This intergalactic travelogue takes space lovers where they have never gone before. They visit Mars, disappear inside a black hole, dodge asteroids, and speculate on the future of human endeavors in space. For ages 10-16.

ZigZag: Every Planet Has a Place
Becky Baines, 32 pp., 2008, National Geographic Children's Books, ISBN-10: 1426303130
The Earth is just one of many planets in our solar system. Why is this the perfect place for us to live? Which are the "gas planets?" And why have we changed what we think of Pluto? Then Zigzag into other questions: what does Earth look like from space? Will I ever live on Mars? What experiment can I do to swing a planet into orbit?

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Events and Opportunities

International Polar Year Web casts for Librarians and Afterschool Providers
Join us to participate in a set of three free Web casts about Explore Ice Worlds: On Earth and Beyond to learn about current polar research from NASA scientists, to get answers to your questions, and to explore hands-on activities designed for the library and after-school setting. By participating in the Web casts you will receive a certificate for four professional development hours and be eligible for prize drawings. To join us all you need is an Internet connection (easiest with the Explore browser) and a telephone. To register for the Web casts, or if you have any questions, please contact Katy Buckaloo at or 281-486-2106.

Send Your Name into Space
The Kepler Mission offers an opportunity to send your name into space on board the spacecraft, which launches in the spring of 2009. The mission will search for Earth-like planets around distant stars and is the first NASA mission capable of finding habitable worlds. Participants are invited to contribute their opinions about the significance of searching for other worlds.

International Polar Year
The International Polar Year (IPY) is a two-year event (March 1, 2007, to March 1, 2009) that focuses science and education on Earth's remote polar regions. Scientists from over 60 nations are participating, including researchers from NASA and many other U.S. agencies.  New resources include:  International Polar Year at Earth & Sky, which includes thousands of science reports from the field; Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is an online polar science and literacy magazine for elementary teachers; and Explore! Ice Worlds!, provides multiple hands-on activities on ice’s properties, ice in the Solar System, and ice on our own Earth. Other sites to explore include International IPY site , NASA’s IPY site, Polar Trec, NSF’s Office of Polar Programs, Ice in the Solar System, and Polar Palooza.

NEA’s Books Across America Library Books Awards
The NEA Foundation will make $1,000 awards to public schools serving economically disadvantaged students to purchase books for school libraries.  The NEA Foundation makes these awards in collaboration with the National Education Association.  The 2009 NEA’s Books Across America Library Books Awards are made possible with support from individuals who donated to NEA’s Books Across America fund to bring the gift of reading to students.  Deadline for applications is Thursday, November 20, 2008.


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Workshops and Courses

Afterschool Universe – Training Sessions
Afterschool Universe is a hands-on astronomy program targeted at middle school children out-of-school-time settings. It explores basic astronomy concepts through hands-on activities and focuses on the Universe outside the solar system. Information sessions and training workshops are being held at various locations across the country.



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Mission News and Science

Mission News and Science

Snowing on Mars
Modified from

animation of clouds moving across Mars sky
The Surface Stereo Imager onboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander observed clouds drifting across the horizon in the early morning. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University Arizona/Texas A&M University

There's snow falling from Martian clouds. A laser instrument on the Mars Phoenix Lander has detected snow falling from clouds and vaporizing before reaching the ground. In recent weeks, as the temperatures fall in onset of winter on Mars' northern plains, frost, ground fog and clouds have been seen.

The spacecraft soil experiments also have found evidence of water. Since landing at its far-northern site on May 25, Phoenix already confirmed that a hard subsurface layer contains water-ice. Determining whether that ice ever thaws would help answer whether the environment there has been favorable for life.

Phoenix soil experiments have suggested that at least 3-6 percent of the soil is calcium carbonate, and about 1 percent is clay. Most carbonates and clays on Earth form only in the presence of liquid water. The pH of the soil has been determined to be 8.3, which is lower than initially thought, but is almost exactly the pH of ocean water on Earth. The calcium carbonate may be responsible for this level of pH.


When Planets Collide
Modified from

A team of astronomers studying a large disk of dust surrounding a star has detemined that it is probably the resulting debris of two planets colliding. Usually, a disk of dusk is evidence of planetary formation around younger stars. Disks like this aren't generally found around older stars, though, and the star has now been calculated to be several billion years old.

The curiously large amount of dust in the disk is 1 million times the amount of dust that is found in our own solar system, and orbits at a distance from the star that is similar to the orbits of Earth and Venus around our own Sun. The collision between the planets took place within the past few hundred thousand years, though it is possible that it happened even more recently.

graphic with WMAP data and a galaxy cluster insert
Galaxy clusters like 1E 0657-56 (inset) seem to be drifting toward a 20-degree-wide patch of sky (ellipse) between the constellations of Centaurus and Vela. Credit: NASA/WMAP/A. Kashlinsky et al.

Dark Flow Matter From Beyond the Universe
Modified from

Just as unseen dark energy is increasing the rate of expansion of the universe, there's something else causing an unexpected motion in distant galaxy clusters. Scientists believe the cause is the gravitational attraction of matter that lies beyond the observable universe, and they are calling it "Dark Flow." The distribution of matter in the observed universe cannot account for this motion.

Using NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe's (WMAP) three-year view of the microwave background and a catalog of clusters, the astronomers detected hundreds of galaxy clusters that appear to be carried along by a mysterious cosmic flow. The bulk cluster motions are traveling at nearly 2 million miles per hour. The clusters are heading toward a 20-degree patch of sky between the constellations of Centaurus and Vela. The astronomers found this motion is constant out to at least a billion light-years, and possibly across the visible universe. The finding flies in the face of predictions from standard cosmological models, which describe such motions as decreasing at ever greater distances.





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