Greetings Explore! Community

This newsletter is intended to highlight 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


Becky Nelson



January 19–24 – The 2007American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting will be held in Seattle, WA.

February 7–19 – Beyond School Hours will celebrate ten years of after school programming at their national conference in Greensboro, N.C. A special keynote address will be given by Dr. Maya Angelou. For more information visit the website to or call 888-977-KIDS (5437).

March 6–8 – The Louisiana Library Association Annual Conference will be held in Baton Rouge.

March 14–16 – The New Mexico Library Association and the Mountain Plains Library Association are sponsoring a joint conference in Albuquerque. You may register at the Libraries: Launching the Future.

March 21–23 – The National AfterSchool Association Annual Conference will be held in Phoenix, Arizona this year. Please join us in the NASA room, where twelve workshops on a variety of topics will be presented by representatives from the NASA forums and contractors. You can register online.

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ResourcesHealth In Space
The Lunar and Planetary Institute has compiled and created information, activities, and resources related to human health in space, through a grant from NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate’s Education Program. The resources, activities, presentations, and extensions are available online.


Chandra Calendar

Printable 2007 Chandra Calendar
Print your own 2007 Chandra calendar with spectacular images from the past year. Featured objects include supernova remnants, galaxies in various shapes & sizes and star clusters in our very own Milky Way. Available as a 12-page full color PDF in 11 x 17" sizes. Individual months may also be downloaded separately.

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New Children's Book Releases

The following are recently released children’s books focusing on a particular aspect of Earth or space science. Their inclusion is not intended as an endorsement.

There Was Once a Sky Full of Stars
Bob Crelin, Sky Publishing Corporation, April 2006, ISBN 1931559376
The unique focus of this book is the beauty of the night sky that is too often not visible due to light pollution. Crelin passionately reveals the splendor of stars to children ages 9-12, and urges them to become active in preserving the wonders of the night sky.

Seeing Stars
Dandi Daley Mackall, Little Simon, May 2006, ISBN 1416903615
With bright colors and foil-like stars, Mackall introduces constellations to younger audiences, ages 4–7. Each constellation is accompanied by rhyming verses and familiar scenes on Earth to create a sense of the night sky as natural part of our lives.

Team Moon – How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon
Catherine Thimmesh, Houghton Mifflin, June 2006, ISBN 0618507574
In a humorous, fascinating, and thorough approach, Thimmesh recounts the enormous push behind Neil Armstrong’s giant leap! She provides an interesting behind-the-scenes look at all it took, from mission control staff to lunar module designers to the 500 designers and seamstresses who worked on the spacesuits. Intended for ages 10 and older.

Across the Solar System (Amazing Journeys/2nd Edition)
Rod Theodorou, Heinemann, June 2006, ISBN 1403487952
The author takes readers ages 7–9 on a guided tour of the solar system with two pages devoted to images and numerous facts about each planet.

Copernicus: Founder of Modern Astronomy (Great Minds of Science)
Catherine M. Andronik, Enslow Publishers, July 2006, ISBN 0766028593                                          
Children ages 9–13 will find Andronik’s book, an account of the life and science of Copernicus, that is both interesting and user-friendly. Four simple activities will help readers understand the significance of his work.


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Spotlight On ...

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A Formal Educator in an Informal Setting (!?)

As some of you may be aware, Explore! is being shared beyond libraries! Many Explore! workshops now include both librarians and after-school program providers. Nicole Betts, an after-school program director, has been working with the Explore! Team for the past year to help create and present new materials.

Nicole is a perfect C.A.S.E. in point that after-school programs are not just for informal educators anymore. Nicole is a third grade ESL teacher at N.Q. Henderson Elementary school in Houston, Texas. But after school is when the fun really begins! That is when Nicole and twelve other facilitators, all but two of which are classroom teachers, directs C.A.S.E. (Cooperative for After-School Enrichment), an after-school program serving 104 children, ages 4–12. Here are just a few of Nicole’s impressions of the Explore! Health in Space module:

"My students and I both learned a lot from the Health in Space lessons. Along with all of the kids, I too have always wondered what it would be like to live and work in space. Some of the students that I worked with even expressed how they dreamed of becoming astronauts. As for me, I will leave all space travel to the current astronauts and future generation space explorers!

I think the Health in Space modules are great for all after school programs — libraries, clubs, and school based after-school programs! But they would also be useful in regular academic classes. The activities are kid and teacher friendly and they allow students to explore space science topics at their own level. Besides using the Explore! Health in Space activities, I have also used activities from Explore! The Solar System and Explore! Shaping the Planets volcanos activities."

As much as Nicole loves her involvement in after school programs, maybe it would be more accurate to call her an Informal Educator who also happens to be a classroom teacher!

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Becky Recommends!

As the activity designer for several of the Explore! modules, I am always on the lookout for great ways to engage children in Earth and space science.  The following activity is the third in a series of activities on the Moon. All activities in Becky Recommends! are designed for tight budgets and tight spaces, and are always educational and fun!

In my experience, one of the most effective — and fun! — ways for children to learn is by singing! In light of that I composed this song to help them not only learn the names of each lunar phase, but to help them match the names with the phases and to remember the sequence in which they appear throughout the month.

Phrases With Phases: Singing the Lunar Cycle

Phrases With Phases is sung to the tune of The Ants Go Marching . . ., and will teach and reinforce the names, shapes, and sequence of our Moon's eight primary phases.
Lyrics by
Becky Nelson
SkyTellers: The Myths, the Magic, and the Mysteries of the Universe
©Lunar and Planetary Institute, 2005

Moon phases and important terms are shown in bold capital letters.

The Activity  

When people look at the Moon, they often describe it as passing through one of eight phases. The phases occur in a cycle that lasts about a month. The word “month” actually came from the word “Moon,” and was at one time pronounced “moonth.”

Share a chart of lunar phases with the children. You also can make examples of the phases using paper plates.  Color eight different plates, each with a different phase of the Moon. Make sure you are coloring the part of the Moon that is dark for that phase!

Phrases With Phases: Singing the Lunar Cycle

Each Moon phase marches COUNTERCLOCKWISE
Now, let's start . . .
The FIRST PHASE is the NEW MOON that we see as DARK.
Then next the WAXING CRESCENT shines
And after that's the
QUARTER MOON, where the

Following is WAXING GIBBOUS on the RIGHT,
Where LIGHT continues SPREADING and becoming bright.
We'll be HALFWAY through the phases soon,
With the FULLest, brightest, biggest MOON,
Just before the DARK creeps
On the RIGHT

The WANING GIBBOUS phase is when the LIGHT will SHRINK,
Then what will be the next phase after that, you think?
But the DARK HALF's now upon the RIGHT,
And the LEFT side is the one that's BRIGHT!!
Did you get that right?

The next phase is the LAST phase where there's just a spark
of light, so WANING CRESCENT appears ALMOST DARK!
The Moon is really magical,
And it COULDN'T SHINE at all
WITHOUT ......
The SUN's ......bright  LIGHT!!!


Line ruleEvents and Opportunities

Globe at Night
The GLOBE Program, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and many other organizations are collaboratively sponsoring Globe at Night. Join thousands of other students, families and citizen-scientists around the globe hunting for stars during March 8–21, 2007. Take part in this international event to observe the nighttime sky and learn more about light pollution around the world.

Live Web Presentation on New Planets
Join the free public lectures at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Each month a noted scientist discusses a different cosmic topic. Lectures are at 8 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month. On February 6, 2007, Dr. Chris Burke will be discussing “Recent Results of Transiting Extrasolar Planets.” For more information, visit Hubble Public Talks.

Space Day Is Coming
Space Day is an educational initiative that inspires young people to explore careers in mathematics, science, engineering and technology and to realize the vision of our space pioneers. The first Friday in May has been designated “Space Day”, and people of all ages in the U.S. and around the world will come together to advance education in these areas. In 2007 Space Day will take place on May 4, and offers a variety of educational programs to inspire the 21st century space explorers, scientists and inventors. For more information please visit the web site, which serves as “mission control” for Space Day activities. This site links to educational resources, space-related information sites and provides the details about Space Day educational programs and events that will be taking place across the country.

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Workshops and CoursesFebruary 9, 2007 – Solar System Survey: The Origin and Characteristics of the Sun, Planets, Moons, and Debris in our Neighborhood
Join presenters from the Lunar and Planetary Institute and learn about the characteristics and formation of the Sun, Earth, and planets. We will also explore moons, comets, asteroids, and other space debris. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials on CD, reference materials, and hands-on activities for the classroom. Fee: $75, Audience: Grade 5–7 formal and informal educators.

 March 2, 2007 – Sun – Moon – Stars: Characteristics and Cycles of Change
Explore the characteristics of our Sun, Moon, and the stars of the night sky. We will investigate the changes in the sky and the appearance of our Moon, and share related activities appropriate for elementary students. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials on CD, reference materials, and hands-on activities for the classroom. Fee: $75, Audience: Grade 2–5 educators.

Online Science Courses from the American Museum of Natural History
Need to fulfill degree, certification or professional development requirements? Seminars on Science offers award-winning online graduate courses in the life, Earth and physical sciences. Designed by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) for K–12 educators, each six-week course immerses the learner in an area of contemporary research. Graduate credit is available from several leading institutions. Courses may be used to meet your professional development needs, including degree, certification, NCLB, and salary gradation requirements.  Free sample resources for each course, including essays, videos, and interactive simulations, are available online. Registration is now open for the six-week session that begins March 19. For more information and to register, visit the website or call 800-649-6715.

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Mission News and ScienceBrightest Comet in Over Forty Years
Modified from SOHO
Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) has not only become the brightest comet SOHO has ever seen, but even the brightest comet observed in over forty years! The comet swung by the Sun on January 12–15, and is now emerging into the skies of the southern hemisphere. During its close encounter with the Sun, comet McNaught became a naked-eye object in broad daylight.


Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1)SOHO, the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, is a project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind, using twelve instruments to observe the Sun as it orbits it.  The LASCO instrument on-board SOHO has the ability to watch comets as they get extremely close to the Sun. Fortunately for us, comet McNaught has passed right through the LASCO C3 field of view! We do not know exactly the peak brightness of the comet. Solar heating will continue to puff up the comet, causing it to brighten even more.  It could become one of the brightest comets in centuries, visible even in daylit skies.

New Dwarf Galaxies Discovered Orbiting Milky Way
Modified from PennState Eberly College of Science
Researchers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-II) announced the discovery of eight new dwarf galaxies, seven of them satellites orbiting the Milky Way. These objects resemble systems cannibalized by the Milky Way billions of years ago to build up its stellar halo and thick disk, characterized as "crumbs from the galactic feast. "The systems discovered by the SDSS-II in the last three years are comparable in number to all the Milky Way satellites detected in the preceding 70 years. They help close the gap between the observed number of dwarf satellites and theoretical predictions. According to Daniel Zucker of Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, one of the research team's leaders, theories predict that there should be tens to hundreds more dwarf galaxies yet to be discovered in the "Local Group" of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way. The SDSS team has found almost as many new Milky Way satellites as were detected in the previous 70 years. Only a handful was known before the SDSS-II survey.

New Dwarf Galaxies Discovered Orbiting Milky WayDwarf galaxies contain, at most, a few million stars. The new dwarfs have some unusual properties — they are smaller and fainter than most previously known Milky Way satellite galaxies.  Several of the newly discovered systems appear to be on the verge of disruption — probably by the tidal gravity of the Milky Way — and one of them, the 'Ursa Major II' dwarf, already seems to be in several pieces. Current theories of galaxy assembly suggest that many — perhaps al — of the stars in the halo and thick disk of the Milky Way originated in smaller dwarf galaxies, which were dissolved when they merged into the Milky Way itself.

Hubble Space Telescope Maps Out Dark Matter in Universe
Modified from HUBBLESITE newscenter
An international team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has created a three-dimensional map that provides the first direct look at the large-scale distribution of dark matter in the Universe (dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe's mass.) The map provides the best evidence yet that normal matter, largely in the form of galaxies, accumulates along the densest concentrations of dark matter. The map reveals a loose network of filaments that grew over time.  The filaments intersect in massive structures at the locations of clusters of galaxies.  The map stretches halfway back to the beginning of the universe and shows how dark matter has grown increasingly "clumpy" as it collapses under gravity.

Mapping dark matter's distribution in space and time is fundamental to understanding how galaxies grew and clustered over billions of years. Tracing the growth of clustering in the dark matter may eventually also shed light on dark energy, a repulsive form of gravity that influences how dark matter clumps.  The new maps of dark matter and galaxies will provide critical observational underpinnings to future theories for how structure formed in the evolving universe under the relentless pull of gravity.

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For more information about the Explore! program, please visit:
or contact Becky Nelson at