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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





July 7 Dawn Mission new launch date

July 9–13 Summer Seminars 2007- Training for AfterSchool Professionals will be in Boston, July 9–13. The registration deadline is June 29.

July 17–19 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) 2007 Summer Institute in Miami, Florida.

July 21 National Summer Learning Day


August 3 Phoenix Mission launches to Mars

August 12 Perseid Meteor Shower

August 28 Total Lunar Eclipse early before sunrise

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Spotlight On ...

The LRO Newsletter

LRO SpacecraftInterested in learning more about one of NASA's exciting upcoming missions? The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission to the Moon launches in the fall of 2008! The education teams at the Lunar and Planetary Institute and Goddard Space Flight Center have collaborated for several months on the development and dissemination of the Explore! module To the Moon and Beyond! - With NASA's LRO Mission. The LRO newsletter, produced by the education team at Goddard, includes information about the progress and development of the LRO module, as well as other NASA missions, with links and images. It is a great way to stay informed about the LRO mission and other exciting NASA missions! The LRO newsletter also contains nifty news about how some of the lunar librarians and after-school providers are sharing the LRO Mission with their communities (along with an invitation to share your news), and a fun activity — or two. You may even wish to post a copy of the newsletter on your bulletin board for space enthusiasts!

View the LRO newsletter, or to receive your monthly electronic copy
of the newsletter, e-mail Heather Weir.

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The Universe in the Classroom
The latest issue of this education journal by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is How Fast Are You Moving When You Are Sitting Still? It is now available on-line. Topics include: daily and yearly motion, the Sun's motion within the Milky Way Galaxy, the galaxy's motion through the universe, classroom activities, and more.

Food in Space Video and Activity
This video discusses the issues of diet and nutrition for astronauts on short trips and planning for longer trips to Mars. There is an accompanying mathematics activity for middle school students on ratios in making smoothies. There are also other interesting videos that could be used in the classroom on The Futures Channel.

Cosmic Evolution posterScience Education Posters
Many different posters created by the Wright Center for Science Education at Tufts University are available to educators when requested through the mail on school letterhead. Posters include the scale and size of object in the Universe, evolution of the cosmos, the structure of the Earth, and other science subjects.

On-line Video Series on Astronomy
STARFINDER is a 30-part video series with teacher guides, created by the Wright Center for Science Education at Tufts University. Programs are appropriate for junior high and high school students, and for beginning classes in astronomy at the college level. Some topics are more advanced and complex than others. Each program is accompanied by a teacher guide that provides pre- and postviewing activities, projects and experiments, and additional resources.

NASA's Imagine the Universe! bannerOrdering Imagine the Universe Materials
Imagine the Universe is intended for students age 14 and up – and for anyone interested in learning about our universe. The site explores black holes, dark matter, the destiny of our Universe, and more!  Use the order forms to request free cd's, posters, and booklets. You can also download great presentations, lesson plans, and activities.


Reading iconNew 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.

The Race for Space: The United States and the Soviet Union Compete for the New Frontier
Betsy Kuhn, Twenty-First Century Books, 2006, ISBN 0822559846. 
Kuhn's book tells the story of the race for space between two world powers that lasted over two decades and how their competition became cooperation. This book is for ages 13 to adult.

Exploring Mars
David J. Ward, Lerner Publications, 2006, ISBN-10: 0822559366. 
Ward provides a comprehensive introduction to Mars for children ages 9-12 that includes discussion of Mars' surface features and water, life on Mars, and past and future missions to Mars.

Messages from Mars
Loreen, and Leedy Schuerger, Holiday House, 2006, ISBN 0823419541.
In the year 2106, junior astronauts and planetary scientists take a journey together to Mars and report their wealth of discoveries about the red planet to their friends back on Earth. A fun and informative read for children ages 8-13.

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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. All activities in Becky Recommends! are designed for tight budgets and tight spaces, and are always educational and fun!

The following activity is the fifth in a series of activities on Health in Space!  A more detailed version of the activity is available on the Health in Space website.

Measure Up

What’s Needed?

Three sets are recommended for one Measure Up activity set for one pair of children at a time:

    • 1 ruler
    • 2 different colors of permanent markers
    • 1 18-inch length of string that will not stretch
    • A writing utensil and scrap paper
    • Timer or watch
    • Children’s Guide for Measure Up!  


Children ages 8–13

How Long?

60 minutes


In Measure Up!, children ages 8–13 work in pairs to measure each other’s ankles with lengths of string before and after lying on their backs with their feet in the air for 1 minute. This simulates the microgravity of space, where everything — including body fluids — floats!


  1. Cut an 18” length of string  for each pair of children.
  2. Place the materials at the station with a copy of the Children’s Guide for Measure Up!


Give the pair of children the activity guide for Measure Up and ask them to follow the directions.

In Conclusion

After measuring their ankles before and after the simulated microgravity conditions of space, the children should have observed a marked change. Within just one minute, their ankle circumference may have decreased by a half inch or more! Even though they were not really in microgravity conditions and the fluids in their bodies did not float, the children can see that fluids can shift! They may have also guessed that some of the effects resulting from the rising of fluids to the upper body are headaches, stuffy noses, and puffy faces.

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NAESP Principals' Summer Leadership Institute
The National AfterSchool Association is partnering with the National Association of Elementary School Principals to develop and present the AfterSchool Strand at the NAESP Principals' Summer Leadership Institute July 15-19. The AfterSchool Strand includes such topics as quality program standards and alignment between afterschool activities and the school day.

LPI's Family Space Day
Children between the ages of 5 and 8 are invited to bring their families to explore space science with hands-on activities. This free monthly event is held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston; while usually held from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. on the third Saturday, it is peridically held in the evening to include a public telescope observing session. Upcoming topics include the Hubble SpaceTelescope, rockets, and comets.


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Workshops and CoursesFree On-line Workshop for Informal Educators
ASTC, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory are currently accepting applications for "Astronomy from the Ground Up," a National Science Foundation sponsored online astronomy workshop for science center and other informal educators.  Workshop Dates: September 12–October 10, 2007 [time commitment is approximately 5 hours per week]  Apply now to be considered for this FREE online workshop. Participates will receive a toolkit full of easy-to-do astronomy activities covering three major themes in astronomy plus exclusive networking opportunities with other informal science educators across the country. For more information, call 415-337-1100 x102.

LPI/ NASA ARES Workshops at Harris County
The 2007-2008 calendar of workshops offered jointly by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and NASA's Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) is now available, with one and two-day workshops on the Moon, Mars, the Solar System, plate tectonics, and more at the Harris County Department of Education. There is also a one-week workshop for summer 2008 on the rock cycle — sign up now!

Family ASTRO workshop logoFamily Astro Workshop 2007
Family ASTRO workshops are offered this fall at NOAO headquarters in Tucson, Arizona.  The 5 hour workshops are structured to teach “event leaders” how to conduct one to four thematic events. These thematic events take hands-on inquiry-based activities for families. Less formal than classroom instruction, these events focus on the moon, the planets, the night sky, and light. The application deadline is 3 weeks before each workshop. Dates: Sept. 28 - Cosmic Decoders; Oct. 5 - Race to The Planets; Oct. 12 - Night Sky Adventure; Oct. 19 - Moon Mission

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Mission News and Science

Ceres may have a "differentiated interior," with a rocky inner core, a thick water-ice mantle, and a thin, dusty outer crust. NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)Dawn Mission to Explore Asteroids
Modified from Dawn Media Press Information and Dawn: A Journey to the Beginning of the Solar System

On July 7, 2007 NASA will launch its next explorer into the Solar System. This spacecraft's destinations are the asteroids Ceres and Vesta, where it will help answer many unknowns about the formation and structure of these minor planets. According to current theories, the different properties of Vesta and Ceres are the result of these minor planets evolving in different parts of the Solar System. By observing both minor planets with the same set of instruments, Dawn will provide new answers to questions about the formation and evolution of the early solar system.

Vesta and Ceres are two of the largest asteroids in our Solar System, yet they are very different. Vesta appears to be dry and highly differentiated, with surface features ranging from lava flows to a deep crater near its southern pole. Ceres, in contrast, has evidence of water content, which has led scientists to suspect the presence of icy polar caps and a water-ice mantle. Vesta’s composition resembles the inner rocky planets, while Ceres is representative of the icy moons of the outer planets. By comparing these two minor planets, scientists will develop an understanding of the transition from the rocky inner to the icy outer regions of the Solar System.

Dawn will go into orbit around Vesta in July, 2011, spend a few years examining it, and then move on to Ceres. It will arrive at its second destination in February, 2015. This will make it the first spacecraft to ever orbit two different objects in the Solar System.

Dark galaxy VIRGOHI21. NAICA Galaxy Without Stars
Modified from Universe Today

Astronomers have new evidence that a recently discovered "dark galaxy" is made entirely of dark matter. Although the object has been observed since 2000, astronomers have been slowly ruling out every alternative explanation. In a new research paper, researchers provide updated evidence about this mysterious galaxy, with high-resolution observations using the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Astronomers first suspected an invisible galaxy when they spied galaxy NGC 4254, which appeared to be a victim of a cosmic collision. All the evidence is there: gas has been pulled away into a tenuous stream, and one of its spiral arms has been stretched out. But the other partner in this collision is nowhere to be seen. The researchers calculated that an object with 100 billion solar masses must have careened past NGC 4254 within the last 100 million years, creating the gas stream, and tearing at one of its arms. A detailed search turned up a mysterious object called VIRGOHI21, located about 50 million light-years from Earth--not too far as far as galaxies go. But no stars are visible, even in the Hubble Space Telescope. It was only visible in radio telescopes, which could detect the radio emissions from neutral hydrogen gas located in the cloud.

It could be that there are many of these dark galaxies out there. A new sky survey, carried out with the Aricebo radio telescope in Puerto Rico should tease out more of these objects in the future.

Photographs of Saturn's Moons, Tethys and DioneMore Moons Spewing Ice
Modified from ESA News

Saturn’s moons Tethys and Dione are flinging great streams of particles into space, according to data from the Cassini mission to Saturn. The discovery suggests the possibility of some sort of geological activity, perhaps even volcanic, on these icy worlds.
The electrically charged particles were traced to back as coming from the direction of Tethys and Dione. Until this result, among Saturn’s inner moons only Enceladus was known to be an active world, with huge geysers spraying gases hundreds of kilometres above the moon’s surface.

In the case of Dione and Tethys, more fly-bys are scheduled in the future, which will allow the team and the other instruments a close-up look at the moons. Before that happens, the team has to go back and search for further signs of activity in the data already collected during the Tethys and Dione flybys of 2005.


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


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