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



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 a recommendation.

The Big Bang (Great Ideas of Science)
Paul Fleisher, Twenty-First Century Books, 2006, ISBN 0822521334
As much as possible, Fleisher uncomplicates a complicated subject for ages 12–15. His book includes several interesting analogies, color diagrams, photos, and Web sites.

Kids to Space: A Space Traveler’s Guide
Lonnie Jones Schorer, Collector’s Guide Publishing, Inc, 2006, ISBN 1894959426
“What does space smell like?” The answer to this and other questions kids ask about space travel provides the framework for this easy-to-understand reference guide, complete with illustrations by kids and an accompanying CD. Appropriate for ages 9–12.

Plate Tectonics
Rebecca L. Johnson, Twenty-First Century Books, 2006, ISBN 0822530562
Plate Tectonics is a new book in a series focusing on prominent scientific theories. Johnson’s book, for ages 14–18, provides a thorough overview of the fundamentals pertaining to plate tectonics and geological processes. Excellent illustrations, images, and sidebars enhance the text.

Stories of the Sun series (includes The Earth, The Moon, The Stars and The Planets)
Clint Twist, School Specialty Publishing Co., 2006
In Stories of the Sun Clint Twist offers readers, ages 9–12, interesting illustrations and graphics about the Earth, Moon, stars, and planets. Each of the four books contains fascinating information, history, and even myths about these celestial bodies. Stories of the Sun provides a provocative engagement tool for young readers to learn about the solar system.

Space: Exploring the Moon, the Planets, and Beyond
Olivier de Goursac, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006, ISBN 0810957191
With spectacular NASA photos and beautiful illustrations, De Goursac invites readers ages 9–12 to explore the solar system. With space exploration as a focal point, topics include everything from rockets, to lunar landings, to Martian colonies.

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December 14–Geminid Meteor Shower peak

December 21Winter Solstice (first day of winter)

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Spotlight On ...
The new Explore! Health in Space module

What do Beans and Bones and Balls

have to do with exploring health in space?

Ask the 44 librarians and after-school providers from Alabama and Mississippi who recently attended Explore! workshops at the Alabama Public Library Service in Montgomery, Alabama and the Mississippi Library Commission, Jackson, Mississippi. These fearless participants spent two days undertaking activities and learning the science behind the latest Explore! module, Health in Space. Sharing the Health in Space subject matter were Drs. Diane Byerly (Musculoskeletal Tissue Engineering Laboratory), Honglu Wu (Space Radiobiology Research Program), and Scott Smith (Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory), all researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The attendees did bean curls (arm curls with beans!) to simulate muscle resistance in space relative to that on Earth, modeled healthy and osteoporotic bones (not just a problem for older women, but one that also plagues astronauts), bounced Earth and Moon balls, tested radiation with UV Man, and learned that it’s not just kids that use excuses for making unhealthy choices! No animals were harmed in the testing of these twelve activities, and a good time was had by all!

We cordially invite you to view the Health in Space module at

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Events and Opportunities

National Youth Science Camp 2006–2007
Do you know an outstanding high school senior who demonstrates academic achievement in science and shows potential for thoughtful scientific leadership?  Nominations are now being taken for high school seniors to receive a full scholarship to attend the National Youth Science Camp (NYSC). Two Texas high school seniors will be chosen to attend an all expense paid three-week camp which includes lively lectures and hands-on research projects presented by scientists from across the nation.  The Science Camp is held at Bartow in the eastern mountains of West Virginia. Airfare, lodging, meals, and expeditions are all paid by the National Science Foundation. For more information visit the National Youth Science Camp website at or contact Chris Castillo Comer, Director of Science and state director of NYSC at the Texas Education Agency at

IGES Announces 2007 Thacher Scholars Award
In an effort to engage the next generation of scientists in the use of geospatial technology to study the environment, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) is now accepting entries for the 2007 Thacher Scholars Award, to be given to secondary school students designing and conducting the best projects using satellite observations of the Earth, also known as remote sensing. U.S. students in grades 9-12 are eligible to receive cash awards. Entries must be postmarked by April 2, 2007, and will be judged by IGES staff based on their scientific and technical accuracy; creativity and originality; quality of presentation; thoroughness of research, methods and procedures; and demonstration of knowledge gained. Winners will be announced by May 2, 2007. Visit the Thacher Scholars Award website for more information, including contest rules and guidelines.

The National Community Education Association (NCEA) offers the following opportunities for informal educators:

Find out about NCEA's Professional Endorsement Process for Community Educators
Administrative Competency Endorsement (ACE)
Earn designation as NCEA Fellow 

Applied Professional Program Leadership Endorsement (APPLE)
National Recognition as Professional Program Leader 

Online Graduate Certificate in Community Education
The C.S. Mott Foundation has found that more than 10,000 schools in this country have community education programs. Very few opportunities exist for formal training in community education that supports community school programs. This is especially urgent now with the advent of hundreds of new and continuing after-school programs being developed as a result of the No Child Left behind Act. In cooperation with the National Community Education Association (NCEA), the University of Wisconsin at River Falls is creating a new graduate-level certificate program in community education to meet this national need.

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The Sun-Earth Day Web site has been updated with a set of exemplary 'make and take' activities for informal educators. All the activities have been tested with multiple audiences at different informal venues and have been very engaging and convey some of the key concepts related to the Sun-Earth connection. The activities can be found at:

Spanish Version of the Universe in the Classroom Available
The Spanish language version of the Fall 2006 issue of the Universe in the Classroom, "Mercury – its time has come" by Suzanne Gurton, is now available. You can view the Spanish language version or the English language version at The Universe in the Classroom website.

Active Galaxy Pop-Up
This is a pop-up book that shows the nucleus of an active galaxy in three dimensions. It also includes a "Just-So" story entitled "How the Galaxy Got its Jets," the Tasty Active Galaxy Activity (described below), and a glossary. It was created for younger students (ages 8 - 12), though it can certainly be enjoyed by the older crowd! You can print out the book and download the “Tasty Galaxy” activity from the website.

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Workshops and Courses

NASA/NSTA Web Seminars on Lunar Exploration – Free Web Seminars are being offered featuring scientists and education specialists from NASA. The presenters will help participants to link NASA science expertise and resources to engaging, hands-on, and inquiry-based classroom activities. Seminars cover a broad range of topics including weather and climate change, lunar science, earth science, space exploration, food and nutrition, living and working in space, and physics. For more information, visit NSTA Web Seminars.


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Becky Recommends!

The following activity is the first in a series of activities on the Moon. All activities in Becky Recommends! are designed for tight budgets and tight spaces, and are always both educational and fun!

This is a terrific activity that very simply illustrates why we always see the same face of the Moon, even though the Moon rotates and revolves around us. This activity was adapted from Physics Forum.


The Penny Moon and the Quarter Earth

Penny and Quarter with Lincoln and Washington facing each other.

Place a penny and a quarter as shown above. The penny represents the Moon, and the quarter represents the Earth. 
The time elapsed represents one month, or one lunar cycle.

Penny is moved clockwise to previous position now above the quarter with Lincoln facing downward.

Now, move the penny clockwise to this position (making sure Lincoln is always facing Washington)

Quarter with Washington facing left. Penny to the right with Lincoln upside down facing Washington

Next move the penny to this position.

Quarter on top with Washington facing left. Penny on bottom with Lincoln facing up.

Then, move it around another quarter turn.

Penny and Quarter with Lincoln and Washington facing each other.

Last, move Lincoln back to his original position
(still facing Washington).


Question marksDid the Moon (penny) make a complete rotation on its axis?
(Yes. The Moon made one complete rotation on its axis)

Did the Moon (penny) make a complete revolution, or orbit, around the Earth? (Yes. The Moon made one complete orbit around the Earth)

What can you conclude about the Earth’s rotation and revolution from this demonstration? (The Moon’s rotation and revolution occur in the same time period, approximately one month. That is a very slo-o-o-w rotation compared to the Earth’s 24 hour rotation cycle!)

Can you and a friend explain — or demonstrate — why we always see the same face of the Moon?

Lincoln = the Moon
Washington = the Earth
1 rotation of the Moon = 1 revolution (orbit) of the Moon
Cool Stuff!!


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Mission News and Science

Hubble Repair Planned
Modified from NASA News

Shuttle astronauts will make one final house call to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope as part of a mission to extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced plans for a fifth servicing mission to Hubble Tuesday during a meeting with agency employees at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We have conducted a detailed analysis of the performance and procedures necessary to carry out a successful Hubble repair mission over the course of the last three shuttle missions. What we have learned has convinced us that we are able to conduct a safe and effective servicing mission to Hubble," Griffin said. "While there is an inherent risk in all spaceflight activities, the desire to preserve a truly international asset like the Hubble Space Telescope makes doing this mission the right course of action."

Is the Moon Still Alive?
Modified from SCIENCE@NASA

The flight is tentatively targeted for launch during the spring to fall of 2008. A team of scientists led by Prof. Peter Schultz of Brown University has announced evidence for fresh geologic activity on the Moon. Although lunar volcanism was supposed to have ceased billions of years ago, there's at least one location on the Moon known as Ina where "outgassing" may have happened within the past 10 million years--and may still be happening today.

The scientists observed that Ina has sharp edges, which is unusual as most surfaces have been worn down by the constant rain of meteroids on the surface of the Moon.  Ina also has few craters, which suggests a young terrain, and its coloring is bright and similar to those of young craters, although it is  not an impact crater.

False color image of "Ina,” a strange-looking geological feature in Lacus Felicitatis, a lake of ancient, hardened lava located at lunar coordinates 19o N, 5o E. "Ina was first noticed by Apollo astronauts," says Prof. Peter Schultz of Brown University. Pictured right, "it's shaped like a letter D about two kilometers wide."

False color image of "Ina,” a strange-looking geological feature in Lacus Felicitatis, a lake of ancient, hardened lava located at lunar coordinates 19o N, 5o E. "Ina was first noticed by Apollo astronauts," says Prof. Peter Schultz of Brown University. Pictured right, "it's shaped like a letter D about two kilometers wide."

New Close Up of the Sun
Modified from SCIENCE@NASA

The Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) onboard Japan's Hinode spacecraft has opened its doors and started snapping pictures. Shown below is a "first light" image taken Oct. 23rd. The light and dark blobs are solar granules, masses of hot gas that rise and fall like water boiling atop a hot stove. Each granule is about the size of a terrestrial continent. SOT has no trouble seeing such detail from Earth-orbit 93 million miles away.

Hinode (Japanese for Sunrise, formerly known as Solar B) was launched on Sept 22nd from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kyushu, Japan. "It's on a mission to study the sun — specifically sunspots, which give rise to powerful flares and solar storms," says John Davis, the NASA Solar-B project scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Astronomers have been studying sunspots since the days of Galileo four hundred years ago, but they still don't know how to predict flares. Data from Hinode may solve the mystery.

A first light image from Hinode's optical telescope.

A first light image from Hinode's optical telescope.

Ozone Hole Reaches Record Size
Modified from
Earth Observatory

AntarticaFrom September 21–30, 2006, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles,” said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Newman was joined by other scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in reporting that the ozone hole over the polar region of the Southern Hemisphere broke records for both area and depth in 2006. A little over a week after the ozone hole sustained its new record high for average area, satellites and balloon-based instruments recorded the lowest concentrations of ozone ever observed over Antarctica, making the ozone hole the deepest it had ever been.

The ozone hole was unusually large and long-lived in 2006. While human-produced compounds break down the ozone hole by releasing chlorine and bromine gases into the atmosphere, the temperature of the Antarctic stratosphere causes the severity of the ozone hole to vary from year to year. Colder-than-average temperatures result in larger and deeper ozone holes, while warmer temperatures lead to smaller ones. In 2006, temperatures plunged well below average, hovering near or dipping below record-lows. These unusually cold temperatures increased the size of the ozone hole by 1.2 to 1.5 million square miles, according to an analysis completed by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). If the stratospheric weather conditions had been normal, the ozone hole would be expected to reach a size of about 8.9 to 9.3 million square miles, about the surface area of North America.

The ozone layer protects life on Earth by blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. The “ozone hole” is a severe depletion of the ozone layer high above Antarctica, so these regions may have received more ultraviolet light than usual. The 1987 Montreal Protocol banned ozone-depleting chemicals, but the long lifetime of those chemicals means that the ozone layer will not recover for several decades.

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