Lunar and Planetary Institute

Explore! Fun with Science
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Education and Public Outreach

Explore! News
October 2005

Previous News Announcements

October 2005


October 27-29 – CAST – Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching at the Reliant Center in Houston, Texas

Nov 07– Mars at Opposition. During opposition, Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth.

November 10–12 – NSTA’s Chicago Convention

November 17 – Leonids Meteor Shower Peak

Nov 20–1st 'Mars' Anniversary, Mars Rover Spirit, Mars Landing

January 20-25, 2006 – American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, San Antonio

Explore News

Ruth Ann Hobrock of the Beardstown Illinois Memorial Public Library has found a special niche for the video and activity components of Explore!. She is using the materials for the project next generation program, which involves early junior high at risk students in Beardstown. Project next generation engages a group of sixth and seventh grade at risk kids with exciting science activities including some of the Explore! Materials. Explore! Fun with Science is perfect for the library setting with hands-on activities, which are easy to do, use readily available materials and require little preparation time. Activities are one to two hours in length, flexible and can be incorporated in any program, and children can take their projects home with them.

Workshops and Courses

Astronomy from the Ground Up
Applications are now being accepted for a workshop April 19-21, 2006 in Tucson, Arizona. Astronomy from the Ground Up is a National Science Foundation funded program developed to provide informal science educators, science centers/museums and natural history museums with new ways to communicate modern astronomy to their visitors. The workshops include both onsite and website varieties and include opportunities for informal science educators to learn fun techniques to present astronomy topics and to interpret current astronomical events and discoveries. Astronomy from the Ground Up was created by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) in collaboration with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC).
For more visit:

Score Only

Chicago Convention Short Courses, Exhibitor Workshops and NSTA Symposium
NSTA’s Chicago Convention, November 10-12, is going to be the most exciting event of the fall for science educators. In addition to an impressive list of featured speakers, presentations and workshops, dozens of Exhibitor Workshops, an exciting Job Fair, and field trips to Chicago’s extraordinary science attractions, there’s plenty of professional development opportunities through 13 Short Courses and an NSTA Symposium by Stop Faking It! series author Bill Robertson on Force and Motion.
For teachers, librarians and administrators who want to get a head start, there’s a special conference on November 9: Science Assessment: Research and Practical Approaches, with 21 breakout sessions, from “The Benefits of Classroom-Level Assessment,” to “Assessing Elementary Science and Literacy Achievement of English Language Learners Within the High-Stakes Testing Policy Context,” to “Writing for Learning: Writing as a Way to Develop and Assess Scientific Thinking.” Presenters will familiarize educators with current National Science Foundation-funded research on the multiple forms, roles, and contexts for student assessment in science. For the convention agenda and full details visit:

NSTA Online Course Information

NSTA provides a link to Universities and Museums across the country that are giving opportunities for graduate credit online. One example of the many opportunities is the American Museum & Natural History Seminars on Science, six-week online courses, which incorporate the Museum's resources plus interaction with their scientists and educators. CEU’s and graduate credits are provided. Winter course registration is open until January 2, 2006. Each course has a cost of $445.

For more visit:

Grants and Funding

Lowe’s Outdoor Classroom Grant Program
Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation, International Paper and National Geographic Explorer! classroom magazine have partnered to create an outdoor classroom grant program to provide schools with additional resources to improve their science curriculum by engaging students in hands-on experiences outside the traditional classroom. Maximum Award: $20,000 (to districts or schools with major outdoor classroom projects); $2000 to individual schools. Eligibility: K-12 public schools in the United States. Lowe’s is accepting applications throughout the year.
Send the outdoor classroom plan materials, a copy of the completed online application and a letter from your principal or superintendent to Outdoor Classroom Grant Program, P.O. Box 3292, Memphis, TN 38173-0292.
For more visit:

Educator Researcher Workshops - The SCORE program offers grants to assist in the development and implementation of local professional development workshops for educators in the SCORE six-state region. Workshop design is flexible and should meet the needs of the local community.  Funding deadlines are June 15 and January 15.  More:

Educator Researcher Collaborative Projects - The SCORE program offers grants of up to $1000 to collaborative teams of educators and Office of Space Science researchers in the SCORE six-state region.  The grants are intended to help initiate new partnerships between educators and Office of Space Science researchers. Funds can be used to purchase materials and resources to increase student or public understanding of space science content.

Events and Opportunities

NSTA Treasurer Post Open
NSTA announces the opening of the NSTA Treasurer position. Responsibilities include oversight of the association’s financial and budgetary matters. The Treasurer shall be appointed by the Board of Directors for a three-year term of office, which may be renewed for another three-year term. Appointees will be expected to devote 10-12 days of service a year for this nonstaff position. An honorarium will be provided as well as reimbursement for required meeting attendance (travel and per diem).
For additional information about the position’s responsibilities, visit Application deadline: January 15, 2006. Interested individuals are invited to submit their resume along with a cover letter that specifies interest in being considered for appointment to: NSTA Executive Director, 1840 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201-3092.

Louisiana Planetarium Program
Those down on the bayou interested in space science might want to visit the Lafayette Natural History Museum & Planetarium before January 8th, 2006. The Planetarium is offering a program through January 8th called "Hubble Vision 2" where visitors will learn about the Hubble Space Telescope and many of its discoveries. The shows take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. Museum entry is as follows: adults $5, seniors $3, children $2. The audience level is for the General Public, Elementary Students, Middle or Secondary Students, Teachers, Librarians and Family Groups.

Call the Lafayette Natural History Museum & Planetarium at 337-291-5544 or visit:

Louisiana Science Exhibit
The Lafayette Natural History Museum & Planetarium is also offering a Cosmic Questions Exhibit. This is a traveling exhibit about many aspects of space and time. The exhibit will be on display through December 31st. The times of the exhibit are as follows: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue-Fri; 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sat; 1 - 6 p.m. Sun.

Museum entry is as follows: adults $5, seniors $3, children $2. The audience level is for the General Public, Elementary Students, Middle or Secondary Students, Teachers, Librarians and Family Groups.

Call the Lafayette Natural History Museum & Planetarium at 337-291-5544 or visit:

Connect with NASA Scientists
The UniverseForum Website is offering opportunities for educational organizations to examine how scientists in the 21st century will continue to explore the boundaries of space and time. The site will help you make connections to NASA scientists in your area. Join the mailing list to be kept appraised of these opportunities as they develop. The mailing list can be found at

For more visit:

Art Contest
Librarians, the Planetary Society has teamed with ESA to invite youths and adults worldwide to enter the Venus Express Art Contest. This is a chance to win a trip to mission control in Darmstadt, Germany when Venus Express arrives at its destination in April 2006.

The theme of Venus Express Art Contest is ‘Postcards from Venus.’ Contest entrants are invited to imagine the surface of Venus from an above-ground perspective – a bird’s eye view of a mysterious world whose volcano-riddled surface contains few impact craters.

Anyone may enter the contest in either the Youth (age 17 or under) or Adult (18 or over) category. Only one entry per person is permitted, with no group entries allowed. Artwork based on the contest theme may be created in any two-dimensional artistic medium, including computer-generated art. The artwork should be of Venus itself, rather than the Venus Express spacecraft. Each finished piece should be the size and shape of a postcard (approximately 10 by 15 cm).

Artwork may be mailed or submitted online. Visit for the complete contest rules and an entry form.

The deadline for all entries to be received – by mail or online: 13 January 2006, 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time.

To enter by mail, entrants should mail their artwork to:
Venus Express Art Contest
65 N Catalina Ave, Pasadena
California, 91106, USA

The NSTA Career Fair
The NSTA Career Fair—November 11 in Chicago—brings together a highly qualified and diverse group of candidates for all your job openings. The Career Fair is a cost-effective way to meet face-to-face with hundreds of science educators actively seeking a new job.

Visit for complete information or call 703-312-9231.

Space Day 2006 Design Challenges
Lockheed Martin's 2006 Space Day Design Challenges explores “Living and Working on the Moon.” Design Challenges are open to children ages 9-13. The deadline for submission is February 1, 2006. Stellar Design Challenge teams will be selected by the Space Day Educational Advisory Committee and recognized at the Space Day Opening Ceremony on Thursday, May 4, 2006, in Washington, D.C.  Spark the children’s interest in space science by getting involved in the design challenges!    For more details visit: or contact:  Kay Armstrong, Space Day Program Manager,


Design a Planet
Grades 5-8 can now test their ability to design a planet that would be habitable to humans on the newly released Design a Planet module. Students can also study the habitability requirements of other living creatures in the newly released Biology Mission module, and educators will find a wealth of standards-based, inquiry activities in the revised educator guides. Astro-Venture is an interactive, multimedia web site in which students role-play NASA careers, as they search for and design a planet that would be habitable to humans. After designing their planet, classrooms can submit their solutions and interact with astrobiologists through a one-hour NASA Quest Webcast on Nov. 17, 2005 at 11:00 a.m. PST.

For more visit NASA Quest at:

NASA and OfficeMax
Would you like to have those beautiful NASA images and materials ready to distribute to students without all the effort that goes along with the process. Well, now you can! OfficeMax and NASA have partnered to get printed materials into the hands of students, educators and the public quickly and easily. Educators and NASA enthusiasts can have the large files printed at the closest OfficeMax store. OfficeMax facilities are offering savings of up to 50 percent on all materials printed from the NASA Web site.

Librarians, teachers, and other space enthusiasts can either print the materials themselves or click the new OfficeMax icon on the NASA Web site. The materials will be professionally copied and collated for delivery, shipping or available for next-day pick up at the nearest OfficeMax store.

In many cases, materials are lengthy and have numerous color pictures and graphics, which can take hours to download. Let OfficeMax do the work for you!

For more visit:

NASA Holiday Recipes
Irradiate, rehydrate and thermostabilize may not sound like instructions for traditional recipes on Earth, but they are key steps for holiday meals in space.

On Thursday, Nov. 10, NASA's space food chefs will be available from 7 to 9 a.m. EST, to discuss the tricks of their trade during live interviews via satellite from NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston. Both are available for print and radio interviews throughout the holiday season.

Irradiated smoked turkey, rehydratable mashed potatoes and thermostabalized cranberry sauce are typical treats for space station crews. The chefs will describe station meals and possible menus for future astronauts. Meals for moon missions may not differ much from station fare, but menus for longer journeys to Mars may be quite different. Holiday fare may include home grown meals cultivated from hydroponics' plant growth chambers built on Martian soil. Sweet potatoes, rice, wheat bread and salad with peanut dressing are a few dishes that could adorn the Martian holiday table.

To interview the chefs, media should contact the Johnson newsroom at: 281/483-5111
 Space food imagery is available on the Web, at:

Mars Globes
A very nice addition to any library setting! These resources feature the red planet in a way that should interest any space science enthusiast. Created with more than 6,000 images taken by the Viking orbiters, the 12-inch globe approximates the planet's true color. Produced in cooperation with NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, the globe includes official names for 140 features. There is also a color enhanced topographic globe available from Sky and Telescope. More than 300 million altitude measurements from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft went into the color-coded elevation scheme. The 12-inch globe includes 140 labeled features and was produced in cooperation with NASA and the U.S.Geological Survey.

For more visit:

Young Astronauts
The young astronauts website is a good resource for providing activities in which children explore what's in space, how we get there, how we live there, and what we do while we're in space. Additional lessons examine topics such as space flight, relating space missions to conditions and activities on Earth, and astronomy activities in which students explore the universe and its components. Each activity includes a cross-discipline activity to help children view the topic from a different perspective and develop additional skills. Please pass this valuable resource on to teachers and students interested in all aspects of space science.
For more:

Mars Viewing
Librarians, as you might know, Mars and Earth will pass about 43 million miles from each other on October 29, affording great viewing opportunities both before and after.  Look for new materials about the opposition that will be posted on the website on October 21.

Members of the NASA Night Sky Network of amateur astronomer clubs may be available to work with you to provide local telescopic viewing opportunities. Refer to the club directory at to find Night Sky Network members in your areas.

Send Your Name to the Asteroid Belt
Have you always wanted to fly through our solar system’s asteroid belt? Now you can virtually journey about the Dawn spacecraft and send your name to the asteroid belt. Your name will be recorded onto a microchip that will be placed aboard the spacecraft accompanying it on its mission to the asteroid belt. Climbing aboard is easy!
Go to:

More Dawn News
Here is something to share with the kids! Have a question about asteroids or the Dawn mission? Communicate directly with a member of the Dawn team by selecting the “Ask Dawn” link on our Dawn Kids page. Explore fun activities for kids including coloring sheets, puzzles, building models and more. The Dawn site also gives you the latest mission news, technology and science references and an Education link. Click on and enjoy!

Mission News and Science

Introducing NASA's New Spaceship
Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts will again explore the surface of the moon. And this time, they are going to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond. There are echoes of the iconic images of the past, but it won't be your grandfather's moon shot.
NASA's new spaceship is the key to making the Vision for Space Exploration a reality. The Vision, announced by President Bush in January 2004, will extend humanity's presence across the solar system, starting with a return to the moon by the end of the next decade, followed by journeys to Mars and beyond.

Building on the best of Apollo and shuttle technology, NASA's 21st century exploration system will be affordable, reliable, versatile and safe. The centerpiece of this system is a new craft designed to carry four astronauts to and from the moon, support up to six crewmembers on future missions to Mars, and deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station.
For materials and resources please visit

Evidence for more dust than ice in comets
October 12 
Observations of Comet 9P/Tempel 1 made by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft after the Deep Impact collision suggest that comets are ‘icy dirtballs’, rather than ‘dirty snowballs’ as previously believed. Comets spend most of their lifetime in a low-temperature environment far from the Sun. Their relatively unchanged composition carries important information about the origin of the Solar System.

On 4 July this year, the NASA Deep Impact mission sent an ‘impactor’ probe to hit the surface of Comet 9P/Tempel 1 to investigate the interior of a cometary nucleus. Tempel 1's icy nucleus is dynamic and volatile. Possibly the impact would also trigger an outburst of dust and gas, and produce a new active area on the comet’s surface. Just before impact, the Hubble Space Telescope spotted a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet. No one knows for sure what causes these outbursts.

Rosetta, with its set of very sensitive instruments for cometary investigations, used its capabilities to observe Tempel 1 before, during and after the impact. The scientists could then work out the corresponding dust/ice mass ratio, which is larger than one, suggesting that comets are composed more of dust held together by ice, rather than made of ice contaminated with dust. Hence, they are now ‘icy dirtballs’ rather than ‘dirty snowballs’ as previously believed.
 For more information:

NASA’s Dawn Discovery Mission
On June 17, 2006, NASA’s Discovery mission Dawn will launch its assignment to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest period by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations, Ceres and Vesta. Each has followed a very different evolutionary path constrained by the diversity of processes that operated during the first few million years of solar system evolution.

The top level question that the mission addresses is the role of size and water in determining the evolution of the planets. Ceres and Vesta are the right two bodies with which to address this question, as they are the most massive of the protoplanets, baby planets whose growth was interrupted by the formation of Jupiter. Ceres is very primitive and wet while Vesta is evolved and dry.

Dawn has much to offer the general public. It brings images of varied landscapes on previously unseen worlds to the public including mountains, canyons, craters, lava flows, polar caps and, possibly ancient lakebeds, streambeds and gullies. Students can follow the mission over an entire K-12 experience as the mission is built, cruises to Vesta and Ceres and returns data. The public will be able to participate through the Solar System Ambassadors and through participation on the web.

Solving a Cosmic Mystery
Scientists have solved the 35-year-old mystery of the origin of powerful, split-second flashes of light known as short gamma-ray bursts. These flashes, brighter than a billion suns, yet lasting only a few milliseconds, have been simply too fast to catch -- until now.

Through telescope and satellite findings scientists determined the flashes arise from violent collisions in space. The clashes are either between a black hole and a neutron star or between two neutron stars. In either scenario, the impact creates a new black hole. In at least one burst, scientists saw tantalizing, first-time evidence of a black hole eating a neutron star. The neutron star was first stretched into a crescent, then swallowed by the black hole.

The Swift satellite detected a short burst on May 9, and NASA's High-Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) detected another on July 9. The May 9 event marked the first time scientists identified an afterglow for a short gamma-ray burst, something commonly seen after long bursts.

For information about this discovery, visit:

Did You Know?

Sunspot Images
New image correction systems and new high-resolution cameras at the National Science Foundation's Dunn Solar Telescope in New Mexico are revealing striking details inside sunspots and hint at features remaining to be discovered in solar activity.

Magnetism in solar activity is the "dark energy problem" being tackled in solar physics today. But certain features now being seen are helping to solve the problem. Small-scale magnetic flux tubes are seen near the sunspot and between several granules (columns of hot gas circulating upward). The dark cores of penumbral fibrils and bright penumbral grains are seen as well in the sunspot penumbra (the fluted structures radiating outward from the spot). These features hold the key to understanding the magnetic structure of sunspots and can only be seen in ultra high-resolution images. 

The Dunn has two high-order adaptive optics benches, the only telescope in the world with two systems, which enhances instrument setup and operations. The camera is part of the equipment suite for the Dunn's Diffraction-Limited Spectropolarimeter, which is designed to analyze magnetic field strength and direction inside sunspots. The Dunn and its new systems are available for the world solar physics community to use.

For more visit:



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Last updated
February 6, 2007