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Explore! News
September 2006

Previous News Announcements

September 2006


September 3, 2006 ESA’s SMART-1 will crash into the Moon.

September 15, 2006 Explore! Fun with Science Northeast Texas Library System Workshop held at the Allen Public Library.

October 36, 2006 - Navy Pier in Chicago will be the site for ILA's Annual Conference.

November 11, 2006 Pennsylvania Library Association Annual Conference at the Hilton in Pittsburgh, PA.

November 29–December 1, 2006 SCLA Annual Conference at Hilton Head. The conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Explore News

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Workshops and Courses

GLOBE Training Workshop
The GLOBE Training Workshop will be held September 8th & 9th, 2006. Aimed at teaching Basic Atmospheric Measurements and presented by the Fort Hays State University Science and Mathematics Education Center. GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based education and science program. GLOBE helps teachers and students achieve state and local education goals and standards. The location of the workshop is the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. Fee: $15.00 (Please send $15 fee payable to Science & Math Center to Ann Noble, FHSU, Rarick Hall 226, 600 Park Street, Hays, KS 67601 by Sept 6th). For further information please contact: Dr. Paul Adams at 785-628-4538 or

K–12 NTEN Online Courses
Created by Montana State University and funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Teachers Enhancement Network (NTEN) delivers online courses, quality teaching resources and professional development opportunities through the Internet directly to K-12 science teachers. Educators access electronic teacher resources, discuss issues with other educators online, and participate in high-quality graduate telecomputing courses, all from convenient home or work locations via the Internet. Courses in Earth Science, Physics and Astronomy are being offered this fall! For a current list of courses visit National Teachers Enhancement Network: Current Course Offerings.To learn more or enroll visit the NSTA website.

GSA K-12 Short Course
Using Authentic Scientific Ocean Drilling Data for Earth Systems Science Inquiry [601]
Sun., Oct., 22, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Marriott, Room 305/306. Part of the Geological Society of America’s 2006 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. Through inquiry exercises educators will discover how accessible and applicable scientific ocean drilling results are to the undergraduate and secondary Earth systems science curricula they teach. Published data from 40 years of scientific ocean drilling expeditions can support the teaching of plate tectonics, deep time and age determination, and the history of global climate change. Fee: US$25; includes course materials and lunch. GSA K–12 Teacher Members who are attending only the short course do not have to pay the meeting registration fee. 

LPI and ARES One-Day Educator Workshops
Offered at the Harris County Department of Education
October 6, 2006 – The Fire Within, Part II: Making Metamorphic and Sedimentary Rocks. Learn to identify different metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, explore how they form, and relate their formation to plate tectonics and the rock cycle. The day will close by examining evidence of these types of rocks on other planets. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials on CD, reference materials, and lesson plans for hands-on classroom activities. Part I strongly recommended.  Fee: $75, Audience: 5th–8th grade Teachers
November 3, 2006 Extreme Solar System
NASA’s current solar system missions — Genesis, Mars Rovers, Cassini, Deep Impact, StarDust, and many others — offer extraordinary, teachable moments for Earth and space science. This one-day workshop will build your confidence in teaching space and earth science as we investigate why humans explore, how we explore, and the current knowledge of the size, scale, and characteristics of our solar system. Participants will receive extensive curriculum materials, CDs, websites, and posters. Fee: $75, Audience: Upper Elementary and Middle School Science Teachers. Please contact Liliana Maldonado at (713) 696-1306 for registration information, or go to the Harris County Department of Education Web site. For more workshop details or additional workshop listings, visit the HCDE Web site.

Explore Workshop
Steve Seales and Reggie Burns will be heading up the Explore! Fun with Science Northeast Texas Library System workshop held at the Allen Public Library on Friday, September 15, 2006. There are hands-on activities, crafts, suggestions for learning extensions, videos, presentations, and book and Internet resource lists. It will be a fun, action packed day. Attendees will receive Explore! materials, including activity notebooks, videos and posters, learn how to customize Explore! activities for a variety of programs and audiences, and discover the on-going benefits of joining the Explore! community. Registration starts at 12:30 p.m. The workshop is from 1 to 4 p.m. Attendees receive 3 hours of credit from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission or 3 CPE hours from the State Board of Educator Certification (CPE # 500989).

Family ASTRO Training Workshops 2006
Family ASTRO aims to train event leaders to hold one to four thematic events. These thematic events take hands-on inquiry-based activities similar to those in Project ASTRO and move them to the extracurricular arena where parents and siblings can join the fun. Less formal than classroom instruction, these events focus on the moon, the planets, the night sky, and light in ways that get families together and thinking creatively while having a lot of fun. Each event leader receives a leader kit containing all the basic materials necessary for organizing the event. Dates: October 5, Cosmic Decoders; October 12, Race to The Planets; October 19, Night Sky Adventure, October 26, Moon Mission. Place: National Optical Astronomy Observatory headquarters, 950 N. Cherry Avenue, Tucson. Time: 4:30 to 9:30 PM. Cost: $25.00 per workshop, including dinner. The application deadline is 3 weeks before a training. Completed applications may be faxed to Robert Wilson at 520-318-8451 or mailed to him at 950 N. Cherry Ave., Tucson, AZ, 85719. For any further questions, feel free to contact Robert at or 520-318-8440.

Grants and Funding

Lawrence Scadden Teacher of the Year Award
The Lawrence Scadden Teacher of the Year Award in Science Education for Students with Disabilities is open to all current K–12 teachers (general education, special education, or science teachers, public or private). The recipient must have taught at least 5 years and must have made an outstanding contribution to science students with disabilities. The recipient will be recognized at the annual National Science Teachers Association Convention in 2007 (St. Louis, MO) and will receive a $1,000 award to be applied to travel expenses for the conference. To receive an application, please contact Sami Kahn, Awards Chair.  Applications are due on January 19, 2007.

Toyota TAPESTRY Grant Just Got Easier
Now it’s even easier to apply for a grant in the Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers program. Apply online for one of 50 large grants of up to $10,000 each or 20–25 mini-grants of up to $2,500. Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and NSTA, the program will award K–12 teachers of science with a total of $550,000 in three categories: environmental science; physical science; and literacy and science education. The deadline for the submission of proposals is January 18, 2007.

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 of Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Workshop design is flexible and should meet the needs of the local community.  Funding deadlines are June 15 and January 15.

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 of Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.  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

Polar Exploration: Going to Extremes!
This art contest challenges U.S. students to pick a polar region, explore it and then draw a picture showing what they learned. This is the 11th annual art contest held by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and is for children in grades 2-4. The winning artist will receive a $250 savings bond, and his or her artwork will be printed as the 2006 IGES holiday card. Second- and third-place winners receive a $100 and $50 savings bond, respectively. Entries are due Nov. 10, 2006. For more information, including contest rules and entry form, fun polar facts, lesson plans and links to national science and geography standards, and a listing of recommended books, movies and Web sites, please visit the website.

GSA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA
October 21–25, 2006. Please join us for the Geological Society of America’s 2006 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. Registration for the Annual Meeting is now availableYou may register online.
The following events may be of interest to K–12 educators:
Geoscience Educators’ Social Reception 2006
Saturday, October 21, 5 –7 p.m. Location:  Marriott Grand Ballroom, Salon CD. For science educators K–12, undergraduate, graduate, informal to a relaxing forum for socializing, sharing ideas, and meeting other geoscience community members interested in education.
GSA Trivia Night
Register a team or join a mixed team. Meet new people, share your knowledge, and have a great evening in Philadelphia. Teams and individuals can register before the event. Send an e-mail to

K–12 GSA Teacher Day Field Trip and Workshop  
Saturday, October 21, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Search for fossils on building faces, find the rare Pennsylvania bluestone, and measure microclimates and noise that is enhanced or mitigated by building designs. In the afternoon workshop and share-a-thon, you can network with fellow teachers and geologists, pick up new lesson ideas, and hear guest speakers who will share their stories. The participation fee for the entire day is only US$15 and includes lunch and great give-aways! A registration form in available online.

Resources is a great resource for formal and informal educators wanting to enrich students with up to date information on the Sun-Earth environment. Subscribe to Space Weather News, find out about current space weather conditions, and retrieve current sunspot and solar flare updates.

K–12 Online Resources
K–12educators can access electronic teacher resources, discuss issues with other educators online, and participate in high-quality graduate telecomputing courses, all from convenient home or work locations via the Internet. Sign-up for online courses in Earth Science, Physics and Astronomy! For a current list of courses visit the NTEN website or to learn more about resources visit the NSTA website.

Help Astronauts Count the Stars
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are collaborating on a new education activity that helps students become astronomers. The project was suggested by CSA astronaut Steve MacLean. He is a member of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the next mission, designated STS-115, to the International Space Station. The mission is scheduled to launch Sunday, August 27. MacLean will perform the Star Count experiment during the mission. While in space he will upload star observation information into a database via the Star Count Web site. Students will add to the database by entering their location, number of stars observed and information about their viewing conditions.

K–5 Geosource
A professional development Web site for elementary-level teachers who teach earth science topics such as weather, fossils, rocks, soil, water and more. The site provides classroom activities, assessment recommendations, targeted research and resources, training opportunities, graduate level courses and more. All sources are specially tailored for teachers of students in kindergarten through grade five.

Mission News and Science

THEMIS Mission
Modified from:
If you are standing in Alaska, Canada, or the Northern United States on a clear dark night and looking up into the sky, you may see a greenish-white band of light that stretches across the sky from the East to the West. You are seeing the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. These types of lights also occur near the South Pole, where they are known as the Southern Lights and Aurora Australis. But to this day, these lights are not fully understood. Numerous studies of the Earth's magnetosphere and space weather have never been able to pinpoint where in the magnetosphere the energy of the solar wind transforms explosively into auroras.

Now NASA aims to launch a constellation of five small satellites in 2006, all carrying identical suites of electric, magnetic, and particle detectors to study aurora. This mission is called the THEMIS mission. THEMIS is a NASA-funded mission led by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and involves scientists from the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

These satellites will fly in carefully coordinated orbits. Every four days, they will line up along the Earth's magnetic tail to track disturbances in the magnetosphere. Satellite data from the THEMIS mission will be compared to observations from ground stations across the Arctic Circle. In North America, 20 observatories equipped with automated, all-sky cameras will take pictures every five seconds over the two-year mission, for a total of 84 million pictures. Hopefully this enormous set of data will produce some answers to the mysteries known as auroras.

Solar-B Mission
Modified from:
The Solar-B is a highly sophisticated observational satellite equipped with three advanced solar telescopes. It is scheduled to be launched on September 23rd of 2006. The Solar-B mission is a follow-up to the successful Japan/US/UK Solar-A satellite which operated between 1991 and 2001. Solar-B's three year mission is to explore the magnetic fields of the Sun, resulting in an improved understanding of the mechanisms that power the solar atmosphere and drive solar eruptions.

Led by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Space Science Research Division, Solar-B consists of a coordinated set of optical and X-ray instruments that will investigate the interaction between the Sun's magnetic field and its corona. The result will be an improved understanding of the mechanisms that power the solar atmosphere and drive solar eruptions. This information will tell scientists how the Sun generates magnetic disturbances and help them predict "space weather." Scientists also hope to address the following key questions in solar physics: Why does a hot corona exist above the cool atmosphere? What drives explosive events such as solar flares? What creates the Sun's magnetic fields?

Modified from: and
NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission will dramatically improve understanding of the powerful solar eruptions that can send more than a billion tons of the sun's outer atmosphere hurtling into space. The STEREO mission comprises two spacecraft which are scheduled to launch on August 31st. STEREO is a 2-year mission employing two nearly identical observatories to provide 3-D measurements of the Sun to study the nature of coronal mass ejections. These powerful eruptions are a major source of the magnetic disruptions on Earth and a key component of space weather, which can greatly affect satellite operations, communications, power systems, the lives of humans in space, and global climate.

STEREO is the first NASA mission to use separate lunar swing-by’s to place two observatories into vastly different orbits around the sun. The observatories will fly in an orbit from a point close to Earth to one that extends just beyond the moon. Approximately two months after launch, mission operations personnel will use a close flyby of the moon to modify the orbits. The moon's gravity will be used to direct one observatory to its position trailing Earth. Approximately one month later, the second observatory will be redirected after another lunar swing-by to its position ahead of Earth. These maneuvers will enable the spacecraft to take permanent orbits around the sun.

Backward Sunspots?
Modified from:
On July 31st, a sunspot popped up from the sun's interior, floated around a bit, and vanished again in a few hours. On the sun this sort of thing happens all the time and, ordinarily, it wouldn't be worth mentioning. But this sunspot was magnetically “backward”. Sunspots are planet-sized magnets created by the sun's inner magnetic dynamo. Like all magnets in the Universe, sunspots have north (N) and south (S) magnetic poles. The sunspot of July 31st popped up S-N, opposite the norm which is N-S.

This tiny spot of backwardness matters because of what it might foretell: A really big solar cycle. Solar activity rises and falls in 11-year cycles, swinging back and forth between times of quiet and storminess. Right now the sun is quiet. Satellite operators and NASA mission planners are bracing for this next solar cycle because it is expected to be exceptionally stormy, perhaps the stormiest in decades. Sunspots and solar flares will return in abundance, producing bright auroras on Earth and dangerous proton storms in space. Even if a new cycle has truly begun don't expect any great storms right away. Solar cycles last 11 years and take time to build up to fever pitch. Eventually, the new cycle will take over completely; then the fireworks will really begin.

Pluto No Longer a Planet
Modified from:
On August 24th, 424 astronomers from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted officially that Pluto is no longer a planet. There are now officially only eight planets in the solar system. The decision establishes three main categories of objects in our solar system. Planets: The eight worlds from Mercury to Neptune. Dwarf Planets: Pluto and any other round object that has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and is not a satellite. Small Solar System Bodies: All other objects orbiting the Sun.

Pluto and its moon Charon, now get demoted because they are part of a sea of other objects that occupy the same region of space – the Kuiper Belt. Earth and the other eight large planets have, on the other hand, cleared broad swaths of space of any other large objects. Pluto is a dwarf planet by the new definition and is recognized as the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects. Dwarf planets are not planets under the definition, however. Textbooks will now have to be rewritten.

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Last updated
February 6, 2007