Lunar and Planetary Institute

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter

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December 13, 2014 Geminid Meteor Shower

December 21, 2014 Winter Solstice

April 1, 2015 Dawn Mission arrives at Ceres--largest asteroid

July 14, 2015 New Horizons mission flies by Pluto


Houston Earth & Space Science Workshops at HCDE
These day-long trainings are hosted at the Harris County Department of Education and conducted through LPI’s NASA-funded STEP project. Registration is required; fees cover lunch and HCDE’s costs.

NASA Educator Professional Development Webinars
NASA Educator Professional Development is presenting a series of free webinars open to all educators. Join NASA Education Specialists to learn about activities, lesson plans, educator guides and resources to bring NASA into your classroom.


MY NASA DATA Seeking Volunteer Master Teachers for Advisory Board
The MY NASA DATA team is seeking elementary, middle, and high school teachers to serve as Master Teachers on a new MY NASA DATA Advisory Board. Selected teachers will use their classroom experience and expertise to help improve the MY NASA DATA project, which provides real NASA data, lesson plans, and activities for use in classrooms. Applications are due Dec. 15, 2014.


2014 Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching
Each year, this award recognizes one full-time U.S. teacher from kindergarten to eighth grade for leadership and innovation in Earth science education. The winner will receive a $2,500 prize and a travel grant of $1,000 to attend the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Annual Conference in Chicago in March 2015 to accept the award. To be eligible for the 2014 competition, applications must be postmarked by January 20, 2015.

Apply for a Teacher Scholarship to Raft the Grand Canyon with NCSE
Apply for an all-expenses-paid eight-day raft trip down the Grand Canyon with the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Winners will receive free airfare, lodging before and after the trip, and the trip of a lifetime, exploring the wonders of Grand Canyon with a team of scientists, educators, and science fans. The deadline for applications is January 5, 2015.

ING Unsung Heroes Program's Class Project Awards
Each year, one hundred K-12 educators are selected to receive awards of $2,000 each to help fund their innovative class projects. Of the one hundred finalists, three will be selected for additional financial awards. All awards must be used to further the projects within the school or school system. Application deadline: April 30 2015.


Free Mapping Our World Activities
Mapping Our World was developed to enhance GIS learning for students of all levels and to provide teachers with comprehensive and easy-to-use resources for GIS instruction in the classroom. Free materials are available online to download.

NASA Know Your Earth "Extreme Weather" Quiz
The latest Know Your Earth Quiz, "Extreme Weather" is now live! Test your skill and feel free to share far and wide on your social media sites.

Space Racers′ Space/STEM Educator Toolkit
Space Racers is a new, original animated TV series that provides young children with exposure to key aspects of STEM curricula. Lesson plans can be previewed and downloaded from the Parents & Educators section of the Space Racers website

New LPI Education Website: Look Up!
Calling all educators! Are you looking for ideas to create new and exciting programs for your audiences? Celestial events (eclipses, meteor showers, etc.) are seen frequently from Earth while, in this age of planetary exploration, NASA spacecraft are often reaching important mission milestones. Use these celestial events and NASA mission milestones as unique opportunities to engage your audiences in solar system science and exploration! The Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX has created a new website called "Look Up!" containing resources, ideas, and tips for educators looking to create programs centered on solar system events. Visit us for programming ideas and events happening in 2014 (including Comet Siding Spring’s October 19th close encounter with Mars), 2015, and beyond!


"Magic Island" Appears and Disappears on Titan
A feature seen by Cassini scientists on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has reappeared in radar data after disappearing for 13 months. Its physical appearance has changed rather significantly, doubling in size to almost 60 square miles. Scientists suspect that the feature's appearance and disappearance may be the result of changing seasons on Titan.

Tidal Forces Resurfaced Miranda
Uranus' moon Miranda looks as though it was pieced together from parts that didn’t quite fit together properly. A variety of models for this appearance have been examined over the years. Scientists have new evidence that some of the surface features may be due to tidal warming.

Milky Way Deficient in Dark Matter?
Although astronomers have gathered overwhelming evidence that dark matter makes up roughly 84 percent of the universe’s matter, they remain unsure about any specifics. Now, a group of astronomers has found evidence suggesting there’s only half as much dark matter in the Milky Way as previously thought.

‘Heavy Metal’ Frost on Venus?
Researchers re-examining information from the completed NASA Magellan mission found signs of what could be "heavy metal" frost on the 900 degree F surface. What the researchers saw in radio-wave reflectance is the highlands appear brighter, with dark spots in the tallest locations, possibly due to a temperature dependent metal compound precipitating from the air.

Possible Detection of Dark Matter Particle
Astronomers are still seeking the source of "dark matter," an invisible mass that has been detected by its gravitational interaction with galaxies and galaxy clusters. Recently, astronomers found variations in a stream of x-rays from the Sun that match what would be expected if axions--a hypothetical dark matter particle--were interacting with Earth's magnetic field. If confirmed, the axion finding would be a huge discovery.

MAVEN at Mars
After 10-month voyage across more than 400 million miles of empty space, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft reached Mars on Sept. 21st 2014. MAVEN is on a mission to investigate a planetary mystery. Billions of years ago, Mars was blanketed by an atmosphere massive enough to warm the planet and allow liquid water to flow on its surface. Today only a tiny fraction of that ancient air remains. What happened to the atmosphere of Mars? MAVEN will attempt to answer the question by studying the upper atmosphere, where gaseous material could be lost to space.

Evidence for Young Lunar Volcanism
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago. Scores of distinctive lunar rock deposits are estimated to be less than 100 million years old and some areas may be less than 50 million years old. These findings contradict prior estimates of how cool the Moon's interior is.