Lunar and Planetary Institute

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter

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April 20 - April 26, 2014 International Dark Sky Week

April 28 - May 2, 2014 Air Quality Awareness Week

May 10, 2014 Astronomy Day

September 22, 2014 MAVEN arrives in orbit around Mars

July 1, 2015 New Horizons mission flies by Pluto


Marine Debris Webinar Series for Educators
Designed for science, math and physics educators, these free webinars (April 30 and May 7) will contain information on the science of investigating marine debris, the myths and truths about plastic "garbage patches," and will illustrate how scientists model and predict the paths of objects in the ocean. Each webinar will feature an interactive concept map filled with resources for use in the classroom - including videos, images and other resources.

Mars Through Time, a workshop for High School teachers
Mars Through Time is a four day, high school teacher professional development training, presented at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, July 8-11. It focuses on Mars science and exploration and the nature and process of science. Participants explore the relationship between technology and science using the history of Mars exploration as an example. Participants also learn about and discuss the nature and process of science with each other and invited speakers. Registration is free. Travel stipends are available for select participants based on need.

Arizona State University Mars Education Symposium
The symposium, The Search for Habitable Environments: Finding Curiosity in Your Classroom, will take place June 16-20, 2014, at the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, Ariz. Join the Mars Rover scientists as they lead a five-day interdisciplinary, immersive educator field experience to explore areas on Earth similar to environments on Mars. Help expand your students' understanding of how biology, geology and chemistry are essential to this fascinating search for life elsewhere. Registrations open until all positions are filled.

Solar System Exploration Pre-Service Teacher Institute in Houston
This free workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute is for future middle school science teachers and the educators that mentor them, and incorporates the Nature of Science through solar system content and activities. Registration is limited--apply now!

NASA Educator Workshop at 4 locations--The Scale of Discovery
Register for the 4th annual NASA Discovery and New Frontiers Programs educator workshop, "The Scale of Discovery." This workshop will take place Saturday, April 26, at four locations: Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA; Montana State University in Montana; Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX; and at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD. The workshop will cover distance, time, size, models, comparative planetology and more. The workshop will feature interactive panel discussions with scientists and engineers from all the current Discovery and New Frontiers missions: Dawn, MESSENGER, New Horizons, Juno, OSIRIS-REx and InSight.

Lunar Workshop for Educators in Maryland
Applications are now open for the 2014 Lunar Workskhop for Educators, to be held July 14-18 in Greenbelt, MD. Grade 6-9 science teachers and pre-service teachers are invited to attend a workshop focused on lunar science, exploration, and how our understanding of the Moon is evolving with the new data from current and recent lunar missions.


NASA's Digital Learning Network™ Event -- Mission Mars Virtual Field Trip
Educators and students are invited to a Mission Mars Mission Virtual Field Trip. The online event will take place on Friday, April 25, 2014, from 2-3 p.m. EDT. This virtual Google Hangout event will feature a special lesson about Mars rovers presented by education and content experts from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.

Free Education Webinar Series from NASA Educator Professional Development
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.

ASP 2014 Annual Meeting--Celebrating Science: Putting Education Best Practices to Work
Early registration and abstract proposals are open now for this conference, Aug 2-6 in Burlingame, CA.

USA Science & Engineering Festival
Innovate Our World is planning a day-long event for Sunday, April 27, 2014 at the USA Science & Engineering Festival at the Washington, DC Convention Center. Called "Shooting for the Moon," they will showcase their Moon Mission Challenge (MMC) to get students interested in participating in the challenge, as well as space exploration and STEM careers.

Houston Lecture: When Will We Find E.T. and What Happens If We Do?
In this Cosmic Exploration Speaker Series presentation on April 24, Dr. Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute will discuss the possible ramifications of making contact with an alien race. The free presentation at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, intended for inquisitive adults, will be followed by a light reception and an opportunity to meet Dr. Shostak.

NASA Online Seminars on Near-Earth Asteroids
Curious about NASA’s Grand Challenge to discover all asteroids that could threaten human populations and find out how to deal with them? NASA is sponsoring a series of seminars on the properties of Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) to provide information of interest to astronomers, students, teachers, and others who are potentially interested in contributing to studies of NEAs. The seminars will be held at 11am (Eastern) on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.


Earth-Observing Satellite Partnerships with The GLOBE Program
Four opportunities are available for elementary and secondary students and teachers to take part in the GLOBE campaigns related to NASA missions. GLOBE field campaigns are regional and worldwide projects that provide students with hands-on opportunities to explore and learn about Earth through a network of students, teachers and scientists.

Globe at Night Student Citizen Science
Have your students participate in the campaign and contribute their data in real time. There is now a web application for submitting data, as well as smart phone apps for collecting data.

IGES 2014 Earth Day Photo and Essay Contest
The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) invites students grades 5-8 to submit photos to the 2014 Earth Day Photo and Essay Contest. Change is part of living on Earth. To participate in the contest, students should take a photo of change in their local environment between the dates of April 14-25, 2014, and write a brief essay (400 words or less) describing what change is being depicted. Entries due May 16, 2014.

Kepler Art of Discovery Art Contest
Commemorate the fifth anniversary of NASA's Kepler mission to search for habitable planets with the Kepler Art of Discovery art contest. The contest is open to artists ages 13 and older who reside in the continental U.S. The contest invites artists to submit creative artwork that depicts, or relates to, the exciting discoveries made possible by the Kepler spacecraft and its team of scientists and engineers. The contest registration deadline is May 5, 2014. Entries are due May 12, 2014.

2014 Thacher Environmental Research Contest for High School Students
This annual IGES contest allows students the opportunity to show off their science and technology skills by submitting research projects focused on the use of remote sensing and analysis tools. High school students are asked to identify a U.S. protected area of interest, and design a research project that identifies why the area is unique, why it significantly contributes to our society, how this area has changed over time, and ways remote sensing and geospatial tools can be used to monitor these environmental treasures. Entry deadline: May 5.


2014 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
The 2013-2014 application period for K-6th grade mathematics and science teachers for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program is now open. Educators may still be nominated by themselves or by others until April 1, 2014. The PAEMST awards are the nation's highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. The application deadline for nominated educators is May 1, 2014.

Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Excellence in Science Awards
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is accepting nominations for the 2014 Student awards for high school juniors, and for the 2014 Educator Awards for one K-5th gradeand one 6-12 grade science or math teacher in Harris County. Nomination deadline is April 25, 2014.

US Airways Education Foundation Grants for STEM
The US Airways Education Foundation is accepting applications from nonprofit organizations for educational programs that target economically disadvantaged or developmentally disabled children, a with a focus on increasing student interest and academic achievement in STEM. Application deadline: May 1.

Dominion Accepting Applications for K-12 Energy/Environment-Related Math and Science Programs
Grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded to schools, colleges, and nonprofits in the company's service area working to improve math and/or science education through study of the environment or energy. Application deadline: May 1.

ING Unsung Heroes Award Grants
ING Unsung Heroes helps teachers turn great ideas into reality for students. Each year, 100 educators are selected to receive $2,000 to help fund their innovative class projects. Three of those are chosen to receive the top awards of an additional $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000. The application deadline is April 30.

National Weather Association awards grants
The National Weather Association's Sol Hirsch Education Fund Grants are awarded to K-12 teachers to improve the study of meteorology. Selected teachers can use the funds to take accredited courses, attend workshops and conferences, or purchase materials for the classroom. The deadline for application is June 1.


DIY Sun Science App
This free app, funded by NASA, allows families and educators to investigate and learn about the Sun. It provides hands-on activities, live images and recorded videos of the Sun, and much more.

Plate Tectonics Online Resources
The Geological Society of London has an online interactive resource on plate tectonics and other key geoscience topics.

What is a Polar Vortex?
There has been a lot of talk about the polar vortex lately. People from all over the United States and Canada have blamed recent cold weather on this phenomenon, but what is the polar vortex? Where did it come from? How does it cause such cold weather? Learn more, with a new video from SciJinks for grades 6-12.

Bridge Data Tip Activities
This program sponsored by NOAA Sea Grant and the National Marine Educators Association, has a variety of Earth science activities geared around the use of data.

Android Version of NASA Space Place Prime Magazine
Space Place Prime is now available on Android! A spinoff of NASA’s popular kids’ Space Place website, Space Place Prime has timely, educational, and easy-to-read articles and activities from the Space Place and other science websites, the latest and most impressive NASA space and Earth imagery, and a wide array of informational movies.

Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin
This quarterly journal is freely available online; it includes a variety of news regarding planetary science discoveries.

Visualization of 56 Years of Tornadoes in the US
Using information from, tech blogger John Nelson has created this spectacular image of tornado paths in the US over a 56 year period. The graphic categorizes the storms by F-scale with the brighter neon lines representing more violent storms.


Arctic Melt Season is Lengthening
A new study shows that the length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, with the ice melting earlier in the spring and continuing to melt longer in the fall. The earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional sunlight in some places to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness.

New Moon Forming Around Saturn?
The Cassini mission has captured observations of a small icy object forming in Saturn's rings. This object, nicknamed "Peggy," may be a new moon. The object is not expected to grow any larger, and may even be falling apart. The observations help scientists understand how Saturns moons formed.

First Earth-Sized Planet Found in Habitable Zone of Another Star
Astronomers have found an Earth-sized planet--named "Kepler-186f"--orbiting a red dwarf star at a distance where liquid water might exist on its surface. This discovery was made with NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. This planet is in a system with at least 4 other planets, but the others are too close to the star for life as we know it to exist.

Deep Ocean Inside Enceladus
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found further evidence of a deep underground ocean on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Scientists have suspected an underground sea of water, particularly when Cassini observed water and ice plumes spewing through vents on Enceladus; new gravitational measurements support a large ocean 6 miles deep beneath an ice sheet.

Volcanic Explosions on Mercury
Analysis of data from the MESSENGER mission shows that Mercury had explosive volcanism for extended periods in the planet's history. The findings are surprising considering Mercury wasn't supposed to have explosive volcanism in the first place, and they could have implications for understanding how Mercury formed.

Most Distant Object in the Solar System
Scientists have found a new most-distant member of the solar system--a dwarf planet even further than Sedna, beyond the Kuiper Belt and possibly part of the inner Oort cloud. The data also suggest that there may be a large planet influencing the orbit of the new object and other Oort cloud objects.

Mercury Shrunk More Than Thought
New data from the MESSENGER mission show that Mercury has contracted far more than previous estimates. Earlier estimates suggested that as Mercury cooled, it contracted about 0.5 to 2 miles in its radius, wrinkling its surface. New images and topographic data show that it contracted as much as 4.4 miles. These findings will help scientists understand the planet's geologic history and structure.