Lunar and Planetary Institute

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter

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January 1 - December 31, 2015 Hubble Space Telescope's 25th Anniversary

January 1 - December 31, 2015 International Year of Light

September 19, 2015 International Observe the Moon Night

September 28, 2015 Total Lunar Eclipse

October 4 - October 10, 2015 World Space Week 2015

October 11 - October 17, 2015 Earth Science Week


Mars Rover Teacher Workshops at the University of Houston
These workshops on September 18 and 19 are to help teachers prepare their students for the January 30, 2016 Mars Rover Celebration at the University of Houston. The workshops covers the basics of Mars science and how to use the curriculum. Registration deadline: September 11, 2015.

Rice Astronomy Course
ASTR 502: Teaching Earth and Space Science is designed for inservice and preservice teachers (grades 5-12), but Rice undergraduates considering a teaching career are also welcome. This class is an overview of the Earth and the solar system, their structure, evolution, and dynamics. It includes fundamentals of Earth and Space Science topics as taught in 6th grade, plus solar system content of "Earth and Space Science" and "Astronomy" Texas high school courses. This course will count towards the Master of Science Teaching degree, but other teachers wishing content enhancement are welcome as Visiting Teachers.

MAVEN Elementary Workshops -- ‘Red Planet: Read, Write, Explore!’
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) will explore Mars' upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the solar wind. The mission will provide invaluable insights into the history of Mars′ atmosphere, climate, liquid water and planetary habitability. Join the MAVEN education team for a one-day workshop on the MAVEN mission and the accompanying elementary program, "Red Planet: Read, Write, Explore!" This program features six standards-based lessons that combine science, literacy and art to help students understand planetary habitability and the MAVEN mission. This workshop will be offered at the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, CO on Sept. 12, 2015 and at the World Forestry Center Museum in Portland,OR, on Sept. 19, 2015.


Texas Association for Environmental Education 2015 Fall Conference
The 2015 TAEE Conference will be at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, October 9-10. The theme is Environmental Education Connections, as Formal and Informal Educators connect to support their mutual efforts in Texas.

Sept 3 Free Presentation at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
The Lunar and Planetary Institute invites all inquisitive adults to attend "NASA’s Exploration of Ceres and Pluto: An Update," a presentation by Dr. Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute. This free public presentation on September 3, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. is the first presentation in LPI’s 2015-2016 Cosmic Explorations Speaker Series, "Solar System Exploration Today and Tomorrow."

Celebrate World Space Week 2015
Join educators and space enthusiasts around the world to celebrate World Space Week, Oct. 4-10, 2015. This international event commemorates the beginning of the Space Age with the launch of Sputnik 1 on Oct. 4, 1957.

International Observe the Moon Night
On Sept. 19, 2015, the whole world has the chance to admire and celebrate our moon on International Observe the Moon Night. And you can join in the fun! Check the map of registered observation events to see if an event is being held near you. If not, please consider registering and hosting one and inviting your community.

CosmoQuest / CLSE Google Hangouts
Join CosmoQuest and the LPI-JSC Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE) the first Tuesday of the month as we chat with folks working with NASA SSERVI (Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute)! Our next Hangout will be July 7th at 7:30pm CT with guest Dr. David Kring, PI for the LPI-JSC SSERVI team, the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration. All Hangouts begin at 5:30pm PT / 6:30pm MT / 7:30pm CT / 8:30pm ET.


Send Your Name to Mars on NASA's Next Red Planet Mission
Mars enthusiasts around the world can participate in NASA’s journey to Mars by adding their names to a silicon microchip headed to the Red Planet aboard NASA's InSight Mars lander, scheduled to launch next year. Submissions will be accepted until Sept. 8.

NITARP 2016: Do Original Research Using Astro Data
NITARP, the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program, gets teachers involved in authentic astronomical research. Small groups of educators are partnered with a mentor professional astronomer for an original research project. The educators incorporate the experience into their classrooms and share their experience with other teachers. The program runs January through January. Applications for the 2016 class of educators are available now and due on September 21, 2015.

NASA and SciStarter Enlist Citizen Scientists for Nationwide Research
NASA scientists are on a mission to map global soil moisture using the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, and through SciStarter, they're teaming up with citizen scientists to gather valuable data from the ground to complement and validate what is seen from space. Participants from every state will collect and analyze soil samples from September through June.

#WhySpaceMatters Photography Competition
NASA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, or UNOOSA, have launched a global photography competition to highlight how the vantage point of space helps us better understand our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future by aiding sustainable development on Earth. To participate, post a picture and description on Instagram using the hashtag #whyspacematters and tagging @UNOOSA.

Earth Science Week 2015 Contests
The American Geosciences Institute is sponsoring a series of contests to celebrate Earth Science Week 2015: the photography contest (open to all ages), visual arts contest (open to students K-5) and the essay contest (open to students grades 6-9). The entry deadline for all three contests is Oct. 16, 2015.

"Where Over the World Is Astronaut Scott Kelly?" Geography From Space Trivia Contest
During his year-long stay on the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly wants to test your knowledge of the world through a geography trivia game on Twitter. Traveling more than 220 miles above Earth, and at 17,500 miles per hour, he circumnavigates the globe more than a dozen times a day and captures images of Earth for scientific observation. Each Wednesday, Kelly will tweet a picture and ask the public to identify the place depicted in the photo. The first person to identify the place correctly will win an autographed copy of the picture.

Vote in the Ceres "Bright Spot" Mystery Poll
On March 6, 2015, NASA's Dawn spacecraft began orbiting Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Even before the spacecraft arrived at the dwarf planet, images revealed mysterious bright spots. Vote for your guess on what's creating these unusual bright spots.


NSTA Awards and Recognition Program
The NSTA Awards and Recognition were created to raise awareness and exposure of the outstanding work being done in the science education field. All entries must be received by 11:59 PM EST on 11/30/2015, via online submission with the exception of the Shell Science Teaching Award whose deadline is 11/18/2015.

Voya Unsung Heroes Awards Program
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. Apply by April 30, 2016.

2016 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards
Applications for the Texas Environmental Excellence Awards are now open. This award is the highest environmental honor in the state. The 2016 application cycle is open through September 25, 2015.

NCTM Invites Applications for 2015 Middle School Student Engagement Grants
Grants of up to $3,000 will be awarded to persons currently teaching math in grades 6-8 to support the incorporation of materials or lessons which actively engage students in tasks and experiences that deepen their content knowledge. Deadline is November 6, 2015.

Captain Planet Foundation Grants
Captain Planet Foundation Grants are available to US-based schools and organizations with annual operating budgets of less than $3 million. The grants promote and support educational programs that enable youth to understand and appreciate their environment through learning experiences that engage them in active, hands-on projects to improve schools and communities. Deadline: September 30.

Lowe's Toolbox for Education K-12 Public School Improvement Projects
Lowe's Toolbox for Education program provides grant awards of up to $5,000 to support school improvement projects at K-12 public schools in the United States. Priority is given basic necessities, with a preference for funding requests that have a permanent impact. Projects that encourage parent involvement and help build stronger community spirit are encouraged. Application deadline: October 16, 2015.


Visualizing Earth Systems
A compelling visualization can graphically depict data in a way that helps students grasp a challenging concept. This new website links educators to dozens of recommended visualizations dealing with energy, climate, minerals, water, hazards, and other Earth science topics. Educators are invited to submit URLs for their favorite online geoscience visualizations.

The Universe in the Classroom
In this third of a special three-part edition of The Universe in the Classroom, learn about how our understanding of cosmology has evolved as our ability to collect and interpret data has improved.

AGI’s Critical Issues Program
This information hub provides introductory information on issues at the intersection of geoscience and society, including energy, climate, water, natural hazards, and mineral resources for the classroom.

Angry Birds Space--Solar System update
Rovio released a major updated to Angry Birds Space. The new "Solar System" update has 15 new levels, facts about all the planets in our solar system, nine NASA co-produced videos, and links to 15 NASA websites.

Geoscience Resources Available in Spanish
The American Geosciences Institute has free resources in English and Spanish listed on their website that may be helpful to students and teachers.

Experience Curiosity
This program allows viewers to journey along with the one-ton rover on its Martian expeditions by simulating Mars in 3-D based on actual data from Curiosity and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), giving users first-hand experience in a day in the life of a Mars rover.

Mars Trek
This free online application provides high-quality, detailed visualizations of the planet using real data from 50 years of NASA exploration and allowing astronomers, citizen scientists and students to study the Red Planet's features.


Haze, Flowing Ice on Pluto
Flowing ice and a surprising extended haze are among the newest discoveries from NASA’s New Horizons mission, which reveal distant Pluto to be an icy world of wonders. The new images show fascinating details within the Texas-sized plain, informally named Sputnik Planum, which lies within the western half of Pluto’s heart-shaped feature, known as Tombaugh Regio. There, a sheet of ice clearly appears to have flowed -- and may still be flowing -- in a manner similar to glaciers on Earth.

Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth Discovered
NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the "habitable zone" around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another "Earth."

Stars in the Milky Way Have Moved
A team of scientists with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey have discovered that nearly a third of the stars have dramatically changed their orbits. Astronomers examined the chemical composition of stars and determined that up to 30% of the stars surveyed had compositions indicating that they were formed in parts of the galaxy far from their current positions.

Largest Feature in the Universe
A team of astronomers have found what appears to be the largest feature in the observable universe: a ring of nine gamma ray bursts 5 billion light years across. Each gamma ray burst is thought to be a supermassive black hole at the center of a separate galaxy. The team now want to find out more about the ring, and establish whether the known processes for galaxy formation and large scale structure could have led to its creation, or if astronomers need to radically revise their theories of the evolution of the cosmos.

Mysterious Bright Spots on Ceres
The Dawn mission orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres has discovered some mysterious bright spots, a variety of craters, and a pyramid-shaped mountain. Scientists have released a new video with a flyover view of these features.

The End of the Universe
An international team of astronomers studying more than 200 000 galaxies has measured the energy generated within a large portion of space more precisely than ever before. Based on findings from the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, the energy output of the nearby Universe is currently half of what it was only 2 billion years ago, and it’s still decreasing. The fact that the Universe is slowly fading has been known since the late 1990s, but this work shows that it is happening across all wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the infrared, representing the most comprehensive assessment of the energy output of the nearby Universe.

Auroras on Mars
In late Dec. 2014, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft detected evidence of widespread auroras in Mars's northern hemisphere. The "Christmas Lights," as researchers called them, circled the globe and descended so close to the Martian equator that, if the lights had occurred on Earth, they would have been over places like Florida and Texas. Unlike Earth, Mars does not have a global magnetic field; instead, there are umbrella-shaped magnetic fields here and there, but mainly in the southern hemisphere. These umbrellas are remnants of an ancient global field that decayed billions of years ago.