Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
January 2006

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Calendar | Workshops and Courses I Grants and Funding | Events/Opportunities | Resources | Mission News and Science



January 15Stardust Sample Return
The Stardust Mission successfully returned samples of a comet to Earth! The Stardust Mission flew through the tail of Comet Wild 2 in January 2004, and gathered particles in a special aerogel substance. It returned to Earth, landing in the Utah desert in the wee hours of the morning on January 15th. For learning resources and activities, visit this site.Additional comet activities can be found at this Web site.

January 17New Horizons Mission Launch
The New Horizons mission will have a long journey of 3 billion miles, and will fly past Pluto in July 2015, moving at about 30,000 miles an hour. It will continue flying out of the Solar System, passing by other Kuiper belt objects (icy-rocky bodies) on the way. For learning resources and activities visit this site.

March 29, 2006 – Sun-Earth Day 2006 Eclipse: In a Different Light
Sun-Earth Day 2006 will be on March 29th to coincide with the total solar eclipse that takes place that day. Since the eclipse is only visible from Brazil, the Atlantic Ocean, Northern Africa, and Central Asia, the eclipse will be broadcast live via satellite and internet. For those in the United States, the actual eclipse will take place at approximately 6am Eastern/ 5am Central/ 4am Mountain/ 3am Pacific. Check out the many eclipse-related resources available now. Resources for museums, planetariums, parks, youth clubs, and community organizations such as libraries are available in the Public Outreach section. An archived version of the Web cast will also be available soon after the live viewing. Visit the Sun-Earth Day Web site.

Workshops and Courses

Join the 2006 LPI Fieldtrip!

The Heat from Within: ... Earthly Insights into Planetary Volcanism
Middle-school science educators — and other science educators — are invited to join planetary scientists on this week-long NASA-sponsored field-based workshop from July 9–17, 2006. The field experience will investigate different volcano types in the Bend and Crater Lake regions of Oregon to build an understanding of volcanic features, patterns, and processes on Earth. These field investigations will serve as analogs for understanding the planetary processes that produce volcanos on planetary bodies in our solar system, including Mars, the Moon, Venus, and even the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. The experience will be divided between the field and classroom. Classroom time includes presentations, discussion, and lab work; participants will work with classroom-tested, hands-on inquiry based activities and resources that will enhance Earth and space science teaching. Participants receive lesson plans, supporting resources, and presentations. Please encourage educators to apply for this enriching experience!

A limited number of grants are available to cover registration. Applications are due on March 24, 2006. For more information or to apply, visit The Heat from Within Web site.

LPI and NASA ARES Workshops at Harris County Department of Education
February 28, 2006 – Formation of the Solar System and Planet Processes
Explore how our solar system and planets formed and have been altered over 4.5 billion years of geologic activity. Volcanos, tectonics, impacts, and weathering will be investigated for the terrestrial planets, including Earth. Participants will receive presentation materials and hands-on activities for the classroom. 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., Fee: $75.

Please contact Liliana Maldonado at (713) 696-1306 for registration information. For more workshop details, contact Becky Nelson, or go to the Harris County Department of Education Web site.

Discover Mars in Alaska
NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander and Mars 2001 Odyssey missions invite eight pairs of middle and/or high school science teachers to immerse themselves in a week-long summer field experience focused on current polar science research on both Earth and Mars. Applications are due February 15, 2006. For an application and more information, visit this site or contact Doug Lombardi, Phoenix E/PO Manager.

Meteorites and Meteor Crater
Although this workshop is primarily geared for college teachers of all disciplines, high school teachers are also welcome to apply. This 3-day course on Meteorites and Meteor Crater is being held in Flagstaff, Arizona, June 16–18, 2006. The workshops combines a field expedition to Meteor Crater with classroom instruction. The activities give educators a basic understanding of the effects and consequences of collisions on the Earth and an opportunity to examine a variety of meteorites (including lunar and Martian specimens) using microscope and other techniques. Topics to be covered include impact dynamics, crater formation, global crater distribution and age, shock metamorphism, mineralogy and chemistry of meteorites, and methods of meteorite analysis. At Meteor Crater participants will have an opportunity to inspect highly shocked and melted rocks, some of which may contain melt droplets of the iron meteorite impactor that struck Arizona 49,000 years ago! This course has a participant fee of $50 (in addition to the registration fee) to cover costs of transportation and lunch on a field trip.

Mission to Mars
Here is an opportunity for middle school and high school teachers. The Mission to Mars workshop is a hands-on professional development course being held on March 20–21, 2006. The cost is $50.00. NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training in Advanced Life Support (ALS/NSCORT) has developed curriculum for a standards/inquiry-based module which introduces participants to the complex issues involved with living in a habitat on Mars. The workshop includes activities which investigate plant growth, ecosystems, water and waste treatments, engineering, recycling, and food production. For more information visit the Cosmosphere Web site.

Astronomy for Your Classroom
This workshop is geared for K-7th grade teachers. The Kansas Cosmosphere is holding a workshop April 10–11, 2006 based on aligning scientific topics with the testable benchmarks in the Standard State Assessments. The cost is $50. The Stellar Standards workshop is specifically designed for elementary and middle school teachers and will focus on how to use the planets, stars and galaxies to meet the Kansas State Education Standards. The Cosmosphere’s Education Team will lead hands-on activities designed for use in science, math and language arts classrooms. In addition to defining and categorizing the concepts of color, size, and distance, astronomy can be used as a unifying concept across disciplines. Lesson plans and sources for activity materials will be available. For more information visit the Cosmosphere Web site.

Workshops at the Geological Society of America’s South-Central Annual Meeting
These workshops are also being offered in conjunction with the Geological Society of America's South-Central Section annual meeting to be held March 6th–7th in Norman, Oklahoma. For more on the workshops visit this site.
Hands-On Geology Projects for Group Learning: Saturday morning, March 4th
Vince Cronin assisted by Rena Bonem, Baylor University, 254-710-2361
Short (5–10 min) projects illustrate important geological processes, generally involving materials and devices that are readily available. The workshop will show the participants how to reproduce these projects for individual classroom use. Cost: $25.
Earth and Space at Your Fingertips: Infusing Technology-Rich Resources into Your Lessons: Saturday afternoon, March 4th
Wendi Williams, University of Arkansas–Little Rock, 501-569-3546; Keith Harris, University of Arkansas–Little Rock, 501-569-3546 Participants explore technology-rich NASA, GSA, DLESE, and other resources aligned to meet National Science Education Standards, as well as begin mapping participants’ state standards. Earth and Mars will be emphasized. Cost: $35 K–16; $20 pre-service.

Master of Arts in Science Teaching at NAU
The following space and earth science courses will be offered at Northern Arizona University as part of the MAST program and are open enrollment. For more information about the MAST program, go to the Center for Science Teaching and Learning website at Northern Arizona University: For more information about these and other courses, please go to the NAU summer schedule at and look under LOUIE On-Line.
First Summer Session (June 6–July 5, 2006)
PHY 600 3 Teaching Astronomy MTWTh 7:30–9:45 am
GLG 602-1 3 Weather & Climate MTWTh 10:15am–12:30 pm
GLG 602-1 3 Volcanoes & Earthquakes MTWTh 3:45–6:00 pm
For more information, contact

Grants and Funding

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.

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.

The Toshiba America Foundation

The mission of Toshiba America Foundation is to contribute to the quality of science and mathematics education in U.S. communities by investing in projects designed by classroom teachers to improve science and mathematics education for students in grades K thru 12.
Deadlines: Kindergarten–6th grade program applications are due October 1st. 7th–12th grade program applications are accepted year round for grants under $5,000. 7th–12th grade program applications are due February 1st and August 1st for grants over $5,000.
For more information or to apply, go to visit the Toshiba America Foundation Web site.

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Journey Through the Solar System
Interested in presentations on our solar system? Solar System Ambassador Len Duda is offering a series of presentations at Explora in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The schedule of topics for the workshops is:
Jan 21: The Sun
Feb 18: Asteroids and Comets
Mar 18: Mars
Apr 15: Jupiter
May 20: Saturn

For details on Explora in New Mexico please visit the Explora Web site. Visit this site for information about Len’s past presentations.

Starry Nights at the Natural History Museum
An excellent opportunity for those interested in astronomy! Starry Nights features a world-class planetarium show in a 55-foot-diameter digital dome theater. Journey deep into the cosmos and experience colorful visuals of galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. Part of the show also includes telescope viewing in the observatory. Events take place at the LodeStar Natural History Museum in New Mexico. The shows run from January 7–February 25 and take place on Saturday evenings at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, and 8:00pm, with a Spanish-language show at 8:30pm. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $3 for children ages 3 to 12. For more information, visit the Museum's Web site.

Hubble Space Telescope Public Lecture Series
at the Space Telescope Science Institute – and Live Web Cast!
February 7, 2006, 8pm est. Speaker: Bahram Mobasher, STScI
Crisis in the Cosmos? Giant Galaxies in the Early Universe
Lectures on a diverse selection of cosmic topics are held the first Tuesday of every month at 8 PM in the Space Telescope Science Institute Auditorium. The recorded Web cast will be available live and for viewing online shortly afterward. Further information and directions are available by calling 410-338-4700 or on the Hubble Public Talks Web site.

Expanding your Horizons in Science and Mathematics
Technical Career Workshops in New Mexico for Young Women Grades 6–12
An opportunity for female students to meet with female professionals from the community who have found satisfying careers in law, mathematics, engineering, computing, medicine, and other non-traditional technical careers. . A completed registration form and fee must be returned for each attendee. The deadline for groups of 10 or more is February 24, 2006; the deadline for smaller groups and individuals is March 1, 2006. For more information or to register, go to the Expanding your Horizons in Science and Mathematics Web site. Visit this site for information about other Expanding your Horizons conferences.

Summer Geoscience Positions for K–12 Teachers
The Geological Society of America is offering 41 paid summer positions on National Parks, National Forests and BLM lands for summer 2006. Yellowstone National Park, Denali National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, Gallatin National Forest, and more! 2006 Application postmark deadline is 3 February 2006. To view all 41 positions and apply please visit the Geological Society of America's Web site.


NASA Helps Visually Impaired Students Touch the Sun
A new book called Touch the Sun allows blind and visually impaired students to experience images of the sun and solar activity by feeling transparent raised textures bonded to the pictures. These raised patterns embossed over the colorful images in Touch the Sun translate shapes, places of solar and magnetic activity and other details of the sun and space weather, allowing visually impaired people to experience solar science. It incorporates Braille and large-print descriptions for each of the book's 16 photographs, so it is accessible to readers of varying visual abilities. Approximately 2,500 copies will be printed. The majority will be distributed free to blind and visually impaired students, with the assistance of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. The remainder will be available for public purchase. For more information visit Kids Can Touch the Sun.

Solar System Ambassadors
The Solar System Ambassadors Program is a public outreach program designed to work with motivated volunteers across the nation. These volunteers communicate the excitement of JPL's space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries to people in their local communities. To arrange for a Solar System Ambassador event in your community, please contact an ambassador near you.

Ambassadors furnish short biographical statements for the purpose of detailing their areas of interest and expertise. Following the biography is a list of past events conducted by the Ambassador to further aid in decision making. For more information, visit this site.

Orion Nebula
In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced — and requiring 150 passes — NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. This turbulent star formation region is one of astronomy's most dramatic celestial objects. In a mosaic containing a billion pixels, Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys uncovered thousands of stars never seen before in visible light. Some of these stars are brown dwarfs — stars too cool and small to actually sustain nuclear fusion the way our Sun does. The nebula contains stars of all sizes and the Hubble image will help scientists understand more about how stars form and change. For more information about the image, visit this Hubble site. Visit Amazing Space for "Kids News" and the Latest from Hubble for an online tour.

The Universe in the Classroom
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific offers an online newsletter for educators who want to bring astronomy into their classroom. Prepared for busy educators who may not have much background in astronomy, each issue focuses on a topic of current astronomical interest and is complemented by hands-on classroom activities to make the topic come alive for students and resource links to help educators — and students — explore further.

Aurora Mega-Gallery
A collection of every aurora photo ever published on is combined into one "mega-gallery." There are spooky auroras, man-made auroras, auroras in Florida, auroras at the South Pole, auroras beneath the space shuttle — thousands of photos. Together, they are a unique chronicle of space weather since the year 2000.

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Mission News and Science

Modified from
NASA's Stardust mission’s sample return capsule safely made it back to Earth on January 15th after nearly 7 years in interplanetary space. During its journey Stardust encountered Comet Wild-2, collecting dust particles from it in a special material called aerogel. The scientific importance of these first solid samples from our Galaxy can't be overstated. Interstellar dust and gas were the building blocks of our solar system, the Earth, and all living things, including people. We are truly made of stardust.

At two other times in the mission, the aerogel collectors were also opened to collect interstellar dust. By studying this dust, scientists hope to learn about the origins of the Solar System. They wish to know what the ingredients were that went into making it. When the mission returns, the aerogel collectors exposed to the interstellar dust will be scanned by an automated microscope. There will be approximately 1.6 million fields of view, but perhaps only a few dozen total grains of interstellar dust in the entire collector, it will be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

The Stardust team is seeking volunteers to help search for these tiny samples of matter from the galaxy, using a virtual microscope (VM). First, the volunteer will go through a web-based training session and pass a test to qualify to register to participate. After passing the test and registering, volunteers will be able to download a virtual microscope (VM). The VM will automatically connect to the Stardust server and download images that will be collected from the Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector using an automated microscope at the Cosmic Dust Lab at Johnson Space Center. Volunteers will search each field for interstellar dust impacts by focusing up and down with a focus control. For more visit about volunteering visit the Participation section of the Stardust Web site.

MRO HiRISE Camera Being Tested
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera currently bound for Mars on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft has been powered on and is being tested. Information on the tests are posted at this Web site. The HiRISE web pages will be updated as new information comes in. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will reach Mars on March 10, 2006 at 1:28 p.m., Arizona time. HiRISE, an instrument on MRO, is the most powerful camera and largest telescope to ever leave Earth orbit, and it is based in Tucson, Arizona, at the HiRISE Operations Center on the University of Arizona campus.

NASA Sets Sights on First Pluto Mission
NASA is preparing to send off the first spacecraft to distant Pluto and its moon Charon during a launch window poised between 17 January and 14 February 2006. This mission will complete the initial reconnaissance of the planets in the solar system.

Different than the inner, rocky planets (like Earth) or the outer gas giants, Pluto is known as an "ice dwarf," commonly found in the Kuiper Belt region billions of miles from the Sun. "Exploring Pluto and the Kuiper Belt is like conducting an archeological dig into the history of the outer solar system, a place where we can peek into the ancient era of planetary formation," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute Department of Space Studies, Boulder, Colo.

The compact, 1,050-pound piano-sized probe will launch aboard an Atlas V expendable launch vehicle, followed by a boost from a kick-stage solid propellant motor. New Horizons will be the fastest spacecraft ever launched, reaching lunar orbit distance in just nine hours and passing Jupiter 13 months later. Launch before Feb. 3 allows New Horizons to fly past Jupiter in early 2007 and use the planet's gravity as a slingshot toward Pluto. The Jupiter flyby trims the trip to Pluto by five years and provides opportunities to test the spacecraft's instruments and flyby capabilities on the Jupiter system.

The New Horizons science payload includes imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a multi-color camera, a long-range telescopic camera, two particle spectrometers, a space-dust detector and a radio science experiment. The dust counter was designed and built by students at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Depending on its launch date, New Horizons could reach the Pluto system as early as mid-2015, conducting a five-month-long study possible only from the close-up vantage of a spacecraft. It will characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon, map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure. New Horizons also will study the small moons recently discovered in the Pluto system.

After Pluto and Charon, the spacecraft will continue its voyage into the Kuiper Belt, the band of icy rocky bodies beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, believed to be left over from the formation of our solar system, Stay tuned for some exciting results! Visit the New Horizons Web site for more information about NASA and the mission.

Did You Know?
Shadows are darker on the Moon
Modified from

Even when a shadow covers something on the Earth, you can usually see it clearly. But on the Moon, it is much more difficult to see objects in shadows.

On Earth, molecules in the air scatter light in all directions, and some of that light lands in your shadow. Without the air, your shadow would be eerily dark, like a piece of night following you around. Yet that's exactly how it is on the Moon. Shadows were one of the first things Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong mentioned when he stepped onto the surface of the moon. "It's quite dark here in the shadow [of the lunar module] and a little hard for me to see that I have good footing," he radioed to Earth.


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Last updated
May 2, 2007