Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
February 2006

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



March 10, 2006Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrives at Mars.

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 Repeated below. An archived version of the Web cast will also be available soon after the live viewing.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. 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 fieldtrip 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.

LiftOff 2006 – Texas Teachers Attend Free
The Texas Space Grant Consortium aerospace workshop series, called LiftOff, emphasizes science, mathematics, and technology learning experiences by incorporating a space science theme supported by NASA missions. Teacher participants are provided with information, materials, and experiences through hands-on activities and field trips that will promote space science and enrichment activities for themselves and others.

How do the Earth and Moon compare? How did the Moon form? What causes the phases of the Moon? Join the close examination of Earth’s natural satellite during LiftOff 2006: Return to the Moon! LiftOff 2006 applications are available online.Texas Space Grant will pay the registration fee and all travel costs for any Texas teacher selected!

Mars Workshops at ASU’s Mars Space Flight Facility
February 23–25, NASA/ASU National Remote Sensing Teacher Institute and NASA/ASU Mars Education Program Hands-On Workshop
This institute will help teachers understand the process of science, using current Mars exploration as the primary example.

February 25, NASA/ASU Mars Educator Workshop: Inspiring the Next Generation: What They Need to Know To Go
Learn how to integrate current science into your curricular materials. Special Mars Mission guest speakers will be Dr. Mark Adler from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Dr. Phil Christensen from the Mars Space Flight Facility at ASU. For more information, visit ASU Mars Education Program.

Summer Astronomy Courses
Do you need more astronomy activities for your classroom? Would you like to know how to use a portable planetarium? The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine offers two two-week, 4-graduate credit, residential astronomy-related programs for teachers.

July 9–22: Introduction to Astronomy for Teachers provides standards-based astronomy pedagogy and content, much of which is presented as hands-on activities that teachers can take straight to their classrooms.

July 23–August 5: The Portable Planetarium for Earth, Space, and Natural Sciences offers content and instruction in the use of a portable planetarium, activities for planetarium use across the curriculum, and additional information on grant writing.

Contact: Ms Jean Boddy, Associate Dir. of Summer Programs Phone: 1 800-597-9500 or For more information visit the College of the Atlantic Web site.

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 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.

ING Unsung Heroes Awards Program
Since handing out the first award in 1996, the ING Unsung Heroes program has helped nearly a thousand K-12 educators and their schools fund innovative classroom projects through awards totaling more than $2.3 million. Do you or does someone you know have a creative, unique educational program that is helping students reach new heights? Or is there a program you’d like to implement, if only you had the proper funding?

To apply for a 2006 award applications must be postmarked by May 1, 2006. Application and more information are available at the ING Web site.

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.

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Sun-Earth Day: Eclipse in a Different Light
In celebration of the upcoming solar eclipse, Sun-Earth Day, March 29th, is celebrating with the new theme “Eclipse in a Different Light.” This year’s eclipse is only visible from Brazil, the Atlantic Ocean, Northern Africa, and Central Asia. However, the eclipse will be broadcast live via satellite and the internet. For those in the United States, the actual eclipse will take place at approximately 5am central. The Sun-Earth Day page for educators will provide you with the essential materials needed to help your students see our sun in a different light! More information and activities are at the Eclipse Web site.

Summer Research Experience for Teachers
The National Solar Observatory seeks middle and high school teachers of science and mathematics who would be interested in participating in the Summer 2006 NSO Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Research Experience for Teachers Program supports active participation of K–12 teachers in research and education projects with the intent of facilitating professional development of K-12 teachers through strengthened partnerships between institutions of higher education and local school districts. The Observatory, with facilities in the Sacramento Mountains in south-central New Mexico and at Kitt Peak in south-central Arizona, has on-going research programs in solar physics, solar-terrestrial physics, solar-stellar physics and instrumentation. Application deadline is February 15, 2006. For more information, visit the Research Experience for Teachers 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. The event will take place from June 25-July 1, 2006. Applications are due 15 February 2006. For an application and more information, visit this Web site. or contact Doug Lombardi, Phoenix E/PO Manager,

UA Seminar: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
The Science and Mathematics Teacher's Colloquium Series is a forum open for all K-12 science and math teachers to learn about cutting edge research taking place at The University of Arizona (UA). The next seminar is on Saturday, March 25, 2006: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. For additional information visit the Science Teacher's Colloquium Series Wb site or email at

Education Department Seeks Nominations for 2006 "American Stars Of Teaching"
The U.S. Department of Education plans to honor outstanding classroom teachers through the American Stars of Teaching program. The Department's Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative is seeking nominations and information about teachers who are improving student achievement, using innovative strategies in the classroom, and making a difference in the lives of their students. One teacher will be recognized from each state. To learn more or nominate a teacher to become an American Star of Teaching, please visit the Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative Web site. All nominations must be completed by April 15. The U.S. Department of Education received more than 2,000 nominations for the 2005 school year. A list of past years' honorees can be found at the U.S. Department of Education 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, visit the Expanding your Horizons Web site.

For information about other Expanding your Horizons conferences at other locations, go to the Expanding your Horizons Network Web site.


What’s Up 2006
If you like the weekly "What's Up this Week" column in Universe Today, you'll love this. The entire viewing schedule for 2006 is available as a free, 400+ downloadable eBook. You can download the whole book, turn to the page for tonight's suggestions - print off the page and head outside.  It's got tons of material including general sky watching advice, equipment selection, and hundreds of beautiful photographs. For more information visit the Universe Today Web site.

Exploring Black Holes
A high school-level classroom activity aligned with the National Science Education Standards (NSES) is now available online at StarDate’s Black Holes Encyclopedia. The activity, called Exploring Black Holes, turns students into astronomers, as they evaluate the claims of five super massive black holes to see if they deserve to be included in the encyclopedia. In addition to information on the best known black holes and their properties, this frequently updated website includes current news stories, in-depth feature articles, and a section on black holes in popular culture. Check out Black Hole Encyclopedia and Exploring Black Holes activity.

Explore It After School! for the Visually Impaired
Do you teach or know someone who teaches students with visual impairments? Chabot Space & Science Center and the California School for the Blind announce the release of Explore It After School! science activities for students with visual impairments. This resource guide includes lesson plans for technology and science projects and career exploration resources to broaden the academic and career options for students with visual impairments. The after-school program introduces challenging and rewarding activities that encourage students to work independently and to challenge stereotypes regarding academic and career options for persons with visual impairments.

Earth and Space Science Resources
Earth and Space Science Resources are currently available for formal and informal educators of grades 6–8 through the University of Texas’ Dana Center. The modules are aligned with the new 8th grade science TAKS test. For more information visit Science TEKS Toolkit and Middle School Vistas at this TEKS Web site.

Aurora Mega-Gallery
Teachers and librarians can now offer their clientele imagery of auroras by visiting one site called the "mega-gallery." At this gallery folks will find: 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.

Mars Rover Activities
Looking for Mars Rover resources and activities for the classroom or library setting? NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover website has a surplus of resources aimed at formal and informal educators. The site covers all areas including the mission science and technology, the mission objectives and other related events and features.

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Mission News and Science

Phoenix Mars Mission
NASA’s Phoenix Mars Mission, scheduled for launch in August 2007, is the first in a line of innovative and relatively low-cost complements to major missions being planned as part of the agency's Mars Exploration Program. Phoenix is specifically designed to measure volatiles (especially water) and complex organic molecules in the arctic plains of Mars, where the Mars Odyssey orbiter has discovered evidence of ice-rich soil very near the surface. In May 2008, Phoenix will use its braking and parachute descent to make a soft touchdown on Mars.

The Mission will utilize a spacecraft and instruments from two previous unsuccessful attempts to explore Mars: the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander. The Mars Polar Lander failed to return data upon its arrival to Mars' antarctic region on December 3, 1999 and left many ambitious science goals unaccomplished. Many of the mission's scientific instruments have already been built, requiring little or no modification for flight to Mars. Phoenix is a fixed lander, using a robotic arm to dig to the ice layer and analyze samples with a suite of sophisticated on-deck scientific instruments. For more on the mission visit: Phoenix Mars Lander 2007. For additional information and links about materials and activities for educators visit the Mars Exploration Rover Mission Web site.

NASA Weather Satellite
In May 2005, NASA successfully launched the latest in a long line of weather satellites. Dubbed NOAA-N at launch and renamed NOAA-18 once it reached orbit, this satellite will take over for the older satellite NOAA-16, which was launched in September 2000. NOAA always keeps at least two satellites in low-Earth orbit, circling the poles 14 times each day. As Earth rotates, these satellites end up covering Earth’s entire surface each day. In fact, with two satellites in orbit, NOAA covers each spot on the Earth four times each day, twice during the day and twice at night.

The first-ever weather satellite was launched in 1960, kicking off a long line of weather satellites that have kept a continuous watch on Earth’s atmosphere. But satellites do not last forever. Parts wear out, radiation takes its toll, and atmospheric drag slowly pulls the satellite out of orbit. Many weather satellites have a design life of only 2 years, though often they can last 5 or 10 years, or more. A steady schedule of new satellite launches is needed to keep the weather report current. Find out more about NOAA-18 and the history of polar-orbiting weather satellites at the Poes Project Web site. For kids and anyone else curious about the concept, the difference between polar and geosynchronous orbits is explained at the Orbits 'R' Us Web site.

Did You Know?
Modified from:
What is a black hole
Black holes are the evolutionary endpoints of stars at least 10 to 15 times more massive than our Sun. When a star that massive is destroyed in a supernova explosion, it may leave behind a burned out core. Without any outward forces to oppose gravitational forces, the remnant will collapse in on itself. The core eventually collapses to the point of zero volume and infinite density. Because of the high density, any light in the core or shining on the core cannot escape and falls in. This is why it is called a black hole.

But contrary to popular myth, a black hole is not a cosmic vacuum cleaner; its gravitational pull doesn’t change for traditional planetary distances. If our Sun was suddenly replaced with a black hole of the same mass, the only thing that would change would be the Earth's temperature. You have to get really close to a black hole to fall in!

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Last updated
May 2, 2007