Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
March 2006

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



March 10 - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter entered orbit!

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.

April 8, 2006Mars Mania II event in Tucson

April 21–23, 2006KATS Kamp

Workshops and Courses

LAST CALL! 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
March 30, 2006 - Mars
Currently, multiple science missions are exploring the Red Planet. Through a balance of content and activities, we will investigate the formation of the Red Planet and how it has changed through time; how volcanism, tectonics, impacts, and erosion have affected Mars, and the evidence of water — past and present. 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.

Astrobiology Laboratory Institute for Instructors (ALI'I)
The University of Hawaii at Manoa is conducting a workshop designed for secondary science teachers that includes lectures and activities led by scientists and state-of-the-art lab tours. Teachers will review and do activities from NSF field-tested materials such as Voyages Through Time by SETI and Astrobiology: An Integrated Science Approach by TERC. The workshop takes place on June 9–14, 2006 in Oahu, Hawaii. The registration deadline is March 31, 2006. Apply at the Astrobiology Institute Web site.

Internet-based Earth Science Course
This eight week, three-credit graduate level, internet-based course is designed for K–6 educators. There are four modules involved in the course that help to improve Earth science content knowledge using practical classroom approaches. Full to partial scholarships are available. To apply online go to Course Information: NRES 896a. Independent Study: Lab. Earth. Concept & Appl. 3 credits. Section Number: 700. Call number: 8696. For more information contact Dr. Dave Gosselin, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln or 402-472-8919.

TeachSpace Workshops for High School Teachers
NASA is making it possible for math, science and technology high school teachers to bring the excitement of space exploration and human spaceflight topics to their classrooms. Participants receive texts, instructional materials, and access to the TeachSpace curriculum Web site, free room and board and $100 daily stipend. The TeachSpace summer workshops will be held at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Prescott, Arizona campus in June and July 2006 as well as throughout the summer in Florida, Washington, California, and Texas. Please visit the TeachSpace Web site for more information.

Astronomy Camp for Educators
The University of Arizona announces its eleventh Astronomy Camp for Educators that will take place on June 29 - July 3, 2006. Participants become astronomers by operating large telescopes, interacting with leading scientists, and interpreting their own scientific measurements. For more information visit the Astronomy Camp Web site or contact Dr. Don McCarthy.

Stellar Standards Teacher Workshop, April 10-11 (Grades K–7):
The Cosmosphere is pleased to present the Stellar Standards workshop, which 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. Lesson plans and sources for activity materials will be available. For more information, go to the Cosmosphere Web site. To register, contact Laurie Givan, Education Coordinator at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center,1-800-397-0330 Ext. 323,

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.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Classroom Grants
Are you a K–12 teacher who develops or applies science, mathematics, and technology in your curriculum? If the answer is “yes,” you may qualify for a grant of up to $200 per individual request to supplement your learning program. Use your grant for materials to help you make science, mathematics, and technology come alive in your classroom.

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.

Science Fiction Fantasy Contest
The 2006 World Science Fiction Convention is sponsoring the ninth annual Student Science Fiction & Fantasy Contest for the best short story with a science fiction or fantasy theme, the best science fiction or fantasy artwork, and the best science essay. This annual contest is open to all students in grades K-12. The deadline to submit entries is 31 March 2006.

GLOBE at Night Program
The National Optical Astronomy Observatory invites you to join the GLOBE at Night program for a Star-Hunting Party during March 22 - 29, 2006! Join thousands of other students, families, and educators to observe and record the visible stars and help to measure light pollution in your location. Participation is open to anyone who can get outside and look skyward during the week of March 22–29, 2006! Help NOAO reach their goal of 5000 observations from around the world!

Presidential Awards for Excellence
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is the nation's highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science. The awards recognize exemplary K–12 teachers for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. The nomination deadline is April 1, 2006, and the application deadline is May 1, 2006. Links to nominations forms and more information can be found at this Web site .

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 SAMEC Web site or e-mail

NASA's MESSENGER Mission Educator Fellows
NASA's MESSENGER mission, which launched in 2004 and will reach Mercury in 2011, is recruiting 30 practicing teachers or teacher trainers to become MESSENGER Educator Fellows. The Fellowship includes an all-expense paid five-day training workshop in Washington, DC, in June 2006. Applications are due March 31, 2006. The Announcement of Opportunity can be viewed at the Messenger Education and Public Outreach Web site. For further information, contact the MESSENGER Educator Fellowship Coordinator Ken Pulkkinen at; 202 689-1238.

ASU Offers Mentoring Support for First-year Phoenix Science Teachers
The ASIST-AZ program seeks to help first-year science teachers in grades 7–12. New teachers meet with experienced science teachers in the valley to discuss current science instructional practices, and to talk with other new teachers about teaching science. In addition, mentees will have weekly contact with mentor teachers, be observed in the classroom once a month by university science educators, and be invited to attend the fall Arizona Science Teachers Conference. Interested educators should contact: Dr Julie Luft at or (480) 965 -8463.


New Explore! module “To the Moon and Beyond! — with NASA's LRO Mission”
Scheduled to be launched in October 2008, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, is a robotic mission that will study the lunar environment, preparing the way for our return to the Moon, missions to Mars — and exploration beyond! The new Explore! module includes hands-on activities such as building an edible LRO, a Moon puppet story, exploring Earth and Moon dirt, and planning where the first human habitat should be located on the Moon. Additional resources, extensions, and background information are provided.

The Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) is an online learning environment where students examine real world evidence and analyze current scientific controversies. Developed for grades 5-12 students, WISE is free and requires a 90 minute session to get teachers familiar with the components and to practice setting up/running a class. Teachers will receive a stipend and training certificate for this work.

Library Resource: NASA's Spinoffs Help Make Life Better on Earth
Spinoff is NASA's publication featuring the agency's latest technological innovations transferred to the commercial market. It is available in both print and online editions. Visit the Spinoff Web site for the 1996 through 2005 Web versions of the publication. For a free copy of Spinoff 2005, contact the National Technology Transfer Center at: (800) 678-6882. Visit NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program Web site for more information.

K–8 Glovebox Activities
Glovebox activities integrate science, math, and technology and make connections to actual space research. They are excellent for formal and informal learning settings. The activities are categorized by grade level: K–2, 3–4, and 5–8. The site provides easy-to-download instructions to build gloveboxes, rubrics for evaluating the activities, release forms for photos taken of students taking part in the activities, and evaluation forms.

Educational Materials from NASA
The Educational Materials section of NASA's Web site lists classroom activities, educator guides, posters and other types of resources in a format that can be downloaded and used in the classroom. Materials are listed by type, grade level and subject. An educator guide and five posters have recently been made available, including Science in a Box Educator Guide and the Once and Future Moon Poster.

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Mission News and Science

Mars Mission Begins Orbiting Mars
NASA's new mission to Mars successfully put itself into orbit around the red planet. The spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, will provide more science data than all previous Mars missions combined.

The spacecraft traveled about 310 million miles to reach Mars after its launch from Florida on Aug. 12, 2005. It needed to use its main thrusters as it neared the planet in order to slow itself enough for Mars' gravity to capture it. The thruster firing began while the spacecraft was still in radio contact with Earth, but needed to end during a tense half hour of radio silence while the spacecraft flew behind Mars.

For the next half-year, the mission will use hundreds of carefully calculated dips into Mars' atmosphere in a process called "aerobraking." This will shrink its orbit from the elongated ellipse it is now flying, to a nearly circular two-hour orbit. For the mission's principal science phase, scheduled to begin in November, the desired orbit is a nearly circular loop ranging from 199 miles to 158 miles in altitude, lower than any previous Mars orbiter.

The instruments on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will examine the planet from this low-altitude orbit. A spectrometer will map water-related minerals in patches as small as a baseball infield. A radar instrument will probe for underground layers of rock and water. One telescopic camera will resolve features as small as a card table. Another will put the highest-resolution images into broader context. A color camera will monitor the entire planet daily for changes in weather. A radiometer will check each layer of the atmosphere for variations in temperature, water vapor and dust.

"The missions currently at Mars have each advanced what we know about the presence and history of water on Mars, and one of the main goals for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is to decipher when water was on the surface and where it is now," said JPL's Dr. Richard Zurek, project scientist for the mission. "Water is essential for life, so that will help focus future studies of whether Mars has ever supported life."

Additional information is available at the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Web site.

Comets Formed Close to Sun
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Samples from comet Wild 2 have surprised scientists, indicating the formation of at least some comets may have included materials ejected by the early Sun to the far reaches of the solar system. Scientists have found minerals formed near the Sun or other stars in the samples returned to Earth by NASA's Stardust spacecraft in January. The findings suggest materials from the center of the solar system could have traveled to the outer reaches where comets formed. This may alter the way scientists view the formation and composition of comets.

Stardust passed within 149 miles of comet Wild 2 in January 2004, trapping particles from the comet in an exposed gel. Its return capsule parachuted to the Utah desert on Jan. 15. The science canister with the Wild 2 sample arrived at Johnson on Jan. 17. Samples have been distributed to approximately 150 scientists for study.

More information is available on the Stardust Web site.

Deep Impact Sees Water Ice
Modified from

NASA’s Deep Impact mission was the first to probe beneath the surface of a comet and reveal the secrets of its interior. After spending 172 days in pursuit of comet Temple 1, the Deep Impact spacecraft’s impactor successfully collided with the comet on July 4th, 2005. The spacecraft collected data and relayed images and other information to NASA scientists.

The latest finding reveals that Comet Tempel 1 is covered with a small amount of water ice. These results offer the first definitive evidence of surface ice on any comet. The water ice on the surface of Tempel 1 could offer important insight into understanding a comet’s water cycle and supply which is critical to understanding these bodies as a system and as a possible source that delivered water to Earth. Water and the large organic component in comets equates into two of the key ingredients for life.

The findings help fulfill one of the major goals of the Deep Impact mission: Find out what is on the inside – and outside – of a comet. The Deep Impact team has reported a few other key findings. These include an abundance of organic matter in Tempel 1’s interior as well as its likely origins – the region of the solar system now occupied by Uranus and Neptune. The team arrived at their findings by analyzing data captured by an infrared spectrometer, an optical instrument that uses light to determine the composition of matter. Based on this spectral data, it appears that the surface ice used to be inside Tempel 1 but became exposed over time. The team reports that jets – occasional blasts of dust and vapor – may send this surface ice, as well as interior ice, to the coma, or tail, of Tempel 1. This shows that Tempel 1 is a geologically active body whose surface is changing over time.

Did You Know?
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Saturn’s Violent Nature
Did you know that Saturn's atmosphere is filled with violent electrical storms and high speed winds? In fact, Saturn is one of the windiest places in the solar system, with wind speeds over 1000 miles per hour at the equator. Occasionally, violent storms break through the cloud layers, each one bigger than Earth. Smaller storms occur as darker spots, and have been shown in recent Cassini-Huygens spacecraft images.

Currently there is an electrical storm larger than the United States - in which the lightning bolts are more than 1,000 times stronger than conventional lightning – brewing on Saturn! This storm is the strongest of its kind ever seen and University of Iowa space scientists have been utilizing data from Cassini to track the storm since January 23.

With Cassini the space scientists have learned that lightning storms on Saturn can emerge suddenly and last for several weeks or even a month. This current storm has varied in intensity, but has continued with some 25 episodes since first noticed on January 23. The origin of such storms is unknown, but may be related to Saturn's warm interior.

The radio sounds of Saturn's lightning can be heard by visiting the Space Audio Web site. More information about the Cassini Radio and Plasma Wave Science investigation can be found at the Cassini RPWS: Radio and Plasma Wave Science Web site. A Podcast of this story and other Cassini mission information is available at the Cassini-Huygens Web site and the Cassini - Unlocking Saturn's Secrets Web site.


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Last updated
May 2, 2007