Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
July 2006

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



August 12, 2006 – Perseid Meteor Shower peak

October 12-13, 2006 Arizona Science Teacher Association Annual Conference

October 19-21Louisiana Science Teacher Association 2006 Institute

Workshops and Courses

LPI and ARES One-Day Educator Workshops
Offered at the Harris County Department of Education
September 8, 2006--The Fire Within, Part I: Plate Tectonics & Volcanos
Learn about the different types of volcanos and igneous rocks as we investigate plate tectonics. Once we build an understanding of Earth’s volcanos, we will take a tour of volcanos across the solar system. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials on CD, reference materials, and hands-on activities for the classroom. Part II strongly recommended.  Fee: $75, Audience: 5th –8th grade Teachers

October 6, 2006--The Fire Within, Part II: Making Metamorphic and Sedimentary Rocks
Learn to identify different metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, explore how they form, and relate their formation to plate tectonics and the rock cycle. The day will close by examining evidence of these types of rocks on other planets. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials on CD, reference materials, and lesson plans for hands-on classroom activities. Part I strongly recommended.  Fee: $75, Audience: 5th –8th grade Teachers

Please contact Liliana Maldonado at (713) 696-1306 for registration information, or go to the Harris County Department of Education Web site. For more workshop details or additional workshop listings, go to the HCDE Earth and Space Science Workshops Web page.

ABC’s of Science Teacher Workshop
November 16–17(Grades pre K – 4). Cost $50.00. Attendees go through the alphabet introducing students to new vocabulary such as rocketry, chemistry, mass, and weather. With each letter, the students are introduced to a new word or scientific concept.. To Register: Contact Laurie Givan, Education Coordinator at: Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, 1100 North Plum, 67501-1499.1-800-397-0330 ext. 323.

Apollo Moon Missions and Meteorite Mysteries
The NASA Lunar Meteorite Sample Education Program is offering 3 hour workshops conducted at no charge within your own school or district office. A minimum of ten teachers or administrators is required. The workshop includes background information on the Apollo Moon missions; NASA certification with proper procedures in handling and storing lunar-meteorite sample disks; classroom activities, teacher's guides, Lunar and meteorite sample disk viewing, and more. For additional information contact: Sondra Geddes, NASA Lunar Meteorite Sample Education, (661) 276-2359 or

Project ASTRO Workshop, Tucson 2006
Developed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and coordinated in Tucson by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, this program offers teachers instruction in conducting hands-on inquiry-based science activities in their classrooms plus an astronomer partner with whom to present the activities. During the two-day ASTRO workshop, a partnership blends the teacher’s knowledge of methods and classroom discipline with the astronomer’s knowledge of and passion for astronomy. Both workshop partners receive Universe At Your Fingertips, a resource book with astronomy lesson plans. The workshop includes a trip to Kitt Peak National Observatory for the Nightly Observing Program.  Dates: September 29 and 30, 2006. Cost: Free. The application deadline is September 8, 2006. For more information, go to the ASTRO-Tucson Web site. For any further questions, contact Connie at or 520-318-8535.

 Project ASTRO-NM Teachers/Astronomer Workshop
The New Mexico Museum of Space History and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific are partnered to bring Project ASTRO-NM to you. The program is a national effort to pair a classroom teacher in grades 3-12, with a professional, amateur, or graduate student astronomer.  Selected teachers and astronomers come together in a workshop and learn to become equal partners; teachers provide the educational expertise, while the astronomers provide the astronomical knowledge. The partners receive 14 hours of training.  The next training workshop will be held at Sunspot, New Mexico, September 29-30, 2006. All expenses for this event are paid for. (Except travel) For more information visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History Web site or call 1-877-333-6589 or (505) 437-2840.

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.

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.

Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Awards
The National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Outstanding Earth Science Teacher (OEST) Awards are administered by the Geological Society of America (GSA). This is a yearly award that recognizes excellence in earth-science teaching at the precollege level.

The Geological Society of America awards the section recipients $500 travel money to attend a GSA meeting. The winners can also apply for up to $500 for classroom supplies. The award also includes an award certificate, a complimentary membership in GSA for three years for section recipients and a one year complimentary membership for state recipients, plus information on GSA educational programs and events.

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NSTA Area Conferences
The first NSTA Area Conferences on Science Education will be in Omaha, October 19–21, and the theme is “Pioneers in Science.” Visit this NSTA site for more information . For details on the Baltimore Conference, November 2–4, visit this NSTA site., and for Salt Lake City, December 7–9, visit this site.

Johnson Space Center Educational Tour
Johnson Space Center has invited any interested informal and formal educators to spend a few days in Houston, Texas. The date of the program is October 18-22. Cost is $450. Cost includes travel to and from Texas, lodging, admission into both Space Center Houston and Johnson Space Center, and the banquet ticket which includes one meal. Other meals, souvenirs, and travel to Hutchinson is not included. For more information, visit the COSMOSPHERE web site.

Earth Science Week
The American Geological Institute (AGI) has announced the theme for Earth Science Week 2006: "Be a Citizen Scientist!" The year's Earth Science Week, October 8–14, will engage students and the public in conducting real "citizen science" research and help to spread science literacy. AGI will be encouraging students, teachers, and the general public to become actively involved in a variety of citizen science programs with earth science themes. Earth Science Week 2006 marks the ninth year AGI has sponsored this international event. Each year, local groups, educators, and interested individuals organize activities to discover the Earth sciences and promote responsible stewardship of the Earth. Earth Science Week is supported by the U.S. Geological Survey and other geoscience organizations.

Informal Science Educators Pilot Study
Are you interested in participating in a Dawn pilot study? Dawn Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) is committed to offering materials that are of high quality and utility and reflect the needs of formal and informal science educators. To this end, the E/PO team will conduct a pilot test of the Web-based Find a Meteorite activity during the fall of 2006 and currently is seeking educators to participate in informal settings such as science centers, museums, afterschool programs, and youth groups to test the activity with 8th grade-level children. For more details and to sign up, visit the DAWN Web site.


Teachers are invited to celebrate the new school year at Teacher Appreciation Day events in Staples stores nationwide. The first 200 teachers at each event will receive a free canvas goody bag, teacher planner, and valuable coupons. Find the event near you by visiting the Staples Web site. (Teachers may be asked to present school ID.)

NASA Earth Science News
Using NASA's advanced Earth-observing satellites, scientists have discovered a new opportunity to build early detection systems that might protect thousands from floods and landslides. Also, information on new forecast models to predict that by century's end, the Andes in South America will have less than half their current winter snow-pack and mountain ranges in the western United States will have lost nearly half of their snow-bound water. For more information check out this Web site.

For the latest NASA Earth science news, visit the NASA Earth Observatory or Science@NASA.

The Early Years
Science and Children and NSTA have established an online blog devoted to early childhood science. Here you’ll find teaching advice, management tips, favorite resources, and activity ideas specifically for teachers grades preK–2. The blog accompanies Science and Children’s column The Early Years. Highlights from the online conversations will appear in the print column. Teachers who post a comment that gets chosen for publication in S&C will receive one free book from a select group of NSTA Press publications.

NSTA Reports' Teachers' Grab Bag
NSTA Reports' ever-popular column — Teachers' Grab Bag — is on the web. Check out, where you can find hundreds of free and almost free items such as videos, publications, CD-ROMs, lab kits, and more.

Send Your Name with Dawn Project
NASA’s Dawn project has been given a “go!” for launch in June of 200. Catch up on this exciting mission to asteroids Ceres and Vesta on the DAWN Web site. If you haven’t climbed aboard the Dawn spacecraft yet, here’s another chance to virtually travel to the asteroid belt. Include your name on a microchip that will accompany Dawn on its journey to Vesta and Ceres. All previous submissions have been saved, so there’s no need to reenter your name. First-timers can climb aboard by simply going to the Join Us! section of the DAWN Web site.

Summer Fun with Dawn Kids
Solve a puzzle, build a paper model spacecraft, illustrate a story, play a Web-based interactive game, and more! Dawn Kids offers a host of activities to fill young space enthusiasts’ summer days with fun. Activities may be accessed and downloaded from Dawn Kids.

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Mission News and Science

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope Discovers Giant Stars
Modified from Mega Solar Systems Discovered
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has recently discovered potential solar systems surrounding two massive stars, 30 and 70 times the mass of our Sun. Astronomers believe these disks contain massive quantities of icy material, similar to the Kuiper belt found in our own Solar System, but extending out 60 times more distant than Pluto's orbit. These two huge "hypergiant" stars are circled by disks of what might be planet-forming dust. The findings surprised astronomers because stars as big as these were thought to be inhospitable to planets. Disks have been spotted before around stars five times more massive than the sun.

Astronomers estimate that the stars' disks are also bloated, spreading all the way out to an orbit about 60 times more distant than Pluto's around the sun.. These dusty structures might represent the first or last steps of the planet-forming process.

Stars as massive as these don't live very long. They burn through all of their nuclear fuel in only a few million years, and go out with a bang, in fiery explosions called supernovae. Their short life spans don't leave much time for planets, or life, to evolve. Any planets that might crop up would probably be destroyed when the stars blast apart. An artist concept of a hypergiant and its disk, plus additional graphics and information, are available at NASA's Planetary Photojournal Web site.

(Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes program. This two-year mission will provide a unique and revolutionary view of the Sun-Earth System. The two nearly identical observatories — one ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing behind — will trace the flow of energy and matter from the Sun to Earth as well as reveal the 3D structure of coronal mass ejections and help us understand why they happen. STEREO will also provide alerts for Earth-directed solar ejections, from its unique side-viewing perspective adding it to the fleet of Space Weather detection satellites.

Why the need for STEREO? Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are powerful eruptions that can blow up to 10 billion tons of the Sun's atmosphere into space. CMEs can trigger severe magnetic storms when they collide with Earth's magnetosphere. Large geomagnetic storms can damage and even destroy satellites, are extremely hazardous to astronauts when outside of the protection of the Space Shuttle or the International Space Station, and they have been known to cause electrical power outages. Yet despite their importance, scientists don't fully understand the origin and evolution of CMEs, nor their structure or extent in interplanetary space. STEREO's unique stereoscopic images of the structure of CMEs will enable scientists to determine their fundamental nature and origin.

STEREO's launch has slipped to the next launch window. It will now launch no earlier than Aug. 20.

Early Galaxies
Modified from Early Galaxies Looked Similar
An international team of astronomers have recently performed one of the most detailed surveys of the most distant galaxies. These galaxies are so far away, we see them as they looked when the Universe was less than half its current age. One of the big surprises of this survey; however, is how much these young galaxies match the structures we see in the current Universe. This means that galaxies probably evolved through collisions and mergers much earlier than previously believed.

The knowledge of early galaxies has made major progress in the past ten years. Astronomers are using the new "Lyman-break technique" (combining ultraviolet and infrared measurements). This technique allows very distant galaxies to be detected. They are seen as they were when the Universe was much younger, thus providing clues to how galaxies formed and evolved. Astronomers can now determine the formation rate for stars in distant galaxies. Stars in these distant galaxies formed at a rate of a few hundred to one thousand stars per year (only a few stars currently form in our Galaxy each year). The team also studied the galaxies’ morphology, and found that most are spiral galaxies. Up to now, distant galaxies were believed to be mainly interacting galaxies, with irregular and complex shapes. It has now been shown that these galaxies, seen when the Universe was about 40% of its current age, have regular shapes — similar to present-day galaxies like ours. They bring a new element to our understanding of the evolution of the galaxies.

 Brown Dwarfs
Modified from Wild Weather: Iron Rain on Failed Stars
Ever since their discovery 11 years ago, brown dwarfs have baffled scientists. First it was the question of how to categorize them. These celestial orbs are too massive to be a planet and not massive enough to be a star. Now scientists are investigating astonishing weather patterns on brown dwarfs that could rival Jupiter's Great Red Spot and Earth's intense hurricanes.

Brown dwarfs are sometimes called “failed stars”. They are too small to trigger the fusion of hydrogen that keeps stars like our sun shining for billions of years. Instead, over tens of millions of years brown dwarfs slowly cool and fade. Studying brown dwarfs has proven difficult; to get a better "look" at brown dwarfs, scientists have relied on infrared-capable telescopes and mathematical models. Over time, as the glowing body of a brown dwarf cools, metallic clouds form! The iron condenses to form iron-rich clouds and droplets of liquid-iron rain. This recent discovery was unexpected.  Not only did scientists find these metallic clouds, but they also spotted evidence of violent storms. Thermodynamics would predict that as brown dwarfs release heat, they would dim. But the astronomers found that the older brown dwarfs shined brighter than the warmer, younger ones.

But what causes the cloudy disturbance? With cooling, a brown dwarf's cloud layer sinks closer to its surface. As the clouds form deeper in the atmosphere, they are more sensitive to the winds and convective motions in the atmosphere. This probably leads to the destruction of the clouds. But there are still many unanswered questions. For instance, what do these storms look like? Scientists predicts that in the next 10 to 15 years very large telescopes will exist, making it possible to gather more detailed information about these storms.


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Last updated
May 2, 2007