Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
September 2006

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



September 22, 2006Annular Solar Eclipse (not visible from USA)

September 23, 2006Fall Equinox

September 22, 2006 – Solar B will launch

Workshops and Courses

K-12 NTEN Online Courses
Created by Montana State University and funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Teachers Enhancement Network (NTEN) delivers online courses, teaching resources and professional development opportunities through the Internet directly to K-12 science teachers. Courses in Earth Science, Physics and Astronomy are being offered this fall!

GSA K-12 Short Course
Using Authentic Scientific Ocean Drilling Data for Earth Systems Science Inquiry [601]
Sun., Oct. 22 , 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Marriott, Room 305/306. Part of the Geological Society of America’s 2006 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. Through inquiry exercises educators will discover how accessible and applicable scientific ocean drilling results are to the undergraduate and secondary Earth systems science curricula they teach. Published data from 40 years of scientific ocean drilling expeditions can support the teaching of plate tectonics, deep time and age determination, and the history of global climate change. Fee: US$25; includes course materials and lunch.

LPI and ARES One-Day Educator Workshops
Offered at the Harris County Department of Education
Please contact Liliana Maldonado at (713) 696-1306 for registration information. Go to Harris County Department of Education for more workshop details or to register on-line.

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

November 3, 2006    Extreme Solar System
NASA’s current solar system missions — Genesis, Mars Rovers, Cassini, Deep Impact, StarDust, and many others — offer extraordinary, teachable moments for Earth and space science. This one-day workshop will build your confidence in teaching space and earth science as we investigate why humans explore, how we explore, and the current knowledge of the size, scale, and characteristics of our solar system. Participants will receive extensive curriculum materials, CDs, websites, and posters. Fee: $75, Audience: Upper Elementary and Middle School Science Teachers.

Family ASTRO Training Workshops 2006
Family ASTRO aims to train event leaders to hold thematic events that focus on the moon, the planets, the night sky, and light in ways that get families together and thinking creatively while having a lot of fun. Each event leader receives a leader kit containing all the basic materials necessary for organizing the event. Cost: $25.00 per workshop, including dinner. Completed applications may be faxed to Robert Wilson at 520-318-8451 or mailed to him at 950 N. Cherry Ave., Tucson, AZ, 85719. For any further questions, contact Robert at or 520-318-8440.

Door to the Universe Educator Workshops in San Antonio
Join the Texas Space Grant Consortium in San Antonio October 3-5th for one or all three days of experiential activities to learn ways to share the excitement and importance of space research and exploration. Visit the  ESC-20 Web site for registration information, e-mail:

Teacher Camp-in at Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston is offering a professional development opportunity on October 13th, geared for teachers of all grade levels to use the excitement of space to inspire students. Learn about rocketry and future space exploration from NASA experts and Space Center Houston's Professional Development Team. Cost is $75, including meals.

Grants and Funding

The Lawrence Scadden Teacher of the Year Award
The Lawrence Scadden Teacher of the Year Award in Science Education for Students with Disabilities is open to all current K-12 teachers. The recipient must have taught at least 5 years and must have made an outstanding contribution to science students with disabilities. The recipient will be recognized at the annual National Science Teachers Association Convention in 2007 (St. Louis, MO) and will receive a $1,000 award to be applied to travel expenses for the conference. To receive an application, please contact Sami Kahn, Awards Chair, at Applications are due on January 19, 2007.

Toyota TAPESTRY Grant Just Got Easier
Now it’s even easier to apply for a grant in the Toyota TAPESTRY Grants for Science Teachers program. Just log on to Toyota Tpaestry Mini-Grants and apply online for one of 50 large grants of up to $10,000 each or 20-25 mini-grants of up to $2,500. Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and NSTA, the program will award K–12 teachers of science with a total of $550,000 in three categories: environmental science; physical science; and literacy and science education. The deadline for the submission of proposals is January 18, 2007.

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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GSA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA
October 21-25, 2006.
Please join us for the Geological Society of America’s 2006 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. The following events may be of interest to K–12 educators:

K-12 GSA Teacher Day Field Trip and Workshop   Sat., Oct. 21, 8–5 p.m. A registration form is available on-line at the Purdue University Web site.

Geoscience Educators’ Social Reception 2006 Saturday, October 21, 5–7 p.m.

GSA Trivia Night Register a team or join a mixed team. Teams and individuals can register before the event. Send an e-mail to

Kitt Peak Observing Program for Teachers
The Astronomy Reseach-Based Science Education workshop at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson is now accepting applications. This program provides high school teachers an opportunity to spend 10 days at an astronomy workshop in Tucson next June, including four full nights observing with a variety of research telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Participants will also take an on-line course in the spring to prepare for the observing experience. Applications are due Oct 31, 2006. Information and the on-line application can be found a the Astronomy Research Based Science Education Web site.

Phoenix Mission Science Operations Center Open House
The Phoenix Mars Mission Science Operation Center in Tucson will open its doors to the public for its first Open House on October 21, 2006 from 10:00 am- 4:00 pm. The Phoenix Science Operations Center (SOC) is mission control for the next NASA Mars mission, the Phoenix Mars Lander. Scientists and engineers are training for Martian surface operations in this facility using a lander model and simulated Martian soils.

NASA's 21st Century Explorer Podcast Competition
Today's students will be tomorrow's explorers.  How will space exploration benefit their lives in the future? That's the question this competition asks of students ages 11–18. The first NASA 21st Century Explorer Podcast Competition challenges students to create unique audio and video podcasts.  Running from September 1 through October 10, this competition is open to United States citizens ages 11–18.

Earth Science Week Contest
Students can earn $300 by submitting the winning category prize in this Earth Science Week Contest. Categories include a Visual Arts Contest (K–5), an Essay Contest (Grades 5–8) and a Photography Contest (Grades 9-12). All entries must be received by October 5, 2006.


New LPI Educator Resource Guide
The Lunar and Planetary Institute has a new guide to its educational resources, with Earth and space science resources (activities, images, information, powerpoints, and more) categorized and accompanied by descriptions and recommended ages. is a great resource for formal and informal educators wanting to enrich students with up to date information on the Sun-Earth environment. Subscribe to Space Weather News, find out about current space weather conditions, and retrieve current sunspot and solar flare updates.

Help Astronauts Count the Stars
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are collaborating on a new education activity that helps students become astronomers. The project was suggested by CSA astronaut Steve MacLean, a member of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the current mission, designated STS-115, to the International Space Station. MacLean is uploading star observation information into a database via the Star Count Web site. Students may add to the database by entering their location, number of stars observed and information about their viewing conditions. Visit the Star Count Project Web site for more information.

New Copies of SkyTellers DVD and Resource Guide Available
SkyTellers uses Native American stories about our Earth and sky to engage all children in science, integrating science and literacy. Hands-on activities help children to further explore individual phenomena in creative ways. There are still free copies available to schools, with request on letterhead; when the free copies are gone, sets will be available for $52 plus shipping. For more information on how to order, go to

K-5 Geosource
A professional development Web site by the American Geological Institute for elementary-level teachers who teach earth science topics such as weather, fossils, rocks, soil, water and more. The site provides classroom activities, assessment recommendations, targeted research and resources, training opportunities, graduate level courses and more. All sources are specially tailored for teachers of students in kindergarten through grade five.

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Mission News and Science

Pluto No Longer a Planet
Modified from Pluto Demoted: No Longer a Planet in Highly Controversial Definition
On August 24, 424 astronomers from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted officially that Pluto is no longer a planet. There are now officially only eight planets in the solar system. The decision establishes three main categories of objects in our solar system:  Planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), Dwarf Planets (Pluto and any other round object that has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and is not a satellite), and Small Solar System Bodies (all other objects orbiting the Sun).

Pluto is no longer categorized as a planet because it belongs to a group of other objects that occupy the same region of space — the Kuiper Belt. Earth and the other large planets have, on the other hand, cleared broad swaths of space of any other large objects. Pluto is a dwarf planet by the new definition and is recognized as the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects. Dwarf planets are not planets under the definition, however.

Many educators are using the re-classification as an opportunity to share with children that science is not static. As we gain new knowledge and understanding — often through advances in technology and innovative investigative techniques — scientists revisit and redefine their models. It should be noted that the definition of these different types of solar system bodies continues to be debated in the scientific community. This is not a discussion about the popularity of keeping Pluto as a planet, rather it is a discussion of the merits of different classification schemes based on scientific information.

SMART-1 Crashes into Moon
Modified from Impact landing ends SMART-1 mission to the Moon
ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft ended its mission on September 3, 2006 when it crashed into the lunar soil in the “Lake of Excellence” region of the Moon. The impact took place on the near side of the Moon, in full view of Earth and space-based telescopes which observed a flash as the spacecraft obliterated, and carved out a small crater. This final act of science will hopefully give researchers some insights into the minerals that lie underneath the lunar surface, which were briefly excavated. The planned impact concluded a successful mission that, in addition to testing innovative space technology, had been conducting a thorough scientific exploration of the Moon for about a year and a half.

Solar-B Mission
Modified from Solar-B
The Solar-B is a highly sophisticated observational satellite equipped with three advanced solar telescopes. It is scheduled to be launched on September 23rd of 2006.  Led by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Space Science Research Division, Solar-B consists of optical and X-ray instruments that will investigate the interaction between the Sun's magnetic field and its corona. This information will tell scientists how the Sun generates magnetic disturbances and help them predict "space weather."

Modified from STEREO Poised for Launch and NASA News Release: 06-294
NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission will dramatically improve understanding of the powerful solar eruptions that can send more than a billion tons of the sun's outer atmosphere hurtling into space. The STEREO mission comprises two spacecraft which are currently scheduled to launch no earlier than October 18th.. STEREO is a 2-year mission employing two nearly identical observatories to provide 3-D measurements of the Sun to study the nature of coronal mass ejections. These powerful eruptions are a major source of the magnetic disruptions on Earth and a key component of space weather, which can greatly affect satellite operations, communications, power systems, the lives of humans in space, and global climate.

Backward Sunspots?
Modified from Backward Sunspot
On July 31st, a sunspot popped up from the sun's interior, floated around a bit, and vanished again in a few hours. On the sun this sort of thing happens all the time and, ordinarily, it wouldn't be worth mentioning. But this sunspot was magnetically “backward”. Sunspots are planet-sized magnets created by the sun's inner magnetic dynamo. Like all magnets in the Universe, sunspots have north (N) and south (S) magnetic poles. The sunspot of July 31st popped up S-N, opposite the norm which is N-S.

This tiny spot of backwardness matters because of what it might foretell: A really big solar cycle. Solar activity rises and falls in 11-year cycles, swinging back and forth between times of quiet and storminess. Right now the sun is quiet. Satellite operators and NASA mission planners are bracing for this next solar cycle because it is expected to be exceptionally stormy, perhaps the stormiest in decades. Sunspots and solar flares will return in abundance, producing bright auroras on Earth and dangerous proton storms in space. Even if a new cycle has truly begun, don't expect any great storms right away. Solar cycles last 11 years and take time to build up to fever pitch. Eventually, the new cycle will take over completely; then the fireworks will really begin.


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Last updated
May 2, 2007