Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
October 2006

To receive this information as a monthly e-mail, please sign up here.

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



October 19–21     Louisiana Science Teacher’s Association conference

October 25    STEREO scheduled to launch to study the Sun

November 2–4    New Mexico Science Teacher Association conference

November 9–11    Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST)

November 8    Transit of Mercury

November 27    THEMIS scheduled to launch

Workshops and Courses

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.

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.

December 1, 2006    Earth and Moon Comparisons: Properties, Phases, Eclipses, & Seasons
Learn about formation and history of the Moon, and compare and contrast the features and environments of the Moon and Earth. We will also explore lunar phases, solar and lunar eclipses, and the reason for seasons. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials on CD, reference materials, and hands-on activities for the classroom. Fee $75, Audience: Grade 5–8 Teachers.

NASA/ NSTA Symposiums: Lunar Exploration and Living and Working in Space
NSTA is partnering with NASA and the University of Maryland Baltimore County to present an exciting Symposium for 5-8 grade level educators on the topic of lunar exploration. This Symposium will be conducted at NSTA’s Area Conference on Science Education in Omaha, NE, on Friday, October 20, 2006, 8:30 a.m.– 5:00 p.m.  The full-day symposium focuses on lunar science and exploration.  For more information or to register, visit NASA/NSTA Symposium: Lunar Exploration .

NSTA is partnering with NASA to present an exciting Symposium for grade 4–9 educators on the topic of living and working in space. The Symposium will be held at NSTA’s Area Conference on Science Education in Baltimore, MD, on Saturday, November 4, 2006, 8:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. This half-day symposium focuses on the topic of energy as it relates to living and working in space.  For more information or to register, visit NASA/NSTA Symposium: Living and Working in Space: Energy.

NASA/NSTA Web Seminars on Lunar Exploration
Four free Web Seminars featuring scientists and education specialists from NASA will be given on each Tuesday evening in November. The presenters will help participants to link NASA science expertise and resources to engaging, hands-on, and inquiry-based classroom activities. The seminars will focus on lunar science and exploration.  For more information or to register, visit NASA/NSTA Web Seminars: Lunar Exploration.

Back to Top


Christopher Columbus Awards
The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation and National Science Foundation sponsor a national competition for middle-school-age children that combines science and technology with community problem-solving in a real-world setting. With the help of an adult coach, student teams identify an issue and use technology to develop an innovative solution to that problem.  Winners share more than $45,000 in prizes and an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World.  Entry deadline is February 12, 2007.

Exploratorium Webcast Series from the South Pole
During November-December 2006, the Exploratorium in San Francisco will have a series of webcasts from the South Pole where astrophysicists and engineers are installing a new 10-meter telescope. They are also planning webcasts originating from the Exploratorium on global warming and the poles.  For more information, visit Exploratorium¹s calendar of upcoming events. You can also sign up for an e-mail newsletter to stay informed of Exploratorium webcasts and other events at Live Exploratorium.

Transit of Mercury Webcast
The theme for Sun Earth Day 2007 is Living in the Atmosphere of the Sun- International Heliophysical Year.

The Web site contains new information and features, including a live broadcast of the Transit of Mercury on November 8, 2006 discussing the science, technology, and history of the transit as well as our knowledge of the Sun and space weather.  The webcast will include a panel discussion about Mercury, the Sun and safe viewing techniques of the transit.  There will live feed of the transit from Kitt Peake beginning at first contact provided by the Exploratorium.

Sally Ride Festival for Middle School Girls
Rice University will host a Sally Ride Festival — a fun day with science and engineering for 5th–8th grade girls, on October 28, 2006.  The day will include a street fair, a keynote speech by Sally Ride, and two workshops given by local women scientists.  The students must register online but scholarships are available.

Astronomy Day at the George Observatory
Sponsored by NASA and local astronomy clubs, and held at the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s George Observatory, October 28,  3– 10 pm.  Exhibits, activities, talks, solar and evening observing, free to all ages upon admission to Brazos Bend State Park.

Lunar Research Station Design Challenge
NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate presents the 2006 Quest Challenge. To prepare for exploration on the moon and Mars, NASA uses sites on Earth to simulate living and working on extraterrestrial surfaces. Students in grades 5–8, are challenged to design and build a model of an Earth-based research station that will support living adaptively and working efficiently on the moon. Registration is now open. Preliminary designs are due in late October 2006. 


9th Issue of Astronomy Education Review
A roundtable in the on-line journal "Astronomy Education Review" (AER) looks at the science, politics, and educational implications of the Pluto controversy.  See it at the Web site where it begins the tenth issue of the journal, along with new articles on astronomy education research, resources, opinion and commentary, and more.

Podcast, Video and Slide Show on the Galactic Soap Opera
Galaxies lead fascinating lives filled with drama. Multimedia products now online tell the story of how galaxies and stars are born, go through the toddler and teenage stages, "get married" and age. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Galaxy Evolution Explorer are studying these cosmic milestones.  Audio and visual products now playing on the Web site include an audio podcast about the galactic soap opera, a slide show "Snapshots of the Universe,” and a video showing how data from space telescopes is transformed into beautiful images.

Consumer’s Guide to Afterschool Science Resources
To help educators, The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool at Southwest Educational Development Laboratory teamed up with the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Coalition of Science After School to produce the Consumer’s Guide to Afterschool Science Resources. Although these resources were selected especially for afterschool programs, many are suitable for the regular classroom.  The Consumer’s Guide is an online searchable guide of science resources that have been reviewed by afterschool and science content experts. Users may browse resources by title, subject, grade level, audience, or cost. To access the Consumer’s Guide, visit National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning.

New Video: Building the Coolest X-ray Satellite
The Suzaku Learning Center’s  educational video/DVD, entitled "Building the Coolest X-ray Satellite: Astro-E2," is now available.  Aimed at a high school level audience, the video covers the history of the mission, including the building of the instruments, real scientists from around the world in action, and a look forward to the scientific results from Astro-E2. 

Back to Top

Mission News and Science

New Black Hole Observations
Modified from Impact landing ends SMART-1 mission to the Moon

NASA scientists and their international partners using the new Japanese Suzaku satellite have collected a startling new set of black hole observations, revealing details of twisted space and warped time never before seen with such precision. The observations include clocking the speed of a black hole's spin rate and measuring the angle at which matter pours into a black hole, as well as evidence for a wall of X-ray light pulled back and flattened by gravity.

Suzaku contains a high-energy X-ray detector and an X-ray spectrograph. Together, these instruments detect a broad range of X-ray energies, particularly the higher X-ray energies. Supermassive black holes are a prime target. These are objects in the center of most galaxies, containing the mass of millions to billions of suns confined within a region about the size of our solar system. In a galaxy called MCG-6-30-15, astronomers confirmed that the central black hole is spinning rapidly, taking space and time along for a ride with it. The group found evidence that X-rays emitted close to the black hole, trying to escape, are bent back into the disk of matter flowing inward, away from us. This is predicted by Einstein's general relativity, hinted at in earlier observations, but seen in remarkable new detail with Suzaku. In a galaxy called MCG-5-23-16, other astronomers determined that the disk of material feeding the black hole, called the accretion disk, is angled at 45 degrees with respect to our line of sight. Such a precision measurement has not been possible before.

NASA's New Mars Camera Gives Dramatic View of Planet
Modified from NASA's New Mars Camera Gives Dramatic View of Planet

The highest-resolution camera ever to orbit Mars is returning low-altitude images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Rocks and surface features as small as armchairs are revealed in the first image from the MRO since the spacecraft maneuvered into its final, low-altitude orbital path. The imaging of the red planet at this resolution heralds a new era in Mars exploration.  The target area includes the deepest part of Ius Chasma, one portion of the vast Valles Marineris canyon. Valles Marineris is the largest known canyon in the solar system, as long as the distance from California to New York.

During its primary science phase, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will return more data about the red planet than all previous missions combined, pouring data to Earth at about 10 times the rate of any earlier Mars spacecraft. Scientists will analyze the information to gain a better understanding of the distribution and history of Mars' water — whether ice, vapor or liquid — and of the processes that formed and modified the planet's surface. 

Planets Prefer Safe Neighborhoods
Modified from Planets Prefer Safe Neighborhoods

A star must live in a relatively tranquil cosmic neighborhood to foster planet formation, say astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. A team of astronomers from the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory came to this conclusion after watching intense ultraviolet light and powerful winds from the hot young O stars rip away the potential planet-forming disks from nearby stars like our sun. At up to 100 times the mass of the Sun, O stars are the most massive and energetic stars in the universe.

The immense amount of radiation and particles from the O stars heats the disks that are surrounding smaller stars so much that gas and dust boil away, and the disk can no longer hold together. The O star then blows away the evaporated material, potentially stripping the sun-like stars of their ability to form planets. Ultimately, the astronomers hope to determine whether all stars have planets, and if not, how a star loses the ability to form them. The Spitzer findings will help astronomers understand what regulates the process of planet formation.

Back to Top

Last updated
May 2, 2007