Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
November 2006

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



November 19      Leonid Meteor Shower

December 14     Geminid Meteor Shower peak

December 21    Winter Solstice (first day of winter)

Workshops and Courses

Educator Workshops by Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Team
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.

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

January 12, 2007    Mars!
Exploring Mars is exciting and in the news. Currently multiple science missions are exploring the Red Planet. This one-day workshop uses up-to-date mission information and images to teach Earth and space science. 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, tectonic, impacts, and erosion have affected Mars, and the evidence of water — past and present. Participants will receive presentation materials, activity packets, posters, and fact sheets. Fee $75, Audience: Upper Elementary and Middle School Science Teachers

Summer 2007 Workshops at McDonald Observatory
McDonald Observatory offers a unique setting for teacher workshops: the Observatory and Visitors Center in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. Not only will you do inquiry-based activities aligned with science and mathematics TEKS and TAKS, you will practice your new astronomy skills under the Observatory’s dark skies, weather permitting, and partner with trained and nationally recognized astronomy educators. Teachers must provide their own transportation to the Observatory. The deadline for applications for federally funded programs is February 1, 2007. Applications received after this date will be considered on a space-available basis. For more information and to apply for one of the workshops, go to

On-Line Earth Science Course for Teachers
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is offering a 3-credit graduate-level class for the 2007 spring semester called "Laboratory Earth: Concepts and Applications." This eight-week online course is intended to provide K-8 teachers with a broader knowledge of Earth science as well as build community among educators. The course will focus on learning about Earth systems, the interaction of energy and matter in the Earth system, the relationship between Earth, the Sun, and the Moon, and Earth's climate. The course will also include practical classroom applications for all of these skills. Full tuition scholarships are available to the first 20 students who register for the class. Half tuition scholarships will be awarded to the next 10 students who register. Students may register now through Jan. 7. For more information contact Dr. Dave Gosselin at or 402-472-8919, or go to

NTEN Course Explores Relativity
Learn how to answer questions about black holes by participating in Montana State University's General Relativity course. This, along with courses in biology, chemistry, science education, water quality, microbiology, physics, and astronomy will be offered this winter/spring semester through the National Teachers Enhancement Network (NTEN). Courses can be taken as part of a graduate degree or as stand-alone classes for professional development. NTEN offers participants an opportunity to interact and network with science teachers and active research scientists nationwide while earning graduate credit from Montana State University. Registration is open from the NTEN website at, or call 800-282-6062 for more information. NSTA members receive a 10% discount on most courses.

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UA’s Science Teacher Colloquium Series
This is a forum for K-12 science teachers to learn about cutting edge research at The University of Arizona (UA). One hour of professional development credit is offered for attending each seminar. Upcoming seminars include Dec.5 — "The Sun: Understanding Our Nearest Star and Its Environment," Dec. 20 — "Europa's Tenuous Atmosphere," Jan 23 — "Mission to the Surface of Saturn’s moon Titan," Feb 27 — "Hothouse: Global Climate Change and the Human Condition," Mar 27 — "New Views of Saturn," and Apr 24 — "Mars: Up Close and Personal." For additional information visit or email

Evolution Speaker Series at The Arizona Science Center
Join the Arizona Science Center and The University of Arizona College of Science for a series of presentations about the processes that create the current state of our universe, our world, and ourselves. For more information, please go to Upcoming lectures include Nov. 29, "Earth Evolution: The Formation of Our Planet" and Dec. 13, "Cosmic Evolution: From Big Bang to Biology." For reservations, please email or call 602-716-2000 and choose option 8, then option 3.

National Youth Science Camp 2006-2007
Do you know an outstanding high school senior who demonstrates academic achievement in science and shows potential for thoughtful scientific leadership? Nominations are now being taken for high school seniors to receive a full scholarship to attend the National Youth Science Camp (NYSC). Two high school seniors from each state will be chosen to attend an all expense paid three-week camp which includes lively lectures and hands-on research projects presented by scientists from across the nation. The Science Camp is held at Bartow in the eastern mountains of West Virginia. Airfare, lodging, meals, and expeditions are all paid by the National Science Foundation. For more information visit the National Youth Science Camp website at Texas students and faculty, please contact Chris Castillo Comer, Director of Science and state director of NYSC at the Texas Education Agency at

IGES Announces 2007 Thacher Scholars Award
In an effort to engage the next generation of scientists in the use of geospatial technology to study the environment, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) is now accepting entries for the 2007 Thacher Scholars Award, to be given to secondary school students designing and conducting the best projects using satellite observations of the Earth, also known as remote sensing. U.S. students in grades 9-12 are eligible to receive cash awards. Entries must be postmarked by April 2, 2007, and will be judged by IGES staff based on their scientific and technical accuracy; creativity and originality; quality of presentation; thoroughness of research, methods and procedures; and demonstration of knowledge gained. Winners will be announced by May 2, 2007. For more information on the Thacher Scholars Award, including contest rules and guidelines, please visit

NSTA Web Seminars
Space science and Earth science topics are among the new NSTA Web Seminars that have been added to the 2006 - 2007 schedule. Check out for more information and registration.


New Sun-Earth Day Activities
The Sun-Earth Day Web site has been updated with a set of exemplary 'make and take' activities for informal educators. All the activities have been tested with multiple audiences at different informal venues and have been very engaging and convey some of the key concepts related to the Sun-Earth connection. The activities can be found at:

Spanish Version of the Universe in the Classroom Available
The Spanish language version of the Fall 2006 issue of the Universe in the Classroom, "Mercury – its time has come" by Suzanne Gurton, is now available. View the Spanish language version at or you can view the English language version at .

Active Galaxy Pop-Up
This is a pop-up book that shows the nucleus of an active galaxy in three dimensions. It also includes a "Just-So" story entitled "How the Galaxy Got its Jets," the Tasty Active Galaxy Activity (described below), and a glossary. It was created for younger students (ages 8 - 12), though it can certainly be enjoyed by the older crowd! Go to to print out the book and download the "Tasty Galaxy" activity.

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Mission News and Science

Hubble Repair Planned
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Shuttle astronauts will make one final house call to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope as part of a mission to extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced plans for a fifth servicing mission to Hubble Tuesday during a meeting with agency employees at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We have conducted a detailed analysis of the performance and procedures necessary to carry out a successful Hubble repair mission over the course of the last three shuttle missions. What we have learned has convinced us that we are able to conduct a safe and effective servicing mission to Hubble," Griffin said. "While there is an inherent risk in all spaceflight activities, the desire to preserve a truly international asset like the Hubble Space Telescope makes doing this mission the right course of action."

The flight is tentatively targeted for launch during the spring to fall of 2008.

Is the Moon Still Alive?
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A team of scientists led by Prof. Peter Schultz of Brown University has announced evidence for fresh geologic activity on the Moon. Although lunar volcanism was supposed to have ceased billions of years ago, there's at least one location on the Moon known as Ina where "outgassing" may have happened within the past 10 million years--and may still be happening today.

The scientists observed that Ina has sharp edges, which is unusual as most surfaces have been worn down by the constant rain of meteroids on the surface of the Moon. Ina also has few craters, which suggests a young terrain, and its coloring is bright and similar to those of young craters, although it is not an impact crater.

New Close-Up of the Sun
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The Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) onboard Japan's Hinode spacecraft has opened its doors and started snapping pictures. Shown below is a "first light" image taken Oct. 23rd. The light and dark blobs are solar granules, masses of hot gas that rise and fall like water boiling atop a hot stove. Each granule is about the size of a terrestrial continent. SOT has no trouble seeing such detail from Earth-orbit 93 million miles away.

Hinode (Japanese for Sunrise, formerly known as Solar B) was launched on Sept 22nd from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kyushu, Japan. "It's on a mission to study the sun—specifically sunspots, which give rise to powerful flares and solar storms," says John Davis, the NASA Solar-B project scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Astronomers have been studying sunspots since the days of Galileo four hundred years ago, but they still don't know how to predict flares. Data from Hinode may solve the mystery.

Ozone Hole Reaches Record Size
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"From September 21 to 30, [2006], the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles," said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Newman was joined by other scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in reporting that the ozone hole over the polar region of the Southern Hemisphere broke records for both area and depth in 2006. A little over a week after the ozone hole sustained its new record high for average area, satellites and balloon-based instruments recorded the lowest concentrations of ozone ever observed over Antarctica, making the ozone hole the deepest it had ever been.

The ozone hole was unusually large and long-lived in 2006. While human-produced compounds break down the ozone hole by releasing chlorine and bromine gases into the atmosphere, the temperature of the Antarctic stratosphere causes the severity of the ozone hole to vary from year to year. Colder-than-average temperatures result in larger and deeper ozone holes, while warmer temperatures lead to smaller ones. In 2006, temperatures plunged well below average, hovering near or dipping below record-lows. These unusually cold temperatures increased the size of the ozone hole by 1.2 to 1.5 million square miles, according to an analysis completed by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). If the stratospheric weather conditions had been normal, the ozone hole would be expected to reach a size of about 8.9 to 9.3 million square miles, about the surface area of North America.

The ozone layer protects life on Earth by blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. The "ozone hole" is a severe depletion of the ozone layer high above Antarctica, so these regions may have received more ultraviolet light than usual. The 1987 Montreal Protocol banned ozone-depleting chemicals, but the long lifetime of those chemicals means that the ozone layer will not recover for several decades.

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Last updated
May 2, 2007