Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
January 2007

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



February 28 – New Horizons Mission Flies Past Jupiter

March 19 –Partial Solar Eclipse Visible from Alaska

March 21 – Spring Equinox (occurs on March 20th in USA)

Workshops and Courses

Educator Workshops by Lunar and Planetary Institutes and NASA Astromaterials Research and Exploration Sciences 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. Go to HCDE Earth and Space Science Workshops 2006–2007 for a complete list of workshops offered by LPI and NASA ARES.

February 9, 2007 – Solar System Survey: The Origin and Characteristics of the Sun, Planets, Moons, and Debris in our Neighborhood
Learn about the characteristics and formation of the Sun, Earth, and planets. We will also explore moons, comets, asteroids, and other space debris. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials on cd, reference materials, and hands-on activities for the classroom. Fee: $75, Audience: Grade 5–7 teachers

March 7, 2007– Sun – Moon – Stars: Characteristics and Cycles of Change
Explore the characteristics of our Sun, Moon, and the stars of the night sky. We will investigate the changes in the sky and the appearance of our Moon, and share related activities appropriate for elementary students. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials on CD, reference materials, and hands-on activities for the classroom.  Fee: $75, Audience:  Grade 2–5 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, visit Teacher Workshops.


AlaskaSummer Educator Workshop in Alaska
Visit Alaska for a teacher workshop, June 24–30, 2007. The AIM / CloudSat / GLOBE 2007 Educator Workshop will provide teachers with innovative educational opportunities, which incorporate remote sensing of Noctilucent Clouds (NLCs). NLCs may well be the only true visible atmospheric phenomenon associated with global atmospheric change. These clouds form approximately 50 miles above the earth, usually at high latitudes, and have been increasing with time — becoming brighter and moving toward the equator.  The visible manifestation of NLCs provides an unprecedented and unique opportunity for education.  The workshop will use the striking images of NLCs to motivate interest, learning, and a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding changes in our climate. Please visit the AIM Education and Public Outreach website for details about the workshop, application, and contacts for questions.

Aerospace Education Workshop in Kansas
This workshop, presented by Fort Hays State University Science and Mathematics Education Center, is open to all pre-service and in-service teachers Selected workshop topics include aeronautics, rocketry, Mars exploration, and more.  Workshop will be February 26–27, 8:30–4:00 pm. Presentations made by Mike McGlone NASA Space Educator. This Workshop is designed for K–8 educators to enhance their curriculum with knowledge of aerospace topics. During the Workshop, attendees will receive instruction in the selected workshop topics during the day and recess for a half-hour lunch. Fee for the workshop is $20, the optional credit hour has an additional fee. (Pre-service teacher fee is $5)  An optional 1 hour graduate credit can be received for an additional fee. For further information please contact: Dr. Paul Adams, , 785-628-4538.

Space Exploration Educators Conference in Houston
Space Center Houston proudly presents the 13th Annual Space Exploration Educators Conference February 8–10, 2007. This conference offers three days of space themed workshops designed by engineers, astronauts and educators. The activities presented can be used for science, mathematics, language arts, history and more! The conference fee is $229 and includes meals. Scholarships available with application. For more information visit the Space Center Houston website.

NSTA Symposia
The following NSTA Symposia will take place at the National Conference on Science Education in St. Louis, Missouri, March 29–April 1, 2007:
Impact of Polar Climate Change on Living Systems, presented by NSF, NASA, and NOAA
Polar Climates, How Are They Changing?, presented by NSF, NASA, and NOAA
The Fragile Ice, presented by NSF, NASA, and NOAA
Living and Working in Space: Habitat, presented by NASA

My NASA Data Teacher Workshop
NASA Langley Research Center will host a hands-on workshop designed for the grade 6–12 educator on July 29– August 3, 2007. The workshop will focus on the implementation and use of Earth system science data sets developed for the pre-college education community as part of the MY NASA DATA program. A major component of the workshop will be the development of lessons incorporating one or more data sets. The data sets are derived from the archive of remotely-sensed data from NASA's Earth Observing System satellites. Participating teachers will explore topics in Earth system science (especially atmospheric science), educational application of data sets, and hands-on classroom activities. For more information, visit the MY NASA DATA website.

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Globe at Night
The GLOBE Program, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and many other organizations are collaboratively sponsoring Globe at Night.  Join thousands of other students, families and citizen-scientists around the globe hunting for stars during March 8–21, 2007. Take part in this international event to observe the nighttime sky and learn more about light pollution around the world. 
Lecture about Titan
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona presents a public lecture by Dr. Martin Tomasko on "Titan, Saturn’s Mysterious Moon" Tuesday, January 23rd at 7:30 p.m.  For more information about this and other LPL lectures, please visit Community Outreach Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Live Web Presentation on New Planets
Join the free public lectures at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Each month a noted scientist discusses a different cosmic topic. Lectures are at 8 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month. On February 6, 2007, Dr. Chris Burke will be discussing “Recent Results of Transiting Extrasolar Planets.”  For more information, visit Hubble Public Talks.

Space Day Is Coming
Space Day is an educational initiative that inspires young people to explore careers in mathematics, science, engineering and technology and to realize the vision of our space pioneers. The first Friday in May has been designated “Space Day”, and people of all ages in the U.S. and around the world will come together to advance education in these areas. In 2007 Space Day will take place on May 4, and offers a variety of educational programs to inspire the 21st century space explorers, scientists and inventors.  For more information please visit the web site, which serves as “mission control” for Space Day activities. This site links to educational resources, space-related information sites and provides the details about Space Day educational programs and events that will be taking place across the country. 

High School Astronomy Teachers Needed for Survey
If you are (or know of) a high school astronomy teacher who is teaching or has taught a high school astronomy *course*, with or without a planetarium, Larry Krumenaker would like to invite you or them to participate his doctoral research.  The substance of his University of Georgia dissertation will be looking at the current status and makeup of these courses, how teachers express why the course should exist, and how No Child Left Behind has affected astronomy teaching.  Your part in the project, answering a survey (and a few persons will be interviewed in depth) will take place at one of three times between January and September of 2007. If you would be interested in helping assess the national view of astronomy at the high school level, please contact Larry for the full research description by email at, or mail to Larry Krumenaker, Dept of Math and Science Education, 212 Aderhold Hall, University of Georgia, Athens, GA  30306.


Chandra CalendarHealth In Space
The Lunar and Planetary Institute has compiled and created information, activities, and resources related to human health in space, through a grant from NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate’s Education Program. The resources, activities, presentations, and extensions are available on-line.

Printable 2007 Chandra Calendar
Print your own 2007 Chandra calendar with spectacular images from the past year. Featured objects include supernova remnants, galaxies in various shapes & sizes and star clusters in our very own Milky Way. Available as a 12-page full color PDF in 11" x 17" sizes. Individual months may also be downloaded separately.

Ion Propulsion Education Module
How does an ion engine work? Why does the Dawn mission rely on this innovative propulsion system? The answers to these questions and more can be discovered through the beta version of Structure and Properties of Matter: Ion Propulsion, an engaging, standards-aligned module designed for use in high school physical science, chemistry, or physics classes.

Weekly Math Problems
This web page contains problem sets for the Weekly Space Science Problem program. The goal of these problems is to teach students about space weather by using mathematics.

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Mission News and Science

Brightest Comet in Over Forty Years
Modified from SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory)
Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) has not only become the brightest comet SOHO has ever seen, but even the brightest comet observed in over forty years! The comet swung by the Sun on Jan 12–15, and is now emerging into the skies of the southern hemisphere. During its close encounter with the Sun, comet McNaught became a naked-eye object in broad daylight.

SOHO, the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, is project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind, using twelve instruments to observe the Sun as it orbits it.  The LASCO instrument on-board SOHO has the ability to watch comets as they get extremely close to the Sun. Fortunately for us, comet McNaught has passed right through the LASCO C3 field of view! We do not know exactly the peak brightness of the comet. Solar heating will continue to puff up the comet, causing it to brighten even more.  It could become one of the brightest comets in centuries, visible even in daylit skies.

New Dwarf Galaxies Discovered Orbiting Milky Way
Modified from PennState Eberly College of Science | News
Galaxies Discovered Orbiting Milky WayResearchers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-II) announced the discovery of eight new dwarf galaxies, seven of them satellites orbiting the Milky Way. These objects resemble systems cannibalized by the Milky Way billions of years ago to build up its stellar halo and thick disk, characterized as "crumbs from the galactic feast." The systems discovered by the SDSS-II in the last three years are comparable in number to all the Milky Way satellites detected in the preceding 70 years. They help close the gap between the observed number of dwarf satellites and theoretical predictions. According to Daniel Zucker of Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, one of the research team's leaders, theories predict that there should be tens to hundreds more dwarf galaxies yet to be discovered in the "Local Group" of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way. The SDSS team has found almost as many new Milky Way satellites as were detected in the previous 70 years. Only a handful were known before the SDSS-II survey.

Dwarf galaxies contain, at most, a few million stars. The new dwarfs have some unusual properties — they are smaller and fainter than most previously known Milky Way satellite galaxies.  Several of the newly discovered systems appear to be on the verge of disruption — probably by the tidal gravity of the Milky Way — and one of them, the 'Ursa Major II' dwarf, already seems to be in several pieces. Current theories of galaxy assembly suggest that many — perhaps all — of the stars in the halo and thick disk of the Milky Way originated in smaller dwarf galaxies, which were dissolved when they merged into the Milky Way itself.


Distribution of Dark Matter

Hubble Space Telescope Maps Out Dark Matter in Universe
Modified from HUBBLESITE Newscenter
An international team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has created a three-dimensional map that provides the first direct look at the large-scale distribution of dark matter in the Universe (dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe's mass.) The map provides the best evidence yet that normal matter, largely in the form of galaxies, accumulates along the densest concentrations of dark matter. The map reveals a loose network of filaments that grew over time. The filaments intersect in massive structures at the locations of clusters of galaxies.  The map stretches halfway back to the beginning of the universe and shows how dark matter has grown increasingly "clumpy" as it collapses under gravity.

Mapping dark matter's distribution in space and time is fundamental to understanding how galaxies grew and clustered over billions of years. Tracing the growth of clustering in the dark matter may eventually also shed light on dark energy, a repulsive form of gravity that influences how dark matter clumps. The new maps of dark matter and galaxies will provide critical observational underpinnings to future theories for how structure formed in the evolving universe under the relentless pull of gravity.



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Last updated
May 2, 2007