Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
February 2007

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



February 26–March 2 – Solar Week

February 28 – New Horizons Mission Flies Past Jupiter

March 3Total Lunar Eclipse visible in Europe (eclipse ending when Moon rises in USA)

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 for a complete list of 2006–2007 workshops offered by LPI and NASA ARES.

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

March 30, 2007 – Great Balls of Fire: Stars, Galaxies, and the Origin of the Universe
Discover the secrets of the Universe! We will compare and contrast the different types of stars and trace how they change through time, identify the different types of galaxies, and explore the evidence for the Big Bang. This workshop addresses TAKS Objective 1 – Nature of Science (scientific process, critical thinking skills, problem solving, and use of models.) It also addresses the science concepts TEKS for 8th Grade regarding the characteristics of the universe, light years, and the scientific theories of the origin of the universe. Participants will receive extensive presentation materials, reference materials, and hands-on activities for the classroom. Fee: $75, Audience: Grade 8 Teachers

Earth’s Extremophiles: Implications for Life in the Solar System
This NASA-sponsored field-based workshop, July 22–29, 2007, is intended primarily for middle school science teachers (other educators are welcome).  Participants will spend a week with planetary scientists and astrobiologists in Yellowstone National Park investigating the geologic processes that result in extreme environmental conditions, and will explore the different types of organisms that live in these conditions. We will build an understanding of how life has evolved on Earth, the possibility of past or present similar environmental conditions on other planets, and what this implies for finding life in our Solar System. The experience will be divided between the field and lab, where participants will work with classroom-tested, hands-on inquiry based activities and resources. A limited number of grants are available to cover registration.  Applications are due April 4, 2007.

ASU Mars Education Workshops
Visit the website and click on "calendar” to find out more information and register for upcoming workshops.
Special Educator Opportunity: Using Earth to Explore Mars, March 1-3, 2007 (This conference includes a one-day field experience to the Granite Wash Mountains.)
Engage, Explore and Inquire: Promoting Student Learning and STEM Awareness, March 3, 2007
Robotics Training Workshop (K–12) April 7, 2007

Web Seminar on Mars
This  NSTA web seminar features NASA/JPL/ASU scientists (March 14)

Modeling Workshop in Earth and Space Science at FHSU and ESU
This workshop is scheduled for Monday-Thursday, July 9–26, 8:30a.m.–4:00 p.m., 2007 concurrently at Emporia State University and Fort Hays State University. The focus of this year’s workshop will be middle school earth and space science concepts.  Preference for attending the workshop is given to middle school teachers.  Please send an e-mail to Ann Ryan, by March 10 to obtain an application. Space is limited.

NASA's Middle School Aerospace Scholars (MAS)
This educational opportunity for Texas middle school teachers is funded by the State of Texas and administered by the NASA Johnson Space Center. To encourage integration of NASA instructional materials into existing classroom curriculum, teams of teachers will be selected to participate in the 2007 MAS summer workshops. The application is online. On the website, you can also find more information about MAS including team eligibility requirements and details regarding the week long summer workshop at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The application deadline is March 9, 2007.


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Solar Week – February 26–March 2
Solar Week is ideal for students studying the solar system, the stars, astronomy in general. It's also for kids wondering what it's like being a scientist, and possible career choices. Participation makes for a fun computer lab activity as well, so let your imaginations fly!

NASA Space Settlement Contest
This annual contest, co-sponsored by NASA Ames and the National Space Society (NSS) is for 6–12th graders from anywhere in the world. Individuals, small teams of two to six, and large teams of seven or more (often whole classrooms with teacher leadership) may enter. Grades 6–9 and 10–12 are judged separately, except for the grand prize. Students develop space settlement designs and related materials. These are judged at NASA Ames. Submissions must be received by March 31, 2007. 

Living in the Atmosphere of the SunSun-Earth Day 2007 Webcasts
Sun-Earth Day occurs on or near the spring equinox, which is March 20, 2007.  This year¹s theme is Living in the Atmosphere of the Sun.  In celebration of Sun-Earth day, NASA will present the following two webcasts:

Online Public Lectures by NASA Earth Scientists
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and The Library of Congress announce free public presentations by top NASA scientists on current topics such as climate change, urban sprawl, and natural disasters. For those unable to attend the event in person, the lectures will be recorded and available for viewing after the event at Science Reference Services. Upcoming presentations include:


Image of SaturnSaturn – A New View
Hardback book by L.Lovett, J.Horvath, and, J.Cuzzi.  As a result of the ongoing Cassini-Huygens mission, photographs of Saturn, its rings and its moons have come streaming back to Earth, together with enough data to keep hundreds of scientists engrossed for decades. Reproduced here are 150 of the best of those images, among them rings from the unlit side never visible from Earth and panoramas of the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. This breathtaking volume, including authoritative essays on the planetary system and the mission, reveals the planet, its ethereally beautiful rings, and its 40+ moons in ways never before seen or recorded.

International Polar Year
NASA's Science Mission Directorate’s participation in the International Polar year (IPY), designated from March 2007 to March 2009, will provide new insights into the polar regions of Earth, the Moon, and Mars. Numerous education and public outreach projects are planned to complement research and exploration activities. Educator resources include:

Universe in the Classroom
The latest issue of the Universe in the Classroom is online.  The Universe in the Classroom is the ASP's electronic educational newsletter for teachers and other educators around the world who want to help students of all ages learn more about the wonders of the universe through astronomy.  The new issue is now out; topics include the history of the number of planets in our solar system, Ceres, the dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, Missions to Pluto and Ceres, and two classroom activities about the scale and structure of the Solar System.  To sign up for email updates or to browse the archives, visit the main Universe in the Classroom page.
A colorful satellite image of Antarctica showing areas of ozone depletion

Earth Exploration Toolbook: Analyzing the Antarctic Ozone Hole
The Antarctic ozone hole is bigger than ever. This troubling news was reported in October by scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Analyzing the Antarctic Ozone Hole, a chapter of the Web-based Earth Exploration Toolbook (EET), provides the guidance and tools necessary for middle and high school students to perform their own studies of the ozone hole using data collected by a NASA satellite instrument, the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer. Read more about this EET chapter on the NASA portal.


Image above: Students quantify the Antarctic ozone hole using NASA satellite data and image analysis software. Credit: NASA/Carleton University


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Mission News and Science

llustration to the right: This image — 360 million light years across — shows the distribution of dark matter, massive halos, and luminous quasars in a simulation of the early universe, shown 1.6 billion years after the Big Bang. Credit: Paul Bode and Yue Shen, Princeton UniversityDistant quasars live in massive dark matter halos
Modified from Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Using a map of more than 4,000 luminous quasars in the distant universe, scientists from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-II) have shown that these brilliant beacons are strongly clumped, with huge clusters of quasars separated by vast stretches of empty space. The strong clustering shows that the quasars lie within massive concentrations of dark matter.

Quasars are the brightest objects in the universe.  They occur as swirling gas falls into supermassive black holes at the centers of otherwise ordinary galaxies. Their great luminosities allow them to be seen at enormous distances, and since light travels at a finite speed, quasar maps provide a glimpse of structure when the universe was a small fraction of its current age. Astronomers can use the position of the quasars and how they are clustered to infer the mass of the dark matter halo that surrounds them.  In this new study, astronomers have shown that the brightest quasars, which are powered by the most massive black holes, are found in the most massive dark matter halos in the early universe.

Illustration to the right: This image — 360 million light years across — shows the distribution of dark matter, massive halos, and luminous quasars in a simulation of the early universe, shown 1.6 billion years after the Big Bang. Credit: Paul Bode and Yue Shen, Princeton University

Surprises from the Sun's South Pole
Modified from ESA Science & Technology
The latest high-latitude excursion of the joint ESA-NASA Ulysses mission has already produced some surprises. In December, although very close to the minimum of its 11-year sunspot cycle, the Sun showed that it is still capable of producing a series of remarkably energetic outbursts. The solar storms, which were confined to the zone around its equator, produced intense bursts of particle radiation that were clearly observed by near-Earth satellites. Scientists were surprised to detect similar increases in radiation with the instruments on board Ulysses, even though it was three times as far away and almost over the south solar pole. Scientists are busy trying to understand how the charged particles made it all the way to the poles.

Mars Orbiter Sees Effects of Ancient Underground Fluids
Modified from NASA Mission News  
Liquid or gas flowed through cracks penetrating underground rock on ancient Mars, according to a report based on some of the first observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists have seen the cracks filled with minerals, deposited by liquid or gases, using the powerful telescopic camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  Mineralization took place deep underground, along faults and fractures. These mineral deposits became visible after overlying layers were eroded away throughout millions of years.

Dr. Chris Okubo, a geologist at the University of Arizona, Tucson, discovered the patterns in an image of exposed layers in a Martian canyon named Candor Chasma. The haloes visible along fractures seen in the Candor Chasma image appear to be slightly raised relative to surrounding, darker rock. This is evidence that the circulating fluids hardened the lining of the fractures, as well as bleaching it. The harder material would not erode away as quickly as softer material farther from the fractures. The most likely origin for these features is that minerals that were dissolved in water came out of solution and became part of the rock material lining the fractures. Another possibility is that the circulating fluid was a gas, which may or may not have included water vapor in its composition. Images showing the haloes along fractures are available at NASA's Mission News website.

light-toned bedrock

Light-Toned Bedrock Along Cracks as Evidence of Fluid Alteration: This enhanced-color image shows a landscape of sand dunes and buttes among a background of light-toned (tan-colored) bands and dark-toned (blue-colored) bands in the Candor Chasma region of Mars' Valles Marineris canyon system. Credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona







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Last updated
May 2, 2007