Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
May 2007

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


The NASA Broker/ Facilitator programs will be ending June 30, 2007, including the SCORE Broker program. Through the Lunar and Planetary Institute, we will be continuing our space science educator newsletter. As a part of the documentation of the SCORE Program’s efforts, NASA will be receiving a list of SCORE’s email contacts and potentially will send information to those contacts about future educational programs and opportunities. If you would prefer that your information not be shared with NASA, please let us know by June 1, 2007. Thank you!


An artist's depiction of the Dawn Mission: Credit: William K. Hartmann Courtesy UCLA

June 5 – Messenger Mission Flies By Venus

June 20 – Dawn Mission Launches

June 21 – Summer Solstice (first day of summer)



Workshops and Courses

Dawn Educator ConferenceDawn banner
Visit Cape Canaveral, see the Dawn spacecraft launch, and discover a host of exciting educational activities to spark students’ interest in space science, June 28th–June 30th. Conference participants receive a behind-the-scenes bus tour of Kennedy Space Center, engaging sessions featuring Dawn mission and science team members, a VIP launch pass, and more. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses. Interested educators must register by May 31st. Foreign nationals must complete registration by May 11th.

Penn State Offers NASA Space Science Educator Workshops
Applications are being accepted for summer workshops sponsored by NASA and the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium. The workshops offer innovative ways to teach science in the classroom, information on the latest science research, and standards-based activities. Educators from across the country attend to work side by side with Penn State faculty.

Door to the Universe Workshop in Austin TX
Texas ESC Region XIII and the Texas Space Grant Consortium are pleased to announce Door to the Universe. This three-day, FREE, summer workshop for teachers grades 4-8 will take place June 13-15, 2007 at the MCC Building in Austin, TX. For additional information or problems with registration please contact: Jennifer Jordan,

Astronomy from the Ground Up WorkshopAstronomy from the Ground Up Online Workshop for Museum Educators
This free workshop, May 30 – June 27, 2007 is offered by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in collaboration with the Association of Science-Technology Centers and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Training is through e-mail, videochat, and telephone. Participants receive a free toolkit, learn fun techniques for presenting astronomy and interpreting current events, and become part of the growing Astronomy from the Ground Up community. Applicants must be able to devote around six hours a week for four weeks.

Exploring Light Workshop in Tucson
Exploring Light Through The Eyes of The Hubble Space Telescope teacher workshop, July 9-12, 2007, will include common misconceptions about light, science content knowledge including the solar system and the formation of planetary systems, Mount Lemmon Infrared Observatory Tour, and interactive activities to apply scientific inquiry. Selected participants will receive GEMS Messages from Space teacher's guide and kit, stipend, overnight field trip to Mt. Lemmon observatory, and 24 hours of professional development credit.

Solar Science Workshop in Tucson
The Effect of the Sun and Global Climate Change teacher workshop, July 17-20, 2007, will include scientific theories and evidence behind the phenomenon of global warming, environmental problems from different points of view, application of solid science to real-life conditions, UA research scientists who study the sun and its effect on climate, and activities from GEMS Global Warming teacher's guide and kit. Selected participants will receive GEMS Global Warming and The Greenhouse Effect teacher's kit and guide, stipend, 24 hours of professional development credit, and a field trip to an observatory.

Arizona Science Center Exploration Workshops
Down to Earth Astronomy offered Saturday, June 30, 2007. Take a practical look at astronomy in this hands-on workshop. Learn about the movement and relationship between objects in the solar system, apparent motion of the Sun and stars, identification of major constellations, the relevance of the tilt of Earth’s axis and the formation of the solar system.

Astronomy Afterschool ProgramBeyond Einstein Explorers' Program (BEEP)
The Beyond Einstein Explorers' Program (BEEP) is an afterschool/summer program designed to introduce basic concepts about astronomy and the Universe beyond the solar system to middle-school students. Developed by the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard, BEEP has 12 sessions with hands-on activities in each session. The program is now recruiting participants for summer 2007. A two-day training will be held at NASA Goddard on June 13-14.

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Building Information Technology Skills through Astronomy
The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) is pleased to announce a new program (BITS through Astronomy) offering Arizona middle school science teachers help in preparing students for science career pathways. Through the excitement of astronomical image processing, teachers can introduce their students to analytical computer skills, including interpreting graphs, using statistics, and understanding equations. We will offer selected middle school teachers: four multi-day summer workshops, the first beginning in June 2007, collaborative work via telecommunication with astronomers and other teachers and on-going connections during the school year, stipends to cover time spent on this project, and laptops for implementing image processing projects in their classroom. We invite interested teachers to email us, telling why they are interested in this program, and how they think it could benefit their students. Please give details of your school and student population, and outline what computer support is offered at your school. This program is only open to teachers in the state of Arizona. For more information, email Dr. Katy Garmany at, or call her at 520-318-8526.

Exploring Space Lectures
World-class scholars discuss current missions to the distant realm of the gas giants, the icy Kuiper Belt and beyond. The free lectures will be held at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and will be webcast live as well as archived for free viewing online.
June 14 - New Horizons: Exploring the Solar System's Frontier by Dr. S. Alan Stern

Teacher Summer Research Program at NAU
The Teacher as Investigator: K-12 Teacher Research and Learning Program provides summer research experiences for teachers in astronomy, environmental sciences, behavioral and conservation biology, and mathematics, through Northern Arizona University. This program presents a unique opportunity for teachers to become part of a collaborative research team comprised of university science or mathematics faculty and undergraduate students. This experience is scheduled full-time from June 5 through July 3, 2007 in Flagstaff, AZ. Review of applications will begin on May 12, 2007. For more information, contact or

Bay Area Girl ScoutsHigh School Girls at NASA Ames
Date: June 24-30, 2007
Launch into Technology at NASA is a Girl Scout "Girls Go Tech" residential program at NASA Ames for girls entering grades 9-12 in Fall 2007. From June 24-30, 2007, girls may attend either the Aeronautics or Robotics Institute. In the evenings, girls will be together to swim, play games, do crafts projects, or just hang out with new friends! For more information, contact Jean Fahy, Girls Go Tech Coordinator, at or 510-562-8470, ext 246.

Office Max Promotion for Printing NASA Materials
OfficeMax ImPress has partnered with NASA to provide a convenient way to print NASA materials in an economical, productive and efficient manner. OfficeMax is offering a special promotion from April 2 to May 31, 2007, when you order NASA materials. Visit the Educational Materials section of and look for the OfficeMax logo. Click on the “View site” link to access the OfficeMax order page, and you will receive an automatic reduction in price.


NASA Act Now Page for Educators and Students
NASA Education's Act Now page highlights upcoming NASA opportunities available for teachers and students. The Educators section features information about upcoming workshops, grants, online activities, faculty fellowships and conferences in one location, making it easy for educators to find opportunities that interest them. NASA has also created a new Act Now section just for students: "NASA and You" will inform students about upcoming NASA events, contests, internship opportunities, webcasts and much more.

Image of a black holeBlack Hole Web Site
Black Holes: Gravity’s Relentless Pull is a web-based exhibit developed by Space Telescope Science Institute astronomers in collaboration with Educational Web Adventures; it contains an encyclopedia on black holes and information on a journey into a black hole.

Polar Discovery Project
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), in partnership with eight museums across the United States, announces "Polar Discovery." This project brings together science centers and natural history museums, world-class oceanographic researchers working in the Arctic and Antarctic, and creative multimedia talent. The project website offers photo essays, videos, animations, audio clips, and a forum for e-mailing questions to researchers at the poles. In addition, the museums have developed exhibits related to polar expeditions and will host public events with live satellite calls from researchers to museum visitors.

NASA's Dawn Mission: Kids's ActivitiesDawn Kids Activities
Encourage the next generation of space explorers with a host of fun activities available through Dawn Kids including a story, spacecraft model, puzzles, an iron-on decal, and more.


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Mission News and Science

The Brightest Supernova Ever
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Artist's illustration of supernova SN 2006gyThe brightest stellar explosion ever recorded may be a long-sought new type of supernova, according to observations by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes. This explosion was a hundred times more energetic than a typical supernova, from an enormous star 150 times the mass of our Sun . The observations indicate that the explosions of extremely massive stars in the early universe were a different more violent type of supernova than those usually observed in the modern universe.

Astronomers think many of the first stars in the Universe were this massive, and this new supernova may thus provide a rare glimpse of how those first generation stars died. The observations of the supernova, known as SN 2006gy, provide evidence that the death of such massive stars is fundamentally different from theoretical predictions. Supernovas usually occur when massive stars exhaust their fuel and collapse under their own gravity. In the case of SN 2006gy, however, astronomers think that a very different effect may have triggered the explosion. Under some conditions, the core of a massive star produces so much gamma ray radiation that some of the energy from the radiation converts into particle and anti-particle pairs. The resulting drop in energy causes the star to collapse under its own huge gravity. After this violent collapse, runaway thermonuclear reactions ensue and the star explodes, spewing the remains into space. The SN 2006gy data suggest that spectacular supernovas from the first stars that spew their remains - rather than collapsing to a black hole as theorized - may be more common than previously believed.

NASA Antenna Cuts Mercury to Core, Solves 30 Year Mystery
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Diagram showing the interior structure of Mercury. The metallic core extends from the center to a large fraction of the planetary radius. Radar observations show that the core or outer core is molten.Researchers working with high-precision planetary radars have discovered strong evidence that the planet Mercury has a molten core, changing our view of Mercury’s composition and how Mercury and the other planets in our Solar System first formed. The molten core explains the weak magnetic field around Mercury detected by the Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974 and 1975.

Among Mariner 10’s discoveries was that Mercury had its own weak magnetic field - about one percent as strong as that found on Earth. This was unexpected—scientists believe that Earth’s magnetic field is generated by a rotating molten outer core, and Mercury was believed too small to have a molten core. Scientists theorized that Mercury consisted of a silicate mantle surrounding a solid iron core. This iron was considered solid - or so the theory went - because small planets like Mercury cool off rapidly after their formation. If Mercury followed this pattern, then its core should have frozen long ago.

In 2002, scientists began pointing some of our most powerful antennas at Mercury. Using the radar echoes off of Mercury’s surface, scientists calculated Mercury's spin rate to an accuracy of one-thousandth of a percent. With these data the science team was able to detect tiny twists in Mercury's spin as it orbited the Sun. These small variations were double what would be expected for a completely solid body. This finding ruled out a solid core, so the only logical explanation remaining was that the core - or at the very least the outer core - is molten and not forced to rotate along with its shell.

Maintaining a molten core over billions of years requires that it also contain a lighter element, such as sulfur, to lower the melting temperature of the core material. The presence of sulfur supports the idea that radial mixing, or the combining of elements both close to the Sun and farther away, was involved in Mercury's formation process.

Flyby of Jupiter
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Jupiter's Little Red SpotNASA has released stunning new images of Jupiter and its moons taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. Views include a movie of a volcanic eruption on Jupiter's moon Io; a nighttime shot of auroras and lava on Io; a color photo of the "Little Red Spot" churning in Jupiter's cloudtops; images of small moons herding dust and boulders through Jupiter's faint rings--and much more.

New Horizons came within 1.4 million miles of Jupiter on Feb. 28 in a gravity assist maneuver designed to trim three years off its travel time to Pluto. For several weeks before and after this closest approach, the probe trained its cameras and sensors on Jupiter and its four largest moons.

A highlight of the flyby was the first close-up color scan of the Little Red Spot. This storm is about half the size of Jupiter's larger Great Red Spot and about 70 percent of Earth's diameter. It formed in the late 1990s when three smaller storms collided and merged. The combined storm started out white, but began turning red about a year ago. Using New Horizons data, scientists will be able to search for clues about how these great storm systems form and why they change colors.

Tvashtar volcano and plume on IoOf Jupiter's four largest moons, the team focused much attention on volcanic Io, the most geologically active body in the solar system. New Horizons' cameras captured pockets of bright, glowing lava scattered across the surface; dozens of small, glowing spots of gas; and several views of a sunlit umbrella-shaped dust plume rising 200 miles into space from the volcano Tvashtar, the best images yet of a giant eruption from the tortured volcanic moon.

The timing and location of the spacecraft's trajectory also allowed it to spy many of the mysterious, circular troughs carved onto the icy moon Europa. Data on the size, depth and distribution of these troughs, discovered by the Jupiter-orbiting Galileo mission, will help scientists determine the thickness of the ice shell that covers Europa's global ocean.


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Last updated
June 26, 2007