Lunar and Planetary Institute

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter

September 2007

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logo of Dawn MissionSeptember 27Dawn Mission scheduled to launch

October 4-10World Space Week


Workshops and Courses

LPI and ARES One-Day Educator Workshops
Offered at the Harris County Department of Education
Please contact Liliana Maldonado at (713) 696-1307 for registration information, or go to the Harris County Department of Education Web site.

October 5, 2007     Mars – It’s Elementary! Workshop # 08-01324
This workshop uses up-to-date mission information and images to teach Earth and space science. Participants will experience hands-on activities designed for elementary classrooms that investigate Earth soil and compare it to Mars soil simulant.  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, tectonics, impacts, weathering and erosion have affected Mars and Earth. We will explore the evidence of water — past and present — and the possibilities of life on Mars. Participants will receive presentation materials, activity packets, posters, CDs, DVDs, and fact sheets. Fee: $100, Audience: Elementary Teachers

November 7, 2007  Objects in the Sky - Characteristics and Patterns of Change Workshop #08-01325 
Explore the movement of our Sun, Moon, planets, and stars of the night sky.  We will investigate the orbits of different objects and how their relative movements give rise to the patterns of changes we see in the sky.  This workshop addresses TAKS Objective 1 –Nature of Science and the science concepts TEKS for Grades 2 through 5 regarding the changes in the sky, lunar phases and seasons, the position of the planets in our solar system, and the characteristics of the Sun and Moon.  Participants will receive extensive presentation materials, reference materials, and hands-on activities for the classroom. Fee: $100, Audience: 2-5th grade Teachers

NSTA Online Short Course: Force and Motion
Intimidated by inertia? Frightened by forces? Mystified by Newton's Laws of Motion? Force and Motion is the perfect course for science teachers interested in learning more about the topic or for those who would like a refresher course. Participants meet five times live online, beginning October 3, with a content expert and NSTA staff for questions and discussions and work offline with self-paced materials to boost their knowledge of the topic.

LPI Workshops at CAST
The Lunar and Planetary Institute and many other space science educators are offering workshops and short courses at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) in Austin, TX, November 15-17th. For more information about CAST and other workshops, please go to .



Photo of ObservatoryAstronomy Research at Kitt Peak for High School Science Teachers
The Astronomy Research Based Science Education Program at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory is accepting applications from high school science teachers for the summer 2008 program.The 2008 program includes a 12-week online distance learning program during spring 2008, a 10 day in-residence workshop in late June at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, and on-going support and observing opportunities for you and your students in the arena of astronomy research. Application deadline for the 2008 program is October 31, 2007. Questions: (520) 318-8526 or

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are the Nation's highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. The Awards recognize highly qualified K-12 teachers for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. If you know great teachers, nominate them to join this prestigious network of professionals.

Life and Work on the Moon Contest for High School and College Students
A new NASA contest encourages university art and design students to partner with science and engineering departments to create art representative of living and working on the moon. The goal is for students in the arts, science and engineering to collaboratively engage in NASA's mission to return humans to the moon by 2020, and eventually journey on to Mars and other destinations in the solar system. Winners will receive cash prizes up to $1,000. Winning artwork also will be exhibited online and across the country. College entries are due no later than December 1, 2007; a high school version of this contest is planned for the spring of 2008.

Teacher Space Science Survey
An education team at the University of Arizona is trying to determine how teachers are using Earth and Space science images, data, and web sites in teaching. They invite classroom teachers to participate in a very short (5 minutes maximum), online survey. The anonymous survey will ask you questions about which, if any, resources use use. For more information, please contact .

2008-2009 PolarTREC Teacher Research Experience in Antarctica montage of images for Polar Trek
PolarTREC is currently accepting applications from teachers for the second year of teacher research experiences. Teachers are invited to submit an application to participate in field research learning experiences during the 2008 (Arctic) or 2008-2009 (Antarctic) field seasons. PolarTREC pairs K-12 teachers with researchers to improve science education through authentic polar research experiences. The program integrates research and education to produce a legacy of long-term teacher-researcher collaborations, improved teacher content knowledge, and broad public interest and engagement in polar science. Teacher Application Deadline: Friday, 5 October 2007.

NASA / NSTA Mars Web Seminars for Teachers
NSTA is hosting a series of Web Seminars this fall, developed in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Arizona State University focusing on NASA's Mars Exploration program and targeting K-12 grade level educators. During the live web seminar presenters share their expertise and answer questions live from the participants. Seminars are free and held in the evenings for 90 minutes.



New Mars Activities
The Explore! program at the Lunar and Planetary Institute has its new Mars: Inside and Out resources and activities posted. These materials were developed primarily to be used in informal education settings, but can easily be adapted to the formal classroom setting. The activities are built around geologic investigations of the Martian surface and interior, and are geared for children ages 8-13.

photo of Astronomer observing through telescopePBS Astronomy Educational Web Site
"Seeing in the Dark," a new PBS special on astronomy, includes a new interactive web site, with many resources, including charts of the night sky, videos, activities, projects, images, and more.

Universe in the Classroom
This special edition highlights the PBS special, Seeing in the Dark. Topics include: a conversation with the filmmaker, Timothy Ferris, the Seeing in the Dark interactive web site, Saturn and its rings, and a classroom activity: Birthday Stars.


New and Noteworthy
Lunar and Planetary Institute's library--Center for Information and Research Services (CIRS)-- has a weekly Web update on new resources available to scientists and educators . CIRS is open weekdays; educators are welcome to become library members. While some of the resources are only available to educators who visit CIRS, other items are available on-line.

Sky in Google Earth
With Sky in Google Earth, visitors can travel across the vastness of the night sky, making tour stops at 125 of the most popular Hubble images. Travelers can begin their celestial tour by selecting "Switch to Sky" from the "view" drop-down menu in Google Earth. From here, an object, such as the Eagle Nebula or a category, such as colliding galaxies, can be selected. The view of the sky shows the constellations surrounding the selected object. As the visitor zooms in, the constellations disappear and the chosen object emerges from the background.


Mission News and Science

Building Blocks of Galaxies Seen
Modified from
Photos from the Hubble of Early Galaxies shaped like blobs
Photos reveal blobs of hot stars forming galaxies.

NASA's Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes have discovered some of the smallest, faintest, most compact galaxies ever observed in the distant universe. Each of the galaxies is a hundred to a thousand times smaller than our Milky Way Galaxy. Many scientists suspect that small galaxies in the early universe evolved into the massive galaxies by merging. These new galaxies detected by Hubble are examples of the building blocks that later developed into massive galaxies..

These young galaxies offer important new insights into the universe's formative years, just one billion years after the Big Bang. Three of the galaxies appear to be slightly disrupted - appearing stretched into tadpole-like shapes. This is a sign that they may be interacting and merging with neighboring galaxies to form larger structures.

Mars Exploration Rover Status Report: Rovers Resume Driving
Modified from

After six weeks of hunkering down during raging dust storms that limited solar power, both of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have resumed driving. Opportunity advanced toward the edge of Victoria Crater, finally entering the crater on September 11. Weather conditions improved slowly, but with the improved energy supplies, both rovers are back on schedule to communicate daily.

Saturn's Mysterious Moon
Modified from

patches of bright material appear on a dark cratered backgroundCassini scientists are poring through hundreds of images returned from the 10 September fly-by of Saturn's moon Iapetus. Few features in our solar system are more bizarre than the variations between the snowy white and pitch black hemisphere of this unusual moon. New images show a surface that is heavily cratered, along with the mountain ridge that runs along the moon's equator. Many of the close-up observations focused on studying the strange 20 kilometer high mountain ridge that gives the moon a walnut-shaped appearance.

The new Cassini images show where the bright and dark different regions mix. On the dark side, there appear to be patches of white ice on dark mountainsides. Blobs of dark material appear on the bright side. There are regions where impact craters have punched through the dark material, revealing white material underneath.

The moon's irregular walnut shape, the mountain ridge that lies almost directly on the equator and Iapetus’ brightness contrast are among the mysteries scientists are trying to solve. Cassini's multiple observations of Iapetus will help to characterize the chemical composition of the surface; look for evidence of a faint atmosphere or erupting gas plumes; and map the night-time temperature of the surface. These and other results will be analysed in the weeks to come.