Lunar and Planetary Institute

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter

May 2008

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illustration of the Ocean Surface Topography Mission / Jason 2 satellite above EarthMay 10 Astronomy Day

May 25Phoenix Mission lands on Mars

June 15Ocean Surface Topography Mission/ Jason 2 launches

June 20 Summer Solstice

August 12 Perseids Meteor Shower Peak

August 28 Space Shuttle Mission to Service the Hubble Space Telescope


Workshops and Courses

Moon rising over Earth's horizon as seen from orbitEarth-Moon Institute for Teachers
Lunar and Planetary Institute is conducting a 35 hour institute, June 9-13th, for Houston-area teachers and pre-service teachers of grades 5-8. Hands-on activities will bridge content from the Moon's to the Earth's geology and environment. Participants will conduct authentic inquiry and develop tools to address student misconceptions. Application deadline is May 9.

Penn State Science Workshops for Educators
Choose from six different content area workshops designed to meet classroom curriculum requirements. Keep pace with the latest science research, engage in standards-based classroom activities, and explore ways to make science fun as you work side by side with Penn State faculty. Grants, sponsored in part by NASA, provide all participants with a private room in the newly built Brill Hall, reimbursements for travel costs up to $100, breakfast in the dining commons, and an allotment for lunches and dinners. In addition, tuition subsidies are available for ALL of the workshops on a competitive basis. Depending upon funding availability, additional tuition subsidies may be provided after April 2.
2008 course titles include: Exploring Renewable Energy Technologies and the Materials that Make it Happen, Earth’s History: Interaction Between Life and the Environment, Extreme Particle Astrophysics, Evolution - How important is it to a good science education?, Telescopes: The Tools of Astronomical Inquiry, and Black Holes: Gravity's Fatal Attraction. Application Deadline: May 31, 2008

graphic for NCARClimate Discovery Online Courses for Educators
NCAR is offering a series of seven-week online courses for middle and high school teachers that combine geoscience content, information about current climate research, easy to implement hands-on activities, and group discussion. The courses run concurrently beginning June 20 and run through August 15. There is a $200 fee per course.

Two Days of Hands-on Astronomy Education Workshops
To prepare for International Year of Astronomy (2009), the American Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific are sponsoring a weekend of workshops for formal and informal educators, in St. Louis May 31-June 1. .A limited number of scholarships are available to U.S. citizens, to cover travel. Registration for the workshops is $25 per day.

Teacher Workshop on Geoscience Time Scales & Global Climate Change
This teacher workshop on July 9-10 is being offered through the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Look backward and forward in time by studying weather for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month; climate for a year, 30 years, 400,000 years; and geology for millions of years. Sessions will include hands-on activities utilizing real-time NASA and NOAA satellite imagery in Google Earth to study the Earth System.



logo for Cassini Scientist for a DayCassini Scientist for a Day Contest
The Cassini Scientist for a Day contest challenges students to become NASA scientists studying Saturn. Students grades 5-12 are challenged to choose a Cassini image that they think will yield the best scientific results and explain their choice in a 500-word essay. Deadline is May 8, 2008.

Middle School Teachers Invited to Submit Ideas for Live Green Grant Program
The Live Green Teacher Grant program challenges middle school teachers to develop innovative ideas for furthering environmental and energy sustainability. Participating teachers will identify an issue or problem, create a plan to address it, and integrate the topic into classroom teaching. Forty grants of $1,000 and online professional development each will be awarded to teachers for the most forward-thinking ideas.

NASA Ocean Mission Educator Conference
NASA’s Ocean Surface Topography Mission is holding an Educator Launch Conference on June 14-15, 2008 at Vendenberg Air Force Base in California. This educational program will provide an introduction to the mission, an opportunity to view the launch, and a variety of STEM workshops with science behind the Jason-2 satellite instruments. Registration deadline is May 30.

Image of AntarcticaNSTA Earth and Space Science Web Seminars
These free live 90-minute experiences use online learning technologies to allow participants to interact with NASA and NSDL scientists and education specialists.
May 13: Mapping the Moon: Simulating LOLA in the Classroom
May 14: Robotic Exploration of the Red Planet
May 15: 21st Century Explorer - Today's Knowledge for Tomorrow's Explorer
May 22: Polar Science, Global Discoveries: IPY Research Update for Teachers
May 27: Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears Series
June 5: Mars Exploration Rovers: Where Are They Now?

NSTA New Science Teacher Academy
The 2008–2009 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy is a fellowship program created to help promote quality science teaching, enhance teacher confidence and classroom excellence and improve teacher content knowledge. NSTA Fellows selected for the program will receive a membership package, online mentoring, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of web-based professional development activities. Applications must be submitted no later than May 23, 2008.

Houston Museum of Natural Science Awards and Scholarships
The Museum will present two awards of $1,500 to two high school juniors for Outstanding Achievement by Harris County Juniors in Science or Mathematics, and the Excellence in Science or Mathematics Teaching Award of $1,500 will go to one K-5th grade science or math teacher, and one 6th-12th grade science or math teacher who demonstrates significant ability and dedication to teaching in either discipline in Harris County.  The deadline for all nominations is May 26, 2008.



New Podcast on Auroras
Sun-Earth Day story teller Jordan Hill shares a modern folk tale about why the planets in our solar system have auroras.

photo of gumdrops arranged into a smiley faceGummy Greenhouse Gases Activity
This new activity on The Space Place helps kids find out why too many of these kinds of molecules in the air are likely to cause Earth to get warmer. Kids use gumdrops and toothpicks to make simple molecules of greenhouse gases. Additional information for kids about the greenhouse effect and a short video are also available.

A new Phoenix Mission video, 7 Minutes of Terror
This video, available for download in quicktime and podcasts, explains the entry, descent, and landing events for the Phoenix Mars Lander on May 25, 2008. Also available for background info: The Challenges of Getting to Mars: Cruise Phase and
Phoenix Mars Lander - Countdown to Launch

New Features at NASA Web Site
NASA's s Science Mission Directorate has launched a new Web site that will provide in-depth coverage of NASA's past, present andfuture science missions with features that include: interactive tables and searches for science missions, insight into dark matter and dark energy, planets around other stars,climate change, Mars and space weather, a citizen-scientist page with access to resources that equip thepublic to engage in scientific investigation, and an expanded "For Educators" and "For Kids" pages.

collage of images of Saturn and its moonsBonus Round at Saturn: Audio and Video
Get behind-the-scenes insights into how the Cassini spacecraft will spend its newly announced two years of bonus time around Saturn, with an audio podcast on how the bonus time will include new information about Titan's Earthlike traits, and Old Faithful-like geysers on Enceladus, and a video on how Cassini engineers mapped out the spacecraft's travel plans to get the most intriguing science opportunities.



Cosmos in the Classroom 2007 Now Available
Designed for university, college, and high-school faculty who teach beginning astronomy, the 2008 volume of Cosmos in the Classroom is full of practical advice, reviews of instructional tools, curriculum guides, and class activities. The Astronomical Society of Pacific assembled the papers, handouts, and resource guides from a national conference held in August 2007 on the most effective ways of teaching the introductory astronomy course for non-science majors. graphic for Blueshift with faint image of a telescope in the background

A Stellar Podcast
Blueshift is a series of 20 minute podcasts on the science, missions, and people at Goddard Space Flight Center, including groundbreaking discoveries, innovative technology, new missions, and other exciting stories.


Mission News and Science


satellite photo of Wilkins Ice Shelf
This satellite photo shows the disintegration of 405 square kilometers of ice on the coast of Antarctica. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Antarctic Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating
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Scientists at the University of Colorado-Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center said satellite pictures show a 160-square-mile portion of Antarctica's massive Wilkins Ice Shelf has begun to collapse because of rapid climate change in a fast-warming region of the continent. The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a broad plate of permanent floating ice on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula.

While the area of collapse involves 160 square miles, a large part of the 5,000-square-mile ice shelf is now supported only by a narrow strip of ice between two islands; scientists predict that further retreat could cause half of the total ice sheet to disintegrate in the next few years. In the past 50 years, the western Antarctic Peninsula has experienced the biggest temperature increase on Earth, rising by 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degree Fahrenheit) per decade. The satellite images indicate the Wilkins Ice Shelf began its collapse Feb. 28.



A satellite image of a former moraine on Mars
This satellite photograph of Mars shows a moraine--deposits of rock that mark the limits of a glacier's path.

Recent Ice Age on Mars?
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Some scientists believe Mars' climate has changed dramatically over time. Researchers have now learned that thick ice packs existed at mid-latitude regions on Mars as recently as 100 million years ago, and that glaciers flowed in the last 10 to 100 million years. The landscape appears to show at least two periods in which glaciation occurred, bolstering their theory that the Martian climate has undergone past Ice Ages.

This evidence of recent activity means the Martian climate may change again and could bolster speculation about whether the Red Planet can, or did, support life. Currently, the frozen water at Mars' poles sublimates directly into water vapor due to the thin atmosphere. But under the intense pressure of an ice pack, liquid water could have existed on Mars' surface in the past.


illustration of a super compact galaxy compared to the Milky Way
This illustration compares the size of the Milky Way Galaxy with that of one of the newly discovered ultracompact galaxies.

Big Galaxies in Really Small Spaces
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Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered young, surprisingly compact galaxies, each only 5,000 light-years across, but weighing 200 billion times the mass of the Sun--about the mass of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers looking at distant galaxies found nine young, compact galaxies, a fraction of the size of today's grownup galaxies but containing approximately the same number of stars. Each galaxy could fit inside the central hub of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Other galaxies previously seen at similar distances were also small but contained far fewer stars.