LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
Life at the Limits: Earth, Mars, and Beyond - The Lunar and Planetary Institute invites you to join an Earth-bound exploration of astrobiology on July 10–17, 2005! Life at the Limits: Earth, Mars, and Beyond is a NASA-sponsored training workshop for middle and high school science teachers and educators. At field sites in Nevada and California participants will investigate some extreme geological and chemical conditions in which life on Earth can thrive. Astrobiologists and planetary scientists will lead the field and laboratory experiences, helping to connect the field observations with the search for life in our solar system and beyond through discussions and proven, hands-on, standards-based classroom and laboratory activities that are ready to share with students! Applications Due: March 23, 2005. For more information and to access the on-line application, please visit http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/fieldtrips/2005/.
Space Foundation Professional Development/Graduate Course: Space Discovery graduate course schedule for Summer 2005:
- Space Technologies in the Classroom (June 20–24)
- Earth Systems Science (June 27–July 1)
- Rocketry and the Biology of Living in Space - Space History & Space Law (July 11–15)
- Biological and Physical Research (July 18–22)
- Astronomy Principles for the Classroom (July 25–29)
3 hours of Graduate credit from the University of Colorado is available for each course. Register by February 25th and pay only $100 (+ materials fee)! You can receive up to $2500 ($500 per course) in scholarship funding for this summer's Space Discovery Graduate courses. Scholarships will be awarded on a first come and first served basis. HURRY!! Scholarships are going fast. For registration and more information call 1-800-691-4000 or http://spacefoundation.org/education/graduate/.
Awards for Innovative K-12 Educators - ING Financial Services Unsung Heroes Awards are given to K-12 educators pioneering in new methods and techniques that improve student learning. Educators submit applications describing projects they have initiated or have envisioned for the future. These applications are judged on innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects, and ability to make a positive influence on the children. Full-time K-12 education professionals from accredited public and private schools throughout the U.S. may apply. Each of the 100 finalists receives a $2,000 award and three finalists will be selected for additional awards of $25,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third place. The application deadline is April 30, 2005.
Educator Researcher Workshops - The SCORE program offers grants to assist in the development and implementation of local professional development workshops for educators in the SCORE six-state region. Workshop design is flexible and should meet the needs of the local community. Funding deadline for spring workshops is January 15, 2005.
Educator Researcher Collaborative Projects - The SCORE program offers grants of up to $1000 to collaborative teams of educators and Office of Space Science researchers in the SCORE six-state region. The grants are intended to help initiate new partnerships between educators and Office of Space Science researchers. Funds can be used to purchase materials and resources to increase student or public understanding of space science content. Deadline: September 30th.
The NASA Student Involvement Program deadline has been extended until February 15, 2005 for all applications except the student flight opportunity (deadline January 15). We have very few applications from Texas. I encourage you to have your students submit a project. There is still time to have everyone in your school submit! The NASA Student Involvement Program (NSIP) is a national program of competitions linking students in grades K-12 directly with NASA's diverse and exciting mission of exploration, research, and discovery. Students may prepare entries as individuals, as teams of 2–4, or as a whole class, depending on the competition category and grade level. NSIP is a rewarding experience for students and for their teachers. It provides educators with instructional material and classroom-ready resources that support an inquiry-based approach to science, math, technology, and geography education. Through their participation in the program, students will learn to develop "science as inquiry" skills, work collaboratively as team members, apply computer and Internet skills, learn core concepts of Earth and space science, integrate science, mathematics, technology, and geography concepts, and learn to communicate more clearly and effectively. Program information can be found at this site.
Reminder: 2005 Space Day Design Challenges - now available to download from the Space Day website, for our inquiry-based curriculum enhancement program. The 2005 Design Challenges are based on the theme of "Return to the Moon". Let your students become scientists, engineers, and explorers working on the space frontier to design a totally unique solution to some "out-of-this-world" challenges. Using the Moon or any planet, moon, comet, or asteroid in our Solar System as the launching point for exploration, students can choose from among: design a unique device to make living or working on the Moon easier, plan a space mission and build a rover to successfully accomplish the mission, explore the Moon and create an electronic newspaper to tell everyone back on Earth what it's like to live there. As in the past, Design Challenges can be submitted for the national competition by teams of 2–10 children in grades 4–5, 6–8. There is also a club-based groups category available to the same ages. Teams that submit solutions by February 15, 2005, will be considered for national recognition and receive a certificate of appreciation. Best wishes on your students' experiences being successful learning opportunities using the Design Challenges!
The Evolution of Our Solar System Timeline - Take a journey through time from the birth of Our Solar System (4.5 billion years ago) to Man's first step on the moon with stunning graphics and captions.
Practical Uses of Math and Science (PUMAS)
On-Line journal of math and science examples for pre-college education. Examples are reviewed by scientist/teacher teams.
Jack Horkheimer Star Gazer - On his weekly PBS show, jolly Jack's episodes feature selected objects for naked eye viewing for the following week. Weekly episodes are available in streaming video and written scripts. Keep looking up!
A Whole New World: The Unveiling of Titan - A major event in the history of space science occurred on January 14th of this year. The Huygens probe (pronounced Hoy-gans), operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), was the first spacecraft to land on a body beyond Mars. Hitching a ride on NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft, Huygens descended through the atmosphere of Saturn's moon, Titan. Titan is the 2nd largest moon in our solar system and the only moon to have an atmosphere. Its atmosphere is so thick that we weren't positive it had a surface until the Cassini orbiter flew by in 2004 in preparation of Huygens' release. The first views of Titan by the Cassini spacecraft revealed:
By the visible spectrum:
- Odd markings - possible land "continents"?
- No craters
- Clouds at the South Pole
By radar data:
- Channel like and flow features (Volcanic? Fluvial? Both?)
- 2-3 km total topographic relief
- Possible Ice Volcano
On January 14th, 2005, the Huygens probe descended through Titan's atmosphere for 2.5 hours measuring atmosphere composition, cloud and wind physics, global temperatures. Mosaics were made from 350 photos taken during the descent. Data collected revealed:
- Well-defined borders of light and dark areas. Possible shorelines due to waves or tectonics? (John Zarnecky, the lead scientist of the Huygens' Surface Science Package, commented: "If [the dark area is] not a sea, it appears to be a lake of tar-like material.")
- Confirmed absence of craters
- Very high winds in some levels of the atmosphere
- Frequent rain of liquid methane falling through thick smog onto hills made of water ice creates dark channels and drainage patterns, which may also be spring-fed. There were even methane droplets on the lens of the camera.
Huygens landed on a solid surface and sent data to Cassini for 1 hour 12 minutes before Cassini had to turn away from the signal in order to relay the information back to Earth. The probe may have been collecting data for as much as 3 additional hours, a truly awesome achievement since the batteries were predicted to last only 1 additional hour after landing. Data collected revealed:
- Water ice and dark material (possibly organics)
- Pebbles (~10–15 cm across) consisting of a mixture of water and hydrocarbon ice show evidence of erosion at their base, indicating possible fluvial activity.
- "soft/spongy" soil
- 94 k surface temperature (very near the freezing and boiling point of methane)
- No wind
- Methane gas was released on landing
Why study Titan?
Shaun Standley, the ESA Huygens Systems Engineer, says, "The presence of methane [discovered in 1944] led scientists to speculate that atmospheric chemistry driven by ultraviolet sunlight could produce complex organic molecules (carbon based compounds, not necessarily of biological origin). It was recognized that Titan's atmosphere might chemically represent an analog to early Earth, before the Earth's atmosphere was changed by the presence of life."
Many of Earth's familiar geophysical processes occur on Titan, however the chemistry involved is quite different. Instead of liquid water, Titan has liquid methane. Instead of silicate rocks, Titan has frozen water ice. Instead of dirt, Titan has hydrocarbon particles settling out of the atmosphere, and instead of lava, Titanian volcanoes spew very cold ice.
Saturn can be seen as a yellowish-white "star" in this week's night sky right below the stars Castor and Pollux of the constellation Gemini. You may also catch a glimpse of Titan with the help of a small telescope.
May 2, 2007