Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
August 2005

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

Workshops and Courses

The American Museum of Natural History offers Space, Time and Motion, an on-line course that explores the physical origin, workings, and behavior of the universe. Investigate the changing comprehension of motion, time, space, and matter through the ideas of the ancient Greek philosophers, Galileo, Newton and Einstein. Participants will learn how physicists measure mass, weight, and the speed of light, and how these basic measures relate to the nature of time, thermodynamics, Einstein's theories, and the wider social sphere. Registration for the fall semester will open in mid-summer. To learn more, and to request notification about registration, go to the Space, Time and Motion Web site.

The New Curiosity Shop offers a seven-week online astronomy course. The course takes about 2 to 4 hours per week and will include topics such as identifying the stars and planets, investigating the Sun, Earth and Moon system, and exploring the night sky through projects. Courses are available this fall.

Grants and Funding

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 deadlines are June 15 and January 15.

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.

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Einstein's Centennial
Join NASA as they partner with museums, science centers and planetaria to celebrate Albert Einstein's 1905 revolutionary ideas about space and time. Throughout the fall of 2005 events will take place across the country that include planetarium programs, exhibits, and physics activities for children and their families. The Web site includes a selection of educational resources including background information, illustrations and visualizations, lesson plans, activity guides and interactive Web features.

Space Day 2006 Design Challenges
Lockheed Martin's 2006 Space Day Design Challenges explores “Living and Working on the Moon.” Design Challenges are open to children ages 9–13. The deadline for submission is February 1, 2006. Stellar Design Challenge teams will be selected by the Space Day Educational Advisory Committee and recognized at the Space Day Opening Ceremony on Thursday, May 4, 2006 , in Washington, D.C. Spark the children's interest in space science by getting involved in the design challenges! For more details visit the Space Day Web site or contact Kay Armstrong, Space Day Program Manager.


Solar System Thrills Poster
This colorful poster, designed to catch the eye of children ages 5 to 9, includes reading and writing activities and resources to explore our solar system. To receive a free copy of this poster, contact the NASA Discovery Program Education Office.

AstroVenture is an online, interactive collection of activities designed for classroom use with children in grades 5–8. The activities explore astrobiology through modules in astronomy, geology, atmospheric science, and biology. Some of these activities may be modified for use in the after-school setting. The children can chat with NASA scientists, have online collaborations, and role-play NASA occupations as they search for and design a planet habitable by humans.

Children ages 7 and older can explore the Red Planet through this interactive and well presented Web site. Topics include features on Mars, Martian geology, the requirements of life and a comparison of the suitability of Earth and Mars for harboring life. Macromedia Flash Player needed.

Earth and Sky Radio Series
The Earth and Sky Web site offers an archive of transcripts from radio broadcasts that can engage and excite children about space science topics while developing reading comprehension skills. Each transcript is accompanied by ideas for book reports and other projects.

Astrobiology Poster
Liven up your walls with NASA's recent astrobiology poster! The poster explores what life is, where it is, and how we are searching for it. Activities and resource suggestions accompany the poster.

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Mission News and Science

Deep Impact Update
Adapted from:
NASA Press Release: 05-177 - NASA'S Deep Impact Tells a Tale of the Comet
NASA Press Release: 05-251 NASA'S Deep Impact Generates its own Spectacular Photo Flash
NASA Press Release: 05-250 – Deep Impact Kicks off 4 th of July with Deep Space Fireworks

Deep Impact, a NASA Discovery Mission, was the first mission to probe beneath the surface of a comet and reveal the secrets of its interior. After spending 172 days and 268 million miles in pursuit of comet Temple 1, the Deep Impact spacecraft released its 820 pound impactor, which successfully collided with the comet. The collision between the coffee-table-sized impactor and city-sized comet occurred at 1:52 am EDT on July 4th. As the impactor struck the comet, the spacecraft collected data and relayed images and other information to eagerly waiting NASA scientists.

The impactor struck the comet at 6.3 miles per second, creating a bright flash of light, sending a plume of material into space, and leaving behind a crater. Scientists are analyzing data to determine the size of the crater, which may approach 250 meters across. They believe the impactor vaporized deep below the comet's surface during collision.

One surprise to scientists was the dense cloud of fine powdery material thrown up by the impact. This was not the icy debris that some people anticipated. The Deep Impact science team continues to look at data to determine more about the plume. The dust and light given off at impact suggest that the comet's surface is covered by extremely fine material — like talcum powder.

The Deep Impact mission will provide a glimpse beneath the surface of a comet, where material from our solar system's formation — four and a half billion years ago — remains relatively unchanged. Mission scientists hope to answer questions about the formation of the solar system by providing an in-depth picture of the nature and composition of comets.

See the images from Deep Impact and learn more at the Deep Impact Web site and Nasa's Deep Impact Mission site.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) - NASA's next mission to Mars!
NASA's scientists are excited about the next step in our exploration of the Red Planet — the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter — due to launch beginning on August 10. The spacecraft will arrive at Mars in March 2006. It will occupy a low orbit above the Martian surface, providing immense detail about the features of this planet from the upper atmosphere to layers beneath the surface. Mission results will help scientists better understand how the Martian environment has changed through time, providing further insights into the history of water on Mars. The detailed data also will be used to identify possible future landing sites.

Possible Earth-like Planet Discovered
Modified from:
A planet that may be Earth-like — but too hot for life as we know it — has been discovered orbiting a nearby star. After three years of collecting evidence, a team of astronomers recently announced finding an entirely new type of planet orbiting a dim star 15 light-years away. The object is the lightest known extrasolar planet orbiting a normal star, with a mass between 6 and 9 Earths and an estimated radius about twice that of Earth .

The researchers have no direct proof that the new planet is rocky, but its mass suggests it is not a giant gas planet like Jupiter. The most probable composition of the planet is similar to inner planets of this solar system and it could even have a dense steamy water layer. Steamy is the right description — the estimated surface temperature on the planet is believed to be between 400 degrees and 750 degrees Fahrenheit!

Another Close Encounter with Mars? NOT This Year!!
Modified from:

According to a forwarded email circulating for the past month or so, the planet Mars will have an unprecedented close encounter with Earth in August when its orbit brings it closer to Earth than it has been for thousands of years. Beware! This e-mail is a recycled message from 2003.

However, it's not entirely false. Earth and Mars will be close to one another again in the fall of 2005 (October 30th at 0319 Greenwich Mean Time — a little after 10 pm Eastern Standard Time on the 29th) at which time their orbits will be a mere 43 million miles apart. While not the closest ever (35 million miles in August 2003), the approach is worth the look — Mars will outshine every object in the night sky except Venus and the Moon. 

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Last updated
May 2, 2007