Lunar and Planetary Institute

Education and Public Outreach

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter
November 2005

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

Workshops and Courses

Astronomy from the Ground Up
Applications are now being accepted for a workshop April 19–21, 2006 in Tucson, Arizona. Astronomy from the Ground Up is a National Science Foundation funded program developed to provide informal science educators, science centers/museums and natural history museums with new ways to communicate modern astronomy to their visitors. The workshops include both onsite and website varieties and include opportunities for informal science educators to learn fun techniques to present astronomy topics and to interpret current astronomical events and discoveries. Astronomy from the Ground Up was created by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) in collaboration with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC).

NSTA Online Course Information
NSTA provides a link to universities and museums across the country that offer online courses for graduate credit. One example of the many opportunities is the American Museum of Natural History’s Seminars on Science. These six-week courses incorporate museum resources with interaction with their scientists and educators. CEU’s and graduate credits are provided. Winter course registration is open until January 2, 2006. Each course has a cost of $445.

Summer 2006 Workshops at McDonald Observatory
McDonald Observatory offers a unique setting for teacher workshops: the Observatory and Visitors Center in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. Not only will you do inquiry-based activities aligned with science and mathematics TEKS and TAKS, you will practice your new astronomy skills under the Observatory’s dark skies, weather permitting, and partner with trained and nationally recognized astronomy educators. NOTE: the deadline for applications for federally funded programs and scholarships is February 1, 2006.

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.

Toyota TAPESTRY Grant Program
The program awards 50 grants of up to $10,000 each and a minimum of 20 "mini-grants" of $2,500 each to K-12 science teachers. Interested teachers should propose innovative science projects that can be implemented in their school or school district. Toyota TAPESTRY projects demonstrate creativity, involve risk-taking, possess a visionary quality, and model a novel way of presenting science. The deadline is January 19, 2006.

Educator Researcher Collaborative Projects - The SCORE program offers grants of up to $1000 to collaborative teams of educators and Science Mission Directorate researchers in the SCORE six-state region. The grants are intended to help initiate new partnerships between educators and researchers. Funds can be used to purchase materials and resources to increase student or public understanding of space science content.

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Space Science Events in Louisiana
Those down on the bayou interested in space science might want to visit the Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium before January 8th, 2006. The Planetarium is offering a program through January 8th called Hubble Vision 2 where visitors will learn about the Hubble Space Telescope and many of its discoveries. The shows take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. The Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium is also offering a Cosmic Questions Exhibit. This is a traveling exhibit about many aspects of space and time. The exhibit will be on display through December 31st. Museum admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $2 for children.. Call the Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium at 337-291-5544 or visit the Web site.

Connect with NASA Scientists
The Universe Forum Website is offering opportunities for educational organizations to examine how scientists in the 21st century will continue to explore the boundaries of space and time. The site will help you make connections to NASA scientists in your area. Join the mailing list to be kept appraised of these opportunities as they develop. The mailing list can be found here. For more information visit Inside Einstein's Universe.

Art Contest
The Planetary Society has teamed with the European Space Agency to invite youths and adults worldwide to enter the Venus Express Art Contest. This is a chance to win a trip to mission control in Darmstadt, Germany when Venus Express arrives at its destination in April 2006.

The theme of Venus Express Art Contest is ‘Postcards from Venus.’ Contest entrants are invited to imagine the surface of Venus from an above-ground perspective — a bird’s eye view of a mysterious world whose volcano-riddled surface contains few impact craters. Anyone may enter the contest in either the youth (age 17 or under) or adult (18 or over) category. Only one entry per person is permitted, with no group entries allowed. Artwork based on the contest theme may be created in any two-dimensional artistic medium, including computer-generated art. The artwork should be of Venus itself, rather than the Venus Express spacecraft. Each finished piece should be the size and shape of a postcard (approximately 10 by 15 cm). Artwork may be mailed or submitted online. Visit Postcards from Venus for the complete contest rules and an entry form. The deadline for all entries to be received — by mail or online: January 13, 2006, 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time.


Free Curriculum and Resource Guide
The Mars curriculum entitled Making Tracks on Mars: Teacher Resource and Activity Guide is available on CD. It was created by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and LodeStar Astronomy Center. INCLUDES information about Mars, information about missions to Mars, information about the ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission AND 20 tested hands-on activities designed for students in grades 3–9 AND lists of other sources for additional Mars info, an annotated MER image file, and an annotated PowerPoint for use in the classroom. FREE to all educators. Send, call or email your request for this CD to Jayne Aubele, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Rd. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, 505-841-2840.

NASA and OfficeMax
Would you like to have those beautiful NASA images and materials ready to distribute to students without all the effort that goes along with the process? Well, now you can! OfficeMax and NASA have partnered to get printed materials into the hands of students, educators and the public quickly and easily. Educators and NASA enthusiasts can have the large files printed at the closest OfficeMax store. OfficeMax facilities are offering savings of up to 50 percent on all materials printed from the NASA Web site.

Teachers and other space enthusiasts can either print the materials themselves or click the new OfficeMax icon on the NASA Web site. The materials will be professionally copied and collated for delivery, shipping or available for next-day pick up at the nearest OfficeMax store. In many cases, materials are lengthy and have numerous color pictures and graphics, which can take hours to download. Let OfficeMax do the work for you! For more information visit this site.

Young Astronauts
The Young Astronauts website is a good resource for providing activities in which children explore what's in space, how we get there, how we live there, and what we do while we're in space. Additional lessons examine topics such as space flight, relating space missions to conditions and activities on Earth, and astronomy activities in which students explore the universe and its components. Each activity includes a cross-discipline activity to help children view the topic from a different perspective and develop additional skills.

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Mission News and Science

Introducing NASA's New Spaceship
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Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts will again explore the surface of the Moon. And this time, they are going to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond. There are echoes of the iconic images of the past, but it won't be your grandfather's moon shot.

NASA's new spaceship is the key to making the Vision for Space Exploration a reality. The Vision, announced by President Bush in January 2004, will extend humanity's presence across the solar system, starting with a return to the moon by the end of the next decade, followed by journeys to Mars and beyond.

Building on the best of Apollo and shuttle technology, NASA's 21st century exploration system will be affordable, reliable, versatile and safe. The centerpiece of this system is a new craft designed to carry four astronauts to and from the moon, support up to six crewmembers on future missions to Mars, and deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

Evidence for More Dust than Ice in Comets
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Observations of Comet 9P/Tempel 1 made by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft after the Deep Impact collision suggest that comets are ‘icy dirtballs’, rather than ‘dirty snowballs’ as previously believed. Comets spend most of their lifetime in a low-temperature environment far from the Sun. Their relatively unchanged composition carries important information about the origin of the Solar System.

On 4 July this year, the NASA Deep Impact mission sent an ‘impactor’ probe to hit the surface of Comet 9P/Tempel 1 to investigate the interior of a cometary nucleus. Tempel 1's icy nucleus is dynamic and volatile. Possibly the impact would also trigger an outburst of dust and gas, and produce a new active area on the comet’s surface. Just before impact, the Hubble Space Telescope spotted a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet. No one knows for sure what causes these outbursts.

Rosetta, with its set of very sensitive instruments for cometary investigations, used its capabilities to observe Tempel 1 before, during and after the impact. The scientists could then work out the corresponding dust/ice mass ratio, which is larger than one, suggesting that comets are composed more of dust held together by ice, rather than made of ice contaminated with dust. Hence, they are now ‘icy dirtballs’ rather than ‘dirty snowballs’ as previously believed.

Solving a Cosmic Mystery
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Scientists have solved the 35-year-old mystery of the origin of powerful, split-second flashes of light known as short gamma-ray bursts. These flashes, brighter than a billion suns, yet lasting only a few milliseconds, have been simply too fast to catch — until now.

Through telescope and satellite findings scientists determined the flashes arise from violent collisions in space. The clashes are either between a black hole and a neutron star or between two neutron stars. In either scenario, the impact creates a new black hole. In at least one burst, scientists saw tantalizing, first-time evidence of a black hole eating a neutron star. The neutron star was first stretched into a crescent, then swallowed by the black hole.

The Swift satellite detected a short burst on May 9, and NASA's High-Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) detected another on July 9. The May 9 event marked the first time scientists identified an afterglow for a short gamma-ray burst, something commonly seen after long bursts.

Did You Know?
Why is the Sky Blue?
Modified from
Light from the Sun may look white, but it is actually a combination of many colors. We can see the different colors of sunlight (its spectrum) by splitting the light with a prism. The spectrum is also visible when you see a rainbow in the sky. At one end of the spectrum are the reds and oranges. These gradually shade into yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The colors have different wavelengths, frequencies, and energies. Violet has the shortest wavelength in the visible spectrum. That means it has the highest frequency and energy. Red has the longest wavelength, and lowest frequency and energy.

As light moves through the atmosphere, it bumps into bits of dust and gas molecules. Dust particles and water droplets are much larger than the wavelength of visible light. When light hits these large particles, it gets reflected, or bounced off, in different directions. The reflected light appears white because it still contains all of the same colors. But when light hits smaller gas molecules in our air, something different happens. Some of the shorter wavelength light (the blues and violets) are absorbed and then radiated out in different directions. This is the light we see when we look at the sky.

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Last updated
May 2, 2007