LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter

October 2007

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November 15-17Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST), Austin, TX

December 13 & 14Geminid Meteor Shower peak


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.

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

Embry-Riddle/NASA Educator Resource Center Workshops
Free professional development workshops for teachers are presented on Saturdays on a variety of math, science and technology topics utilizing NASA Education Resources. Contact the ERC at 928-777-6281 or deveaus@erau.edu to register.
Nov. 10: Our moon, activities, and how you can borrow real lunar samples from NASA!
Dec. 8: Learn about NASA’s Star Count Project and S’COOL – NASA’s Student Cloud Observation Online project

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 http://www.statweb.org/CASTAustin/ .

Geophysical Information for Teachers (GIFT) Workshop
As part of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference in San Francisco, 10–14 December 2007, there will be a 2-day workshop for middle and secondary school teachers. The GIFT Workshop is free for participating teachers who register by Saturday, 24 November 2007. Space is limited to 30 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Workshop will include hands-on classroom activities directly aligned with the National Science Content Standards. For more information, contact Dr. Inés Cifuentes, AGU Education and Career Services Manager, 202 777 7508.



AER Call for Contributions on Astronomy Demonstrations
The Astronomy Education Review plans to do a special section that will contain short papers and research relating to astronomy demonstrations, and invites colleagues to write up innovative or improved demos for classroom and informal science education use.

banner with logo and images from 21st Century Explorer2nd Annual 21st Century Explorer Podcast Competition
The second annual 21st Century Explorer Podcast Competition challenges students to create unique audio and video podcasts. In 2008, NASA will celebrate its 50th anniversary.  Tthis competition asks of students ages 11-18, " What do you think is NASA¹s greatest exploration achievement in the past 50 years and why?" The competition began October 1, and ends after the first 1,000 entries are submitted in each category OR at midnight on January 4, 2008.

Journey through the Universe Program
This national science education initiative engages entire communities using education programs in the Earth and space sciences and space exploration to inspire and educate. Journey programming is for grade K-12 students, their teachers, and their families. Programming is delivered by a team of engineers, scientists, and master science educators from research and education organizations across the nation. The program offers K-12 programming, curricular content, and resources that a community selects based on their needs in STEM education. For more information contact Stacy Hamel at 703-508-2898.

Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy
The 2008 applications are now available for the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. This summer program provides 50 hours of intensive classroom, laboratory and training time, focusing on space science and space exploration.  The program is open to science and math teachers who educate students ages 10-14 years old. Honeywell scholarships to the program cover tuition, air fare, accomodations, and more. Application deadline is December 31, 2007.

cartoon rocketSally Ride Science Festival
5th-8th grade girls, their teachers, and parents are invited to the second annual Sally Ride Science Festival being held in locations across the U.S. Each festival features an address by a female astronaut and workshops for students and parents. The fall 2007 schedule includes Oct. 27– Rice University, Houston, and Nov. 10 –University of San Diego.



New Sun Earth Day Web Sitelogo for Sun-Earth Day 2008
Sun-Earth Day will be on March 20, 2008. This site includes a new calendar that features upcoming mission launches, conferences, NASA events, amateur astronomer events and star parties, museum exhibits and local happenings relating to Sun-Earth Day. There is also a new podcast and a featured Problem-Based Learning Activity, In the News, that focuses on space flight.

The Universe Today
This site has daily news articles on astronomy and space science, regular podcasts on astronomical topics, a skywatching guide, and a discussion forum that it shares with Bad Astronomy. The science is presented at a very understandable level, appropriate for high school students as well as adults.

Astronomy Education Review (AER)
This web-based journal/magazine is geared for those involved in astronomy education and outreach. The just completed 11th issue contains a wealth of materials for those teaching undergraduate astronomy, including articles on astronomy education research, a survey of textbooks, features on activities, and more.

logo for European Space Agency's site for the Hubble Space TelescopeHubblecast
The European Space Agency Hubble team has created an on-going series of video podcasts, available for viewing and downloading. These episodes feature news and images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and are narrated at a high school to adult level.


The CERES S'COOL Project
S'COOL is a real-time, collaborative science experiment that elementary through secondary students conduct with NASA scientists. Participants make ground truth observations of clouds for comparison with satellite data. These observations help NASA scientists validate the measurements from NASA's CERES satellite instrument (Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System). A large number of resources are available at the Web site.

logo for Windows to the Universe Web siteWindows to the Universe
The site includes a rich array of documents, images, movies, animations, sounds, games and data, on Earth and space science topics. Recently added are sections on Earth's Polar Regions and Climate and Global Change. Three levels of content are provided: students (K-12 through undergraduate), teachers and browsing adults.


Mission News and Science

Quasars Create Heavy Elements to Seed the Early Universe
Modified from http://www.universetoday.com/2007/10/09/are-we-made-of-quasarstuff-too/
artwork depicting a quasar propelling dust into the cosmos
An artist's depiction of a quasar propelling dust into the Cosmos.

The Spitzer Space Telescope has found evidence of dust ejected from quasars billions of light-years away. This dust is a mix of ingredients that make up glass, sand, marble and even precious gems, perhaps forming more complex molecules, and even life.

Astronomers have long known that elements heavier than iron are generated in supernovae, as enormous stars explode and fling these new materials out into the galaxies. Many presumed that the early Universe had little to no dust, and consisted almost entirely of hydrogen and helium gas, with no elements heavier than lithium. Astronomers have now discovered dust pouring out of supermassive black holes in the early Universe. Known as quasars, and bright enough to be seen clear across the Universe, these actively feeding black holes are very messy, ejecting more material out in polar jets than they're actually able to consume. It now appears that both supernovae and quasars work together to seed galaxies with heavier elements and complex molecules.


Photos of dark openings--possibly caves--on Mars
A montage image of the "Seven Sisters"--seven dark openings into cavenrous spaces on the slopes of the Martian volcano, Arsia Mons.

Caves on Mars
Modified from http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2007/21sep_caves.htm?list812372

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has discovered entrances to seven possible caves on the slopes of a Martian volcano. Researchers found very dark round features ranging in diameter from about 328 to 820 feet. Using Mars Odyssey's infrared camera to check the daytime and nighttime temperatures of the circles, scientists concluded that they could be windows into underground spaces.

Just as deep caves on the Earth maintain a consistent temperature throughout day and night and seasons, caves on Mars would have less of a temperature change than the surrounding land. From day to night, temperatures of the holes change only about one-third as much as the change in temperature of surrounding ground surface.

The discovered holes, dubbed "Seven Sisters," are at high altitudes on the planet, on a volcano named Arsia Mons. The deep holes may have formed as underground stresses around the volcano created faults, opening spaces beneath the surface. The observations have prompted researchers to find other openings to underground spaces at lower elevations that are more accessible to future missions to Mars.

artist's vision of the binary system of the black hole and massive star, and a photo of the Chandra data
Artist's vision of the binary system: the red accretion disk of a black hole orbiting a blue supergiant star. The insert's blue glow is the data from the Chandra Observatory, with the white stars from Gemini around it.

Massive Eclipsing Black Hole Eclipse Provides Puzzle
Modified from http://chandra.harvard.edu/press/07_releases/press_101707.html

Astronomers have observed an exceptionally massive black hole orbiting a huge companion star. M33 X-7 is the first black hole in a binary system observed to undergo eclipses. Because of the eclipses, astronomers have been able to calculate highly accurate estimates for the mass of the black hole and its companion. The resulting measurements have intriguing implications for the evolution and ultimate fate of massive stars.

The black hole is part of a binary system in a nearby galaxy about 3 million light- years away. Astronomers have measured the mass of the black hole as 15.7 times that of the Sun. This makes M33 X-7 the most massive stellar black hole known. A stellar black hole is formed from the collapse of the core of a massive star at the end of its life. The companion star also has an unusually large mass, 70 times that of the Sun.

It is difficult to understand how this massive black hole came to be in such a close orbit around such a massive companion star. The parent star for the black hole must have had a mass greater than the existing companion star in order to have formed a black hole before the companion. This parent star would have been wider than the present separation between the stars, so the stars must have moved closer while sharing a common outer atmosphere. This process typically results in so much mass being lost from the binary system, that the parent star should not have been able to form a 15.7 solar-mass black hole. The black hole's parent star must have shed gas at a rate about 10 times less than predicted by models before it exploded.