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An artist's rendering of the moment of impact of a massive <a
  at the end of the Cretaceous (at the end of the <a
  Era</a>). Many
  scientists have concluded for decades that a meteorite four to six kilometers
  in diameter impacted the Earth at this time, resulting in a <a
  href="/earth/past/KTextinction.html&dev=1">mass extinction
  of dinosaurs</a> and many other life forms. Recent research suggests that
 perhaps <a
  volcanic eruptions</a> may be been responsible for the extinction.<p><small><em>Courtesy of Don Davis, NASA</em></small></p>Greenland's <a href="">ice sheet</a> saw a record <a href="">melt</a> in July 2012.  Scientists studying this event have found that this melting event was triggered by an influx of unusually warm air and amplified by the presence of a blanket of thin low-level <a href="">clouds</a> which pushed temperatures up above freezing.  For more information see the <a href="">press release</a> from the University of Wisconsin Madison.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison</em></small></p>Scientists at the University of Michigan have found that <a href="/earth/polar/cryosphere_permafrost1.html&dev=1">permafrost</a> in the <a href="/earth/polar/polar_north.html&dev=1">Arctic</a> is extremely sensitive to sunlight.  Exposure to sunlight releases carbon gases trapped in the permafrost, including <a href="/earth/climate/earth_greenhouse.html&dev=1">climate-warming</a> <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/carbon_dioxide.html&dev=1">carbon dioxide</a>, to the <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/overview.html&dev=1">atmosphere</a> much faster than previously thought.<p><small><em>George Kling, The University of Michigan</em></small></p>This image is a montage of high resolutions photographs of the Earth taken in January 2012 by the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite.  The image shows many stunning details of <a href="">our home planet</a> - <a href="">particularly at high resolution</a>. The beauty of our planet is obvious from space - our blue <a href="">waters</a>, our white <a href="">clouds</a>, and the green from <a href="">life</a> abundant at the surface.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of NASA</em></small></p>A new study has found that <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/airpollution_intro.html&dev=1">pollution</a> from <a href="/earth/Atmosphere/particulates.html&dev=1">fine particles</a> in the air - mainly the result of burning coal or <a href="/earth/interior/eruptions.html&dev=1">volcanic eruptions</a> - can shade <a href="/earth/Life/cnidarian.html&dev=1">corals</a> from sunlight and cool the surrounding water resulting in reduced growth rates.  Coral growth rates in the Caribbean were affected by volcanic aerosol emissions in the early 20th century and by aerosol emissions caused by humans in the later 20th century.  For more information, see the <a href="">press release</a>.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of Toby Hudson (Wikimedia Commons)</em></small></p><p>Something on Earth is always burning! NASA's Earth Observatory tracks wildfires across the world with <a href="" target="_blank">maps available for viewing</a> from 2000-present. Some wildfires can restore <a href="/earth/ecosystems.html&dev=1">ecosystems</a> to good health, but many can threaten human populations, posing a natural disaster threat.</p>
<p>Check out the materials about natural disasters in <a href="/earth/natural_hazards/when_nature_strikes.html&dev=1">NBC Learn Videos</a>, and their earth system science connections built up by the related secondary classroom activities.</p><p><small><em>NBC Learn</em></small></p>

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA