October 2013

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Workshops, Webinars and More!
by Roberta

We're in full swing at Windows to the Universe getting ready for our upcoming professional development events!  See our list of workshops below for our sessions at the NSTA conferences this fall in Portland, Charlotte and Denver.  In addition, we're excited to be offering web seminars this month with PBS NOVA and NESTA, highlighting resources on Mapping Our World and The Sun: Energy for the Earth System.  Sign up for these free web seminars here!

In honor of Earth Science Week, October 13 - 19, NESTA is offering a special opportunity to join and select four past print issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist (TES) to be mailed to you at no cost!  This is a value of over $40, and includes mailing costs and any posters associated with these issues!  We have a limited supply of these issues, and once they're gone in print, they're gone!  So act fast if you're not already a member!  Once you're a member, you have online access to these past TES issues.  Membership in NESTA starts at $30/year, and with a NESTA membership, you can become a Windows to the Universe Educator Member for only $10/year!  Join today!

Please help support Windows to the Universe by making a Quick Donation!  Your contribution will help support the website and our professional development program.  Did you know:

  • ~12 million people use this website annually?
  • ~300,000 use it every other month or more?
  • ~500,000 access 20 pages or more per visit?
  • Windows to the Universe provides professional development to ~2,500 teachers per year, in collaboration with NESTA?
  • ~1,000 are Windows to the Universe Members?

If every frequent user of the website contributed just $2 per year, we could really invest in teacher professional development and expand the website!

Won’t you please help?  Please open the Windows to the Universe website, click on the "Quick Donate" link on top and select the level of support that seems right to you – remember, every little bit helps!

New Windows to the Universe Educator Membership Options with Course Support!
by Roberta

We're excited to offer new membership options for Windows to the Universe educators that include course webpage support, as well as options for homework and online quizzes.  We will continue to offer Basic Educator Membership (which provides advertising-free access to the website plus additional member benefits), but we are expanding now to offer Silver Educator Membership (Basic Educator Membership supplemented by course webpage support and course login for students) or Gold Educator Membership (with course support including online quizzes and homework upload/download and individual student subscriptions).  We also offer support for classrooms, with or without course support.  For more details, see our Educator Membership Benefits and Services page

Climate Change Education Resources Continuing to Grow!
by Roberta

With the release of the new IPCC Report, the prominence of climate change in the news continues to grow.  Windows to the Universe is continuing to expand our resources in support of climate change education.  Visit our climate education in the classroom page for links to resources you can use in your classroom, and our climate change course page for resources you can easily use in support of your courses. 

Status of the Antarctic Ozone Hole

Ozone (O3) is a special kind of oxygen molecule that has three oxygen atoms.  Ozone in the stratosphere protects us from ultraviolet radiation in sunlight.  The ozone layer is sort of like sunscreen for planet Earth.  It absorbs most of the incoming UV "light" before it reaches the ground.  The ozone layer stops almost all of the incoming UV-C, about 90% of the UV-B, and roughly half of the UV-A radiation.  This is critical to life on our planet, because in large amounts, ultraviolet radiation is very harmful to living organisms (e.g., it can cause skin cancer and damage plants).  In fact, the protective role of the ozone layer is so vital that scientists believe life on land probably would not have evolved - and could not exist today - without it.

Unfortunately, manmade pollutants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) degrade the ozone found in the stratospheric layer of Earth's atmosphere, and in the 20thcentury, atmospheric ozone concentrations began to drop.  By 1983, a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica was observed, and has been observable every year since.  By the mid-1980’s the international community had recognized the problem and established a worldwide agreement to reduce harmful emissions that cause the breakdown of the protective ozone layer.  197 countries have ratified this agreement, called the Montreal Protocol.

It is not yet clear how long it might take for the atmospheric ozone layer to recover, but many scientists believe it might be 10 years (NOAA study) to several decades.  There was reason for optimism recently when NOAA and NASA measurements showed in 2012 that the ozone hole was at one of its smallest sizes in the past 20 years.  As of September 27, 2013, the Antarctic ozone hole was reported to be larger than the 2012 hole, but smaller than the average over the last decade.  Currently, the 2013 ozone hole is nearing its maximum depth and size, with the most extreme values likely to be seen over the next week (ozone levels at the South Pole plummet every Antarctic spring, when a coincidence of environmental factors and manmade chemicals still in the atmosphere promote reactions that eat away at the protective ozone layer).

We aren't sure if the recovery of the ozone layer will happen over one or several decades, which makes continuous and consistent measurements of the ozone layer very important.  Under the mandate of the Clean Air Act, NOAA and NASA scientists keep a close eye on the ozone layer’s health with satellite data (historically the NASA TOMS instruments, NOAA SBUV/2 instruments, and most recently, the Suomi-NPP weather satellite launched in 2011), ground-based measurements (e.g., NOAA's Dobson Spectrophotometers) and balloon-borne instruments (e.g., NOAA's Ozonesondes).  By tracking stratospheric ozone as well as the chemical compounds and atmospheric conditions that affect its concentration, scientists will be able to track the ozone layer’s recovery.  Hopefully, in a decade or two, I will be able to write the following article - "Environmental Success Story - Scientists Report the Complete Recovery of the Ozone Layer!"

To find out more about ozone, read through NOAA's Ozone FAQ's.  Explore the difference between stratospheric ozone discussed in this article and tropospheric ozone which is a common pollutant using our Introduction to Ozone Reading Classroom Activity.

Voyager 1 Has Left the Solar System!

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is officially the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space.  Voyager’s plasma wave instrument showed recently that the density of the plasma that it is traveling through has increased dramatically, indicating that the spacecraft has passed through the heliopause, the boundary between solar plasma and the much denser interstellar plasma. 

The 36-year-old Voyager probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun, but mission controllers still send and receive data from Voyager 1 and its sister spacecraft Voyager 2 every day.  Although scientists aren’t sure exactly how far Voyager 2 is from reaching interstellar space, they believe it isn’t very far behind Voyager 1.  Both spacecraft are expected to send researchers valuable data until at least 2020.

For a sound file of the oscillations detected by Voyager in interstellar space, animations and other information, visit:  http://www.nasa.gov/voyager

Flooding in the West

The month of September brought record rainfalls to parts of the western U.S., causing major flooding in several areas of New Mexico and Colorado.  One of the hardest hit locations was Boulder County (home to NESTA!), Colorado, where 9 inches of rain fell on September 9 alone, and more than 9 inches of additional rain followed over the next 10 days.  Flooding that resulted from these rains caused several deaths and forced the evacuation of more than 1,500 people.  The floods also caused widespread damage to many farms and oil fields, hundreds of roads and bridges, and more than 10,000 businesses, homes, and schools.

The governors of Colorado and New Mexico and President Obama declared states of emergency for areas affected by the flooding, freeing millions of dollars for recovery efforts in both states.  In both areas, National Guard units assisted with evacuation efforts and delivered supplies to areas that were unreachable by normal modes of transportation.  The Red CrossSalvation ArmyUnited Way, and other organizations are already assisting those affected, and will continue to do so while floodwaters recede and people living in the area work to rebuild their communities.

NASA Curiosity Rover Detects No Methane on Mars

Data from NASA's Curiosity rover has revealed the Martian environment lacks methane.  This is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections.

Curiosity analyzed samples of the Martian atmosphere for methane six times and detected none.  Given the sensitivity of the instrument used, scientists calculate the amount of methane in the Martian atmosphere today must be no more than 1.3 parts per billion, which is about one-sixth the amount of some earlier estimates.  

Whether the Martian atmosphere contains traces of the gas has been a question of high interest for years because methane could be a potential sign of life (although it also can be produced without biology).  "It would have been exciting to find methane, but we have high confidence in our measurements, and the progress in expanding knowledge is what's really important," said the report's lead author, Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Atlantic Basin Hurricane Update

The first hurricane of the season in the Atlantic basin showed up quite late.  In fact, Humberto just missed the record for latest appearance when it intensified into a class 1 hurricane on September 11.  That means we made it over halfway through the normal Atlantic hurricane season without a named hurricane.

This year's late start hasn't meant a completely inactive season though as short lived Hurricane Manuel, formed on the southern gulf of California (Pacific basin), teamed with Hurricane Ingrid, formed in the Caribbean (Atlantic basin), and pounded on both of Mexico’s coasts causing major flooding and mudslides that killed over 100 people.

Officially, hurricane season in the Atlantic starts on June 1.  On average, a season sees 6 named hurricanes and the first named hurricane is seen on August 10.  

History shows there is not a strong correlation of late start seasons with inactive seasons.  For example, Hurricane Erin formed September 9, 2001, as the first named hurricane of the season and that season brought about 15 named storms, including 9 hurricanes, 4 of which became major hurricanes. 

Specialists still predict an above normal hurricane season for the Atlantic, with 3-5 more major hurricanes possible before the season's end on November 30.  Several tropical storms earlier in the season formed in the deep tropical Atlantic, with a tropical depression forming there as well, which historically indicates an active season.  

What storms is the NWS/NOAA National Hurricane Center tracking currently?  Is climate change affecting hurricane strength or frequency?  Explore these questions and more with our Hurricanes and Climate classroom activity.

NASA-Led Study Reveals Industrial Soot's Role in 1800s Glacier Retreat

A NASA-led team of scientists has uncovered strong evidence that soot from a rapidly industrializing Europe caused the abrupt retreat of mountain glaciers in the European Alps, a retreat that began in the 1860s.

In the decades following the 1850s, the use of coal to heat homes and power transportation and industry in Western Europe began in earnest, spewing huge quantities of black carbon into the atmosphere.  When black carbon particles settle on a glacier, they darken the snow surface.  This causes the snow to absorb more solar energy and melt, which exposes the underlying ice to sunlight and warm air and ultimately causes the glacier to retreat.

Researchers studied ice cores drilled from high up on several European mountain glaciers to determine how much black carbon was in the atmosphere and snow when the Alps glaciers began to retreat.  They then used computer models of glacier behavior to show that black carbon must have had a major influence on glacier mass, and probably contributed to the retreat that began in the mid-1800’s.  The NASA team is continuing to study other regions of the world to examine the impact of black carbon on other glaciers.

To explore black carbon in your classroom, try out our Changing Planet:  Black Carbon - a Dusty Situation classroom activity.  To read more about this study and other NASA programs, visit http://www.nasa.gov.

Train Accident Blamed on Millipedes!

An invasive species in Australia is causing problems for train traffic.  A train pulling into the Clarkson station (25 miles north of Perth) rear-ended a train that was already parked because of reduced friction on the track.  The cause -- black Portuguese millipedes!  These non-native arthropods from Portugal became accidental tourists to Australia around 1953 and have since flourished since they have no native predators.  The millipedes are attracted to train tracks because of the natural tendency to find camouflage, and the tracks match their exoskeletons well.  When thousands of them are turned to mush and oil when a train comes by, it creates a slick surface to try and stop on.  While this most recent accident had very limited human toll with 6 people being treated for neck injuries, it’s not the first time the millipedes have caused problems.  In 2009, millipedes took over more than a mile of train track causing delays and cancellations.

Humans affect the environment and ecosystems wherever they go.  Likewise there are many invasive species that disrupt natural environments and affect us as humans.  Invasive species can support soil erosion and increase fire hazard, like the invasive cheatgrass which was partially blamed for fires at the Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge; they can disrupt economy and endanger another species, such as the varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that has largely affected honey bees; or they can directly affect human health, such as the Asian tiger mosquito which carries the West Nile virus.

NASA's Deep Space Comet Hunter Mission Comes to an End

Deep Impact was a probe launched in January 2005 that was designed to study the composition of Tempel 1, a comet that was (at the time) over 268 million miles away.  Six months after it launched, on July 3, 2005, the spacecraft deployed an impactor into the path of Tempel 1 to essentially be run over by its nucleus on July 4.  This caused material from below the comet’s surface to be blasted out into space where it could be examined by the telescopes and instrumentation of the flyby Deep Impact spacecraft.  After completing the mission it was designed to do, the science team and navigators with the support of NASA’s Discovery Program, kept the spacecraft busy for more than eight years, producing amazing scientific results.

Along with examining three additional comets, the spacecraft observed six stars, confirming the motion of planets orbiting them, and took images and recorded data of the Earth, the Moon, and Mars.

After losing contact with the spacecraft last month, mission controllers spent several weeks trying to uplink commands to reactivate its onboard systems, but their attempts were unsuccessful.  Although the exact cause of the loss of contact is not known, Deep impact achieved more than it was ever intended to.

For more information about the Deep Impact mission, visit: (http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact)

The Definition of a Meter

30 years ago, on October 20, 1983, the current definition of the meter was adopted by the General Conference on Weights and Measures, an international organization that meets in France every few years.  It defined the meter as the distance that light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.  That was the fifth legal definition of the meter.

English philosopher John Wilkins proposed the first decimal-based unit of length in 1668.  He suggested using a pendulum with a half-period of one second.  Then, others suggested defining the meter as one ten-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Equator.  In 1791, after the French Revolution, the French Academy of Sciences chose the second definition as the official definition because the period of a pendulum is slightly different in different places on the Earth, due to variations in gravity.

In 1889, the first General Conference on Weights and Measures created a bar composed of an alloy of platinum with 10% iridium (shown in the picture) that was used as a standard meter prototype.  This definition was refined several times, but the meter prototype remained in use until 1960, when the meter was redefined based on a wavelength of krypton-86 radiation.  Finally, to further reduce the uncertainty, the current definition was adopted in 1983.

Shorter Days Bring Autumn Colors

Did you know that trees in temperate forest ecosystems sense the onset of shorter days and longer nights in the fall?  This change of seasons triggers the development of a weak zone of tissue at the base of each leaf in deciduous trees.  Stems will eventually snap in the breeze, releasing leaves to the ground.

The bright side of this story is that some leaves may become brilliantly colored before they fall, thanks to their pigments—green chlorophyll, orange carotenoid, and yellow xanthophyll.  Leaf pigments sustain plants by means of photosynthesis throughout spring and summer by capturing visible light energy in the blue, violet, and red wavelengths of the Sun’s electromagnetic spectrum.  This chemical reaction enables plants to grow, flower, and produce seeds by harnessing light energy to transform carbon dioxide and water into sugar, releasing the byproduct, molecular oxygen.

As transport of water and nutrients to the leaves decreases in autumn, chlorophyll production ceases.  The green color fades, and the more stable carotenoid and xanthophyll pigments become visible, delighting our eyes with shows of gold and orange foliage.  In plant species such as maple and sumac, sugars trapped in autumn leaves are turned into anthocyanin pigments.  They appear to set forests ablaze with breathtaking hues of red and purple.  The best autumn colors can be expected when a moist growing season is followed by dry, cool, and sunny fall days with no nighttime frost.

The Many Names of the Full Moon

You've probably heard a Full Moon in the autumn called a "Harvest Moon" or a "Hunter's Moon".  You may even realize that farmers can work late, after sunset, by the light of the Full Harvest Moon; hence the name.  But did you know the Moon has ten other aliases, one for each month of the year?  And that the names of the Full Moon come from Native Americans, the Algonquian tribes of eastern and northern North America?  Learn more at "Full Moon Names".

The image shown here was taken on September 19, 2013, by NASA and shows the Harvest Moon rising over Washington D.C.

Florence Bascom Paved the Way for Women in the Geosciences!

Imagine searching for rock and mineral samples in remote areas dressed in a long skirt and broad, fancy hat.  Towards the end of the Victorian era when Florence Bascom began her career as a geologist, that was what she wore in the field.  She was hired by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1896, the first woman on the staff, after completing her Ph.D. in geology at Johns Hopkins University, the first woman to do so.

Florence Bascom’s career was full of firsts.  At the time, very few women were allowed to earn advanced degrees in any field.  But today women can be found in every corner of the geosciences – from atmospheric science to volcanology.  To celebrate this, the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) and the American Geological Institute (AGI) have created Women in the Geosciences Day as a part of Earth Science Week.  Celebrate on October 17, spread awareness about women who do geoscience research, and energize girls to consider geoscience as a career.  Who knows, a modern-day Florence Bascom may be sitting in your class!

Learn about Reptiles!

Reptile Awareness Day is October 21st.  Why not use this day or month to increase your students' understanding of these creatures that are an integral part of many ecosystems and with your students, explore the habitat loss and extinction threats that face many reptiles. 

It turns out that snakes are the most feared of any animal on Earth.  Reptiles have had a consistently bad rap for a long time - from the serpent in the Garden of Eden to the basilisk of Lord Voldemort.  Reptiles are seen as sinister, scaly, deceitful and more than a bit threatening.

But did you know that rattlesnakes, some of the most feared snakes of North America, bear live young and some actually stay with their young after birth to teach them life habits?  That sounds more maternal than threatening!  Rattlesnakes (and many other reptiles) are responsible for controlling the population of rodents and insects whose populations would otherwise grow uncontrollably.  Snakes serve as a food source for birds, other reptiles, and mammals, thus supporting the natural ecosystem that is home to many plants and animals.  Rattlesnakes are actually docile snakes that will try to escape rather than fight.  They will, of course, famously shake their rattle as a warning sign to let humans and other creatures know to stay clear.  Like any wild animal, snakes should be treated with respect - and it's always best to leave handling to the experts.

When out hiking in mid-Maryland in June, a friend and I (and my two young children) came across a copperhead in the wild.  He was basking in the dark earth of the path we were hiking.  We walked around the snake and not over it.  My friend dared to take this close-up shot of its head.  The photo makes the copperhead, a native venomous snake to Maryland, look menacing, but the snake couldn't have been more docile!  An hour later, on our return hike, the snake sat in the same spot it had been, soaking up warm summer rays.  We walked around it and marveled at its camouflage and its beauty.

There is a lot to learn about reptiles and probably some misconceptions to clear up!  You can review reptile basics in your classroom with our Changing Planet episode and classroom lesson to learn about how lizard populations are struggling with warming global temperatures (includes PowerPoint presentation that serves as an overview of reptiles).

Enjoy these additional resources and remember, that it's not fair to judge a reptile by its "wrap" - scaly though it may be!

Orionid Meteor Shower

Each year, October brings us an entertaining celestial light show in the form of the Orionid meteor shower.  The Orionids are named, as is customary with meteor showers, after the point in the sky called the shower's "radiant" from which the meteors appear to fan out (in this case, the radiant lies within the constellation Orion).  Several well-known meteor showers occur around the same dates each year, for these showers mark the points in Earth's orbit where our planet passes through the dusty debris from some comet.  The Orionids are one of two showers that mark our planet's passage through the dust trail left behind by Halley's comet!

This year, October 21 is estimated to be the peak of the Orionids.  The shower will be most active between midnight and the wee hours before dawn, averaging around 20 meteors per hour (a maximum of 60 meteors per hour).  Unfortunately, this year there will be a bright waning gibbous moon illuminating the sky, so only the brightest burning Orionids will be painting the sky.  Try the few days around October 21 to catch all of the excitement, but don’t worry if the moon is too bright or you’re stuck in the city, NASA usually provides a live stream (via Ustream); search for it at (http://www.nasa.gov/) as the date approaches.

To find out more, check out these links:

Workshops at the NSTA Regional Conferences This Fall!

Will you be at the NSTA Regional Conferences in Portland, Charlotte or Denver? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.


Portland NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Friday, October 25

Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom


OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World


OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

NESTA Earth Science Share-a-Thon 2:00-3:00pm

OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-4:30pm

OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

Charlotte NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Friday, November 8

Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

NESTA Earth Science Rock Raffle


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

Denver NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Friday, December 13

Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

NESTA Earth Science Share A Thon


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

NESTA Earth Science Rock Raffle


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Be a Scientist for Halloween!

Were your students planning to be princesses, vampires, or characters from Minecraft this Halloween?  They can try something different this year and dress up as famous scientists!  Here are some ideas:

Albert Einstein - That's easy!  You can get an Einstein wig and moustache in any costume store.  Wear a white lab coat and dark pants, and put a few pens and a ruler in your lab coat pocket.

Sir Isaac Newton - You will need long blonde hair or a wig for this one.  A velvet jacket and a long white scarf (borrow from Mom!) will make you look just like the famous portrait of Newton.  Don't forget the apple!

Galileo Galilei - Wear a long, dark, belted jacket and dark stockings with a large, white collar.  Glue on a beard and carry a telescope.

Socrates (Euclid, Archimedes, Aristotle or any other ancient Greek philosopher!) - Drape a white sheet around your body and over your shoulder.  Wear a white t-shirt underneath.  Glue on a beard and hold a sheet of paper with some geometrical drawings rolled to look like a scroll.

You can also try other fun science-related costumes  - an astronaut, a robot, an explorer or an animal.  Have a great Halloween!

Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on November 3rd this year in most of the U.S.  Don't forget to turn your clocks one hour back.  Daylight Saving Time (or Summer Time as it is called in many countries) is a way of getting more light out of the day by advancing clocks by one hour during the summer.

Ancient civilizations had to adjust daily schedules to the sun more flexibly than we do.  Romans divided daylight into 12 equal hours, so the length of each hour was longer during summer.  In 1784, Benjamin Franklin, then an American envoy to France, anonymously published a satirical letter suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight.  The New Zealand entomologist, George Vernon Hudson, first proposed modern DST in 1895.  English builder, William Willett, independently conceived of DST in 1905 when he noticed during an early summer morning ride that many people were still sleeping.  He became an advocate of DST but didn't live to see it adopted.  Many European countries started to switch their clocks in 1916, in an effort to conserve fuel during World War I.  The United States adopted DST in 1918, but it was inconsistent till 1966, when President Johnson signed The Uniform Time Act.

Different nations start and end DST on different dates.  In the Southern hemisphere, beginning and ending dates are reversed.  Some nations shift time year-round, and some do not observe DST at all.  And just to keep you on your toes, sometimes different areas of one country have different time shifts!

AGU Fall Meeting GIFT Workshop for K-12 Educators

Register now for the Geophysical Information For Teachers (GIFT) Workshop run by NESTA and AGU, to be held at the AGU Fall Meeting on December 9-10.   K-12 educators may register free of charge for both the Fall AGU Meeting (so you can view exhibits and attend technical presentations) and the GIFT workshop.

An excellent set of presenters has been chosen for this year's workshop and they will cover topics such as polar science and engineering, sea level rise and ocean acidification, mass extinctions, seafloor sediments, water cycle research and The Next General Science Standards.  View materials from past workshops and register for GIFT 2013.

Surface Ocean Currents - A Resource for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Check out our resource on surface ocean currents for the upper elementary classroom!  The Ducks in the Flow module is intended for grades 3-5 and includes a storybook and three classroom activities.

In the storybook, three kids work collaboratively to explore and investigate surface currents found in the ocean and the Great Lakes while learning about the journey of a seafaring plastic duck.  Three hands-on activities for the classroom further explore the science content and provide instruction in basic science process skills.

Try Out One of Our Many Educational Games!

Educational games can be a great way to introduce a new topic or to reinforce material already covered.  We have many educational games - some that can be played on-line and some for use off-line.  Here are some highlights:

There are several games that explore the atmosphere and climate like the Climate Crossword and Weather Crossword puzzles, and the Atmosphere and Clouds Word Search.  The Carbon Cycle Game allows students to travel all around the carbon cycle and answer quiz questions on their way.  We also have a classroom activity based on this game.

We have some games that focus on the poles of the Earth like Polar Word Search and Polar Jigsaw Puzzles.  Space-themed games include the ever-popular Space Sense, Junk in Space, the more challenging Order It Up and, of course, Planets Sudoku.  It was called "Nine Planets Sudoku" before Pluto was demoted, but you cannot have Sudoku with eight planets, so we renamed it "Eight Planets and a Dwarf" Sudoku!

Do you have a great idea for a new educational game?  Let us know!

Table of Contents

Ozone Hole Status
Voyager Outta Here!
Flooding in the West
No Methane on Mars
Hurricanes 2013!
Soot's Role-Glaciers
Train & Millepedes
Deep Impact Mission
Meter Definitions
Autumn Colors
Full Moon
Women in Geoscience
The Orionids
NSTA Workshops-Fall
Daylight Saving Time
Register for GIFT
Ocean Currents Elem

UNL Program

NOAA Teacher Sea
Children's Health
4-H National Sci Day
World Rainforest Wk
ES Wk Coming Soon!
No Child Left Inside
Frogs Art Contest
NOVA/NESTA Webinars!
Junior Paleo
GreenSchools Webinar
Women in Geosciences
Geologic Map Day
ES Week Contests
Lead Poisoning
Night Rovers
NASA Fellowships
Next CubeSat Mission
Einstein Application
Fulbright Awards
World Water Chall
Robot Prize Compete
Owlie -FB & Twitter
NASA on Instagram
NPS Teacher Tool
Boys & Girls Club













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NOAA's Teacher at Sea Program is Accepting Applications!

The NOAA Teacher at Sea Program is accepting applications from October 1-31, 2013.  Don't miss this unique opportunity to experience life at sea on one of NOAA's 17 ships.  

The mission of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program is to provide teachers a hands-on, research experience at sea, giving them unique insight into oceanographic, hydrographic, and fisheries research by facilitating partnerships between educators and world-renowned NOAA Scientists.  Teachers have enriched their classroom curricula with a depth of understanding made possible by living and working side-by-side, day and night, with those who contribute to the world's body of scientific knowledge.  No matter which type of cruise teachers embark on, they are bound to learn an array of new things.

All necessary travel costs associated with teacher participation in the program are covered by the program, including transportation to and from the ship, lodging, and per diem allowance.

To learn about eligibility, find our more information, or for FAQ's, visit http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov.  To apply, please visit http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/about/how_to_apply.html.

A Time to Focus on Children's Health

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics established October as Child Health Month in order to focus national attention on children's health issues, and this year the Environmental Protection Agency is using this month to highlight ways in which they can work together with parents, teachers, and health providers to promote healthy environments where children live, learn, and play.  The EPA has planned a variety of events to support this goal, and you can learn more about their efforts to promote children’s health at The Office of Children's Health Protection website.

October 7 is also Child Health Day, a day that is celebrated annually on the first Monday of October.  This day is established by Presidential Proclamation to raise people’s awareness of how they can protect and develop children’s health.  Health professionals and organizations across the United States take part in this day through various activities and events.  For example, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is providing educational resources for parents, children, and schools about issues such as fitness, pregnancy, and childhood obesity prevention.  You can read more about Child Health Day here.

4-H National Youth Science Day

On October 9, 2013, millions of young people will become scientists for the day during the sixth annual 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD).  This event, which takes place in urban, suburban and rural communities all across the nation, seeks to spark an early youth interest and leadership in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers in an effort keep America competitive in those fields.

This year, the National Science Experiment will be 4-H Maps & Apps! Designed by Colorado State University Extension.  The year’s set of activities will turn young people into geospatial thinkers as they design and map their ideal park, use GIS mapping to solve community problems and contribute data about their community to the United States Geological Survey.

Currently, more than five million young people across the nation participate in 4-H STEM programming in topics as varied as robotics, agricultural science, rocketry, entomology, wind power, environmental science and alternative energy.

World Rainforest Week is October 12-18

How will you celebrate World Rainforest Week this year?  Be a rainforest educator!  Use these educational materials in your classroom to increase rainforest awareness among your students.

As rainforests around the world continue to be endangered by unsustainable logging practices, climate change and the expansion of agribusiness, now is a critically important time to stand up for rainforests!  Please plan to join our celebration of the forests by taking action to support these global treasures and ensure that future generations will benefit from the clean air, biodiversity and climate control that rainforests provide.

Earth Science Week 2013 - Get Ready! It's Coming Soon!

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is pleased to announce that the theme of Earth Science Week 2013 will be "Mapping Our World."

This year's event will promote awareness of the many exciting uses of maps and mapping technologies in the geosciences.  Earth Science Week 2013 materials and activities will engage young people and others in learning how geoscientists, geographers, and other mapping professionals use maps to represent land formations, natural resource deposits, bodies of water, fault lines, volcanic activity, weather patterns, travel routes, parks, businesses, population distribution, our shared geologic heritage, and more.  Maps help show how the Earth systems (geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere) interact.

Earth Science Week 2013 will be celebrated October 13-19.  For more about this week and ways to get involved, including newsletters, local events, and classroom activities, please see the Earth Science Week web site.  To order Earth Science Week Toolkits, please visit http://www.earthsciweek.org/materials/index.html.  You may also call AGI Publications to place your order for toolkits at 703-379-2480.

No Child Left Inside - October 15th

On the Tuesday of Earth Science Week, you can make sure there’s “No Child Left Inside” (NCLI).  Dedicate a day to outdoor activities enabling young people to experience Earth science firsthand.

To help, the NCLI Day Guide is now available in PDF format for easy printing and outdoor use.  This free guide provides everything you need to start planning your own NCLI Day event, including 17 outdoor learning activities recommended for elementary, middle, and high school students.  Imagine your students as they wade into ponds, climb hills, or search the skies to learn Earth science.  Find the NCLI Day Guide, including the new PDF version, at http://www.earthsciweek.org/ncli/index.html.  Have a great NCLI Day!


The 2013 SAVE THE FROGS! Art Contest will run through October 15th, 2013.  People of all ages, nationalities, and skill levels are encouraged to enter the contest.  Prizes will be awarded!

Why save frogs?  Learn more by exploring cool frog facts and find out why amphibians are the most endangered group of animals on the planet.

NOVA and NESTA Webinars for Middle-High School Educators!

You won't want to miss either of these exciting webinars!  Register to join one or both sessions at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/B6MC6S9.  Please contact Rachel Gesserman at rachel_gesserman@wgbh.org with any questions.

Mapping Our World:  Celebrating National Earth Science Week (Wed, Oct 16, 6pm EDT)

Dr. Chad Heinzel, associate professor of Geology at the University of Northern Iowa - Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the classroom. 

Rachel Gesserman, NOVA's Education Coordinator - using video from new NOVA programs to teach important concepts in Earth system science. 

Katherine Soriano, Earth Science Teacher Programs Developer at the Liberty Science Center - NASA Earth Observations (NEO) data in the classroom.

The Sun: Energy for Our Earth System (Wed, Oct 23, 6pm EDT)

Dr. C. Alex Young, Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard - solar research and related NASA educational content.

Rachel Gesserman, NOVA Education Coordinator - solar data from NOVA’s Sun Lab in the classroom.

Dr. Roberta Johnson, NESTA's Executive Director - Windows to the Universe website and Earth and Space science classroom resources for all grade levels. 

Encourage Your Students to Be Junior Paleontologists

The National Park Service’s Junior Paleontologist program seeks to engage young people in activities that allow them to discover the significance of fossils and the science of paleontology, and introduces them to the national park system and to the mission of the National Park Service.

Besides learning about Earth’s history, ancient life, and past changes to climate and environments, Junior Paleontologists explore the ways paleontologists work to protect fossils found in more than 230 national park areas that preserve these scientific resources.  This is a great way to prepare for the third annual National Fossil Day, taking place on Wednesday, October 16, during Earth Science Week 2013 (October 13-19).
The Junior Paleontologist Program is a part of the National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program, which aims to connect young people to their national parks.  Download the Junior Paleontologist Activity Booklet for children ages 5 to 12 at http://nature.nps.gov/geology/nationalfossilday/jrpaleo.cfm.

GreenSchools! Webinar on October 16

Project Learning Tree is proud to be a part of the U.S. Department of Education 2013 Green Strides Webinar Series in conjunction with national partner, the U.S. Forest Service.  The Green Strides Webinar Series provides school communities the tools to reduce their schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental education.  There is one remaining Webinar left this semester - Schoolyard Trees on October 16 from 4-5pm EDT.

Students and/or teachers can register now to ensure participation in this informative and inspirational GreenSchools! professional development session.

Prepare for Fifth Annual Women in the Geosciences Day

Please join the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) in celebrating the fifth annual Women in the Geosciences Day - Thursday, October 17 - during Earth Science Week 2013!  Women in the Geosciences Day offers you a chance to share the excitement and advantages of geoscience careers with women of all ages, especially those early in their education.

What can you do?  If you’re an educator, invite a female geoscientist to speak in your classroom or institution.  If you’re a female geoscientist, visit a local school or volunteer at a science center.  Organize a scout event, lead a 4-H field trip, or hold a special “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” focusing on the geoscience workplace.  No matter who you are, you can help show young women what it means to be a geoscientist.

Watch for additional information online in the coming weeks at Earth Science Week (http://www.earthsciweek.org) and AWG (http://www.awg.org), where you can also find information on AWG’s scholarships for women pursuing geosciences education and careers as well as support for female geoscientist lecturers in classrooms.  Have a great Women in the Geosciences Day!

Geologic Map Day: Celebrate on October 18

On Friday, October 18, 2013, you are invited to join in the celebration of the second annual Geologic Map Day!  Geologic Map Day will promote awareness of the study, uses, and importance of geologic mapping for education, science, business, and a variety of public policy concerns.

The event will enable students, teachers, and the wider public to tap into educational activities, print materials, access online resources, and explore other opportunities for participation.  Check out the Geologic Map Day poster included in the Earth Science Week 2013 Toolkit (http://www.agiweb.org/pubs/pubdetail.html?item=609610).  The poster provides a geologic map, plus step-by-step instructions for a related classroom activity, encouraging students to explore what geologic maps can tell them about natural hazards.  Additional resources for learning about geologic maps can be found on the new Geologic Map Day web page (http://www.earthsciweek.org/geologicmap/).

Only 18 Days Left to Enter Earth Science Week Contests!

AGI is sponsoring three national contests for Earth Science Week 2013.  The photography, visual arts, and essay contests - all focused on the event theme of “Mapping Our World” - allow both students and the general public to participate in the celebration, learn about Earth science, and compete for prizes.

The photography contest, open to all ages, focuses on “Mapping My Community.”  Open to students in grades K-5, the visual arts contest is titled “Making Maps Through the Ages.”  Finally, students in grades 6-9 are eligible to enter the essay contest:  “How Geoscientists Use Maps.”  Essays of up to 300 words should describe how geoscientists use maps to monitor interactions of Earth systems.

The deadline for entries is October 18, 2013.  The first-place prize for each contest is $300 and a copy of AGI’s “Faces of Earth” 2-DVD package.  To learn more about these contests, including how to enter, visit http://www.earthsciweek.org/contests.

International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct 20-26)

Lead poisoning is one of the oldest known environmental hazards, but only in the late 1900's did we begin to understand that even small amounts of exposure still impact our body’s functions.  To date, there is no known safe amount we can be exposed to that won't cause the body harm.  It is estimated that 0.6% of disease, globally, is due to lead exposure.  It is particularly a concern in developing children and is estimated to contribute to 600,000 new cases of intellectual disabilities every year.

Although awareness has risen, the vast majority of exposure is still due to lead-based paint.  Most homes built in the U.S. before 1978 have lead-based paint.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) suggests 24 million homes in the U.S. alone have peeling and chipping lead-based paint.  Here are some steps from the HUD for decreasing risk in your own home and ways you can get involved in Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

Bring Your Class on a ClimateChangeLIVE Distance Education Adventure!

Bring climate learning to your classrooms through a series of webcasts, webinars, and online climate education resources in the 2013-2014 school year.  This free series will provide educators with climate tools including a large collection of science-based, climate education resources and programs gathered from 17 federal agencies and non-profit organizations.  Upcoming webinars will introduce you to the ClimateChangeLIVE Adventure.  All webinars are from 7:30-9pm and are FREE!  The next two webinars take place on October 23rd and November 20th.  Register for the educator webinars at http://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA/About-Eco-Schools-USA/ClimateChange-Live-Webinar-Registration.aspx.

ClimateChangeLIVE is brought to you through a collaboration of federal agencies and NGOs, including Prince William Network, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Will Steger Foundation, Smithsonian, National Wildlife Federation, CLEAN: Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network, Project BudBurst, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, Project Learning Tree, Alliance for Climate Education, U.S. Ice Drilling Program, Project WET, Green Schools Alliance, Prince William County Public Schools, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, Partners in Resource Education, Virginia Department of Education, and TurffMutt.

NASA Night Rover Energy Challenge

Registration is open for teams seeking to compete in the $1.5 million energy storage competition known as the Night Rover Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the Cleantech Open of Palo Alto, CA.  To win, a team must demonstrate a stored energy system that can power a simulated solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate through multiple cycles of daylight and extended periods of darkness.

"The goal of the Night Rover Challenge is to stimulate innovations in energy storage technologies of value in extreme space environments, such as the surface of the moon, or for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems here on Earth," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington.  "NASA wants this challenge to generate new ideas that will allow planetary rovers the ability to take on a night shift, and possibly create new energy storage technologies for applications of benefit here on our home planet."

For information about the Night Rover Challenge or to register a team, visit:  http://www.nightrover.org.  Registration closes October 25, 2013.  Trials will begin in January 2014.

NASA Seeks America's Best and Brightest for Space Technology Research Fellowships

NASA is seeking applications from U.S. graduate students for the agency's Space Technology Research Fellowships.  The research grants, worth as much as $68,000 per year, will coincide with the start of the 2014 fall term.

Applications will be accepted from students pursuing or planning to pursue master's or doctorate degrees in relevant space technology disciplines at accredited U.S. universities.  The grants will sponsor U.S. graduate student researchers who show significant potential to contribute to NASA's strategic space technology objectives through their studies.  To date, NASA has awarded grants to 193 student researchers from 68 universities located in 33 states and one U.S. territory.

Sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, the fellowships are improving America’s technological competitiveness by providing the nation with a pipeline of innovative space technologies.

The deadline for submitting applications is November 13.  For more information and instructions on how to submit applications, visit:  http://tinyurl.com/NSTRF14

NASA Announces Next Opportunity for CubeSat Space Missions

NASA is now accepting proposals for the CubeSat Launch Initiative.  Proposals must be submitted electronically by November 26.  From the submissions, NASA will select the best proposals by February 7.  Developers whose proposals are selected may have the opportunity to see their creations launched as an auxiliary payload on a mission between 2014 and 2017.  NASA will not provide funding for the development of the small satellites and selection does not guarantee a launch opportunity.

CubeSats are a class of cube-shaped research spacecraft called nanosatellites.  They are approximately 4 inches long, have a volume of about 1 quart and weigh less than 3 pounds.

From the first four rounds of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative, 89 payloads from 25 U.S. states made the short list for launch opportunities in 2011 through 2016.  Of the selected CubeSats, 12 satellites have already launched.  Twenty-one Cubesats are scheduled for launch later this year.

Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program Accepting Applications

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program is now accepting applications for the 2014-15 fellowship year.  The Einstein Fellowship seeks experienced and distinguished K-12 educators in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to serve an 11-month fellowship appointment in a Federal agency or U.S. Congressional office.  Applications are due December 4, 2013, and must be submitted through the online application system.

Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program

Are you a U.S. primary and/or secondary classroom teacher, guidance counselor, curriculum specialist, talented and gifted coordinator, special education coordinator, or media specialist/librarian?  You may be eligible to participate in a unique international professional development opportunity for 3-4 months through the Fulbright Program!

By conducting educational research abroad, U.S. teachers gain new skills, learn new instructional methods and assessment methodologies, and share best practices with international colleagues and students.  Teachers also have the opportunity to expand their understanding of other cultures and international education systems that will enrich their U.S. schools and local communities with global perspectives.  Teachers may travel to:  Chile, Finland, India, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

Start your application today at https://dafulbrightteachers.org/.  The deadline is December 15, 2013.

This program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the Institute of International Education.

World Water Monitoring Challenge: Test. Share. Protect.

The World Water Monitoring Challenge is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by encouraging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies.  In 2012, approximately 250,000 visits were made by participants to monitoring sites in 66 countries.

We challenge you to test the quality of your waterways any time through December, share your findings (results may be entered anytime prior to December 31 for inclusion in that year's annual World Water Monitoring Challenge Year in Review report), and protect our most precious resource!

The Challenge is On: NASA-WPI 2014 Robot Prize Competition

In pursuit of new technological solutions for America's space program and our nation's future, NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have opened registration for the $1.5 million 2014 Sample Return Robot prize competition.

Planned for June 2014 at WPI, industry and academic teams from across the nation will compete to demonstrate a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from wide and varied terrains without human controls.  Teams that meet all competition requirements will be eligible to compete for the NASA-funded $1.5 million prize.

"The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies that NASA could incorporate into future missions," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology in Washington.  "Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore an asteroid or Mars, and advance robotic technology for use in industries and applications here on Earth."

Register a team for the 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge.  Regular registration is open until January 7, 2014.

Owlie on Facebook and Twitter

Over the past year, National Weather Service’s Owlie Skywarn has been getting increased attention through public appearances at events across the U.S. and also through the Young Meteorologist Program safety game at www.youngmeteorologist.org.

As part of National Preparedness Month in September, the NWS Outreach team launched Owlie Skywarn Facebook and Twitter pages.   The main purpose of these pages will be weather safety messaging, but there will also be educational posts featuring weather facts and fun activities.  If you have a particular safety post that you would like put forward to possibly be shared, you can contact the team at Owlie.skywarn@noaa.gov.

Please consider sharing/retweeting these posts from your accounts.  NWS would really appreciate your help spreading the word about Owlie’s social media presence.  You can also tag Owlie in a post using @OwlieSkywarnNWS

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Owlie.Skywarn.NWS

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/OwlieSkywarnNWS  

NASA to Share the Universe with Instagram Users through Its Images

NASA is launching an official Instagram profile that will take its fans on an out-of-this-world journey through images of Earth and beyond.  Aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight and more, the NASA account will provide a comprehensive view of the agency by sharing new and historic images and videos.

"We're constantly looking to expand our social media portfolio to include tools that will best tell NASA's story of exploration and discovery," said NASA Press Secretary Lauren Worley.  "Instagram has a passionate following of users who are hungry for new and exciting photos.  We believe we have some of the most engaging images on and off the planet -- and we can’t wait to engage with Instagrammers."

Instagram complements NASA's strong social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Reddit and other sites.  All are aimed at engaging and inspiring the public with NASA's unique content.

National Park Service Develops a New Tool for Teachers

The National Park Service has launched a new online service for teachers that brings America's national parks into neighborhood classrooms.  The new "Teachers" section of the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/teachers provides a one-stop shop for curriculum-based lesson plans, traveling trunks, maps, activities, distance learning, and other resources.  All of the materials draw from the spectacular natural landscapes and authentic places preserved in America's national parks.

NASA Collaborates with Boys and Girls Clubs of America to Inspire the Next Generation of Explorers

NASA signed a Space Act Agreement with the Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) to infuse the agency's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content into BGCA activities and inspire students nationwide. 

BGCA reaches a youth audience of almost 4 million nationwide, many coming from underserved sectors of the community.  By making relevant STEM education content available to them, NASA is helping to cultivate a future technical workforce that is representative of the nation's diverse population.

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The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at http://windows2universe.org/ from the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA). The Website was developed in part with the support of UCAR and NCAR, where it resided from 2000 - 2010. © 2010 National Earth Science Teachers Association. Windows to the Universe® is a registered trademark of NESTA. All Rights Reserved. Site policies and disclaimer.