April 2014

Teacher Submissions
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Ready for NSTA!
by Roberta

We've been working hard to get ready for all of our events at the NSTA national conference in Boston this coming April 3-5, and I'm happy to say that we're just about ready!  Supplies packed and shipped, presentations ready, reception organized -- we're looking forward to seeing those of you that can make it to our events!  The full schedule of events is available here.  Please note that our reception will be held at the Boston Museum of Science on Friday evening from 6:30-7pm.  The winner of the AGI Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching will be awarded at the reception.  We will also have a few announcements, as well as refreshments, and then you will have a chance to enjoy the museum for the evening.  Admittance is free for NSTA attendees!  Note that bus transportation will be provided from the convention center to the Museum starting at 5:45 pm, so please plan to be on the first bus so you arrive in time for our brief, but important, event!

And thanks to everyone that has made it possible to organize our events in Boston.  With a full schedule of 15 events, starting with our Board meeting on Thursday, and continuing through our Annual Membership meeting on Saturday, it is a MAJOR undertaking to organize this substantial a program for teachers.  In fact, our events provide a service not only to teachers, but also to geoscience education professionals and scientists, who are looking for an efficient and effective way to reach out to large numbers of teachers.  Key individuals who make it possible to organize this event include Missy Holzer, NESTA President; Marlene DiMarco, NESTA Administrator; Michael Passow, NESTA President-Elect; and Howard Dimmick, NESTA Treasurer.  Thanks also to our presenters and assistants (in addition to the above), including Wendy Van Norden, Wendy DeMers, Ardis Herrold, Lisa Alter, Jenelle Hopkins, and Parker Pennington IV.  And thanks in advance to the many additional volunteers that will help us pull off this amazing event. 

Finally, thanks so much to our financial sponsors.  Without the support of our sponsors, NESTA would not be able to offer the program we do.  Sponsors for our event include the American Geophysical Union, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, It's About Time, Carolina Biological, the American Geological Institute, and the Integrated Research Institutions for Seismology. 

See you in Boston!

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NESTA/Windows to the Universe Web Seminars

We are happy to announce a series of nine free web seminars offered by NESTA and Windows to the Universe on topics in space science, planetary science, and astronomy.  The series will feature Ardis Herrold (NESTA Past-President, 35-yr science teacher, planetarium director and JPL Solar System Ambassador Master Teacher) and Roberta Johnson (PhD, Geophysics and Space Physics; NESTA Executive Director; Clinical Professor, University at Albany; Director, Windows to the Universe) beginning April 9 at 7 pm Eastern and continuing approximately every three weeks through the end of September 2014.  Our April 9th web seminar will focus on the Sun and Space Weather.  Find out more on the Windows to the Universe Web Seminar page.  

The First Ever Ringed Asteroid!

Astronomers were surprised by the recent discovery of the first ever asteroid with rings.  The 160 mile wide asteroid, known as Chariklo (a nymph in Greek mythology), is the largest of a class of objects known as Centaurs.  Chariklo orbits between Saturn and Uranus, and with this finding, becomes only the fifth ringed object known in the solar system.

The discovery of Chariklo's two dense, narrows rings was possible when scientists recorded a main dip in starlight when the asteroid passed in front of the star UCAC4 248-108672, as well as two additional dips just before and after the main passing.

But there is more -- astronomers suggest that the rings, likely the result of a cosmic collision, are kept in place by “shepherd moons”, yet to be observed!

Washington State Mudslide

On March 22, a large mudslide occurred near the town of Oso, Washington, in the northwestern U.S.  A portion of a hillside that was already known to be unstable collapsed, and the debris and mud slid into the valley below.  The mud covered roughly a square mile, buried 49 homes at depths of up to 40 feet, and also dammed the Stillaguamish River, causing major flooding in the surrounding area.

As of March 31st, at least 25 people have been confirmed as killed by the mudslide, and 30 are still missing.  Rescue efforts are ongoing, and local and state authorities have said that they will continue until all possibilities of finding survivors have been exhausted.  The Red Cross is working to support emergency responders and the local community, and anyone interested can help by making a donation on their website.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the mudslide, and to those working in rescue and recovery efforts. 

WISE Finds Thousands of New Stars, But No "Planet X"

After searching hundreds of millions of objects across our sky, NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up no evidence of the hypothesized celestial body in our solar system commonly dubbed "Planet X."

Researchers had theorized about the existence of a large planet or a small star somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto.  Its other nicknames included "Nemesis" and "Tyche."  Some theories suggested that this hypothesized body was responsible for mass extinctions on Earth by sending outer comets flying toward our planet.

The recent study, which examined WISE data covering the entire sky in infrared light, found that no object the size of Saturn or larger exists out to a distance of 10,000 astronomical units (AU), and no object larger than Jupiter exists out to 26,000 AU. 

But searches of the WISE catalog are not coming up empty.  A second study reveals 3,525 new stars and cool bodies called brown dwarfs within 500 light-years of our sun.  The discoveries include a pair of brown dwarfs only 6.5 light-years away - making it the closest star system to be discovered in nearly a century.

The WISE mission data allows astronomers to find moving objects in the sky by comparing two full scans of the sky, taken six month apart.  The more an object appears to move over time, the closer it is.  The same effect is at work when one observes a plane flying low to the ground versus the same plane flying at higher altitude.  Though traveling at the same speed, the plane at higher altitude will appear to be moving more slowly.

More information on WISE can be found online at:  http://www.nasa.gov/wise

Hubble Images in Honor of 24th Anniversary

In celebration of the 24th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (April 24, 1990), astronomers have captured infrared-light images of a churning region of star birth 6,400 light-years away.  The collection of images reveals a shadowy, dense knot of gas and dust sharply contrasted against a backdrop of brilliant glowing gas in the Monkey Head Nebula (also known as NGC 2174 and Sharpless Sh2-252).

The image demonstrates Hubble's powerful infrared vision and offers a tantalizing hint of what scientists can expect from the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.  Observations of NGC 2174 were taken in February 2014.

The Hubble was launched in 1990 from Space Shuttle Discovery.  The project is a joint one between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).  It was named in honor of American astronomer Edwin Hubble, who developed the idea of an expanding universe, which forms the basis of modern cosmology.  Hubble has transmitted awesome images of the solar system, distant stars, and galaxies.  Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, like a more accurate estimate of the Hubble constant, the measure of the rate at which the universe is expanding.

To learn more about Hubble, visit NASA's Hubble Space Telescope site.

NASA Radar Demonstrates Ability to Foresee Sinkholes

New analyses of NASA airborne radar data collected in 2012 reveal that the radar detected indications of a huge sinkhole before it collapsed and forced evacuations near Bayou Corne, LA, that year.  Scientists say monitoring of the area as recently as October 2013 has shown a widening area of deformation.  Continued growth of the sinkhole threatens the community and Highway 70, so there is a pressing need for reliable estimates of how fast it may expand and how big it may eventually get.

Findings suggest such radar data, if collected routinely from airborne systems or satellites, could at least in some cases foresee sinkholes before they happen, decreasing danger to people and property.

Typically, sinkholes have no natural external surface drainage and they form through natural processes and human activities.  Sinkholes vary in size from a few feet to hundreds of acres across and some can be very deep.  They are common hazards worldwide and are found in all regions of the United States, with Florida, Missouri, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania reporting the most sinkhole damage.  While sinkhole deaths are rare, in February 2013, a man in Tampa, FL, was killed when his house was swallowed by a sinkhole.

First Interactive Mosaic of Lunar North Pole

Scientists, using cameras aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), have created the largest high-resolution mosaic of our moon’s north polar region.  The six and a half feet per pixel images cover an area equal to more than one-quarter of the United States.

Web viewers can zoom in and out, and pan around an area.  Constructed from 10,581 pictures, the mosaic provides enough detail to see textures and subtle shading of the lunar terrain.  Consistent lighting throughout the images makes it easy to compare different regions.

"This unique image is a tremendous resource for scientists and the public alike," said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.  "It's the latest example of the exciting insights and data products LRO has been providing for nearly five years."

LRO entered lunar orbit in June 2009 equipped with seven instrument suites to map the surface, probe the radiation environment, investigate water and key mineral resources, and gather geological clues about the moon's evolution.

To access the complete collection of LRO images, visit:  http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/

New Satellite to Measure Global Rain and Snow

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), thundered into space at 1:37 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 27 (3:37 a.m. JST Friday, Feb. 28) from Japan.

The GPM Core Observatory will take a major step in improving upon the capabilities of the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM), a joint NASA-JAXA mission launched in 1997 and still in operation.  While TRMM measured precipitation in the tropics, the GPM Core Observatory expands the coverage area from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle.  GPM will also be able to detect light rain and snowfall, a major source of available fresh water in some regions.

To better understand Earth's weather and climate cycles, the GPM Core Observatory will collect information that unifies and improves data from an international constellation of existing and future satellites by mapping global precipitation every three hours.

See more information about NASA's Earth science activities this year and view the first images available from the GPM Core Observatory (images show precipitation falling inside a March 10 cyclone over the northwest Pacific Ocean).

Hubble Telescope Witnesses Asteroid's Mysterious Disintegration

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has recorded the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid into as many as 10 smaller pieces.  Fragile comets, comprised of ice and dust, have been seen falling apart as they near the sun, but nothing like this has ever before been observed in the asteroid belt.

The crumbling asteroid, designated P/2013 R3, was first noticed as an unusual, fuzzy-looking object by the Catalina and Pan STARRS sky surveys on Sept. 15, 2013.  A follow-up observation on October 1 with the W. M. Keck Observatory revealed three bodies moving together in an envelope of dust nearly the diameter of Earth.  Hubble data then showed the fragments drifting away from each other at a leisurely one mph.  The asteroid began coming apart early last year, but new pieces continue to reveal themselves, as proved in the most recent images.

With the previous discovery of an active asteroid spouting six tails, named P/2013 P5, astronomers are finding more evidence that the pressure of sunlight may be the primary force causing the disintegration of small asteroids -- less than a mile across -- in our solar system.

Long-Term Warming Likely to Be Significant Despite Recent Slowdown

A new NASA study shows Earth's climate will likely continue to warm during this century on track with previous estimates, despite the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming.  Global temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.22 Fahrenheit (0.12 Celsius) per decade since 1951.  But since 1998, the rate of warming has been only 0.09 F (0.05 C) per decade -- even as atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rise at a rate similar to previous decades.

Although some earlier studies had suggested that global temperatures might warm more slowly in the future, the NASA study suggests that the Earth’s climate might be more sensitive to greenhouse emissions than scientists had previously thought, and that recent climate change projections by groups such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may underestimate the consequences of greenhouse gases.

For more information about this study and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, where it was conducted, visit:  http://www.giss.nasa.gov

Mars-Bound Siding Spring Comet

This month, NASA released an image of a comet that, on October 19, will pass within 84,000 miles of Mars - less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.

The image on the left, captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows comet C/2013 A1, also called Siding Spring.  Hubble can't see Siding Spring's icy nucleus because of its diminutive size.  The nucleus is surrounded by a glowing dust cloud, or coma, that measures roughly 12,000 miles across.

Scientists are tracking Siding Spring comet to see, "whether, and to what degree, dust grains in the coma of the comet will impact Mars and spacecraft in the vicinity of Mars," said Jian-Yang Li of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

Discovered in January 2013 by Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory, the comet is falling toward the sun along a roughly 1 million year orbit and is now within the radius of Jupiter's orbit.  The comet will make its closest approach to our sun on October 25, at a distance of 130 million miles – well outside of Earth's orbit.  The comet is not expected to become bright enough to be seen by the naked eye.

Scientific Research Continues on International Space Station

Three crewmembers representing the United States and Russia have arrived at the International Space Station, returning the station's crew complement to six.  Steve Swanson of NASA and Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, join Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (the first Japanese astronaut to command the space station), Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos.

The crewmembers will conduct hundreds of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations during their six-month sojourn on the orbiting laboratory.  These include looking at how the microgravity environment affects the body's ability to fight infection, trying to grow healthy, tasty produce in space and testing a new laser communications package.

The ISS has had continuous human occupation since November 2000.  In that time, it has received more than 200 visitors and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft.  The space station remains one of man's greatest leaps in exploration.

Thunderstorms and Tornadoes Becoming More Prevalent as Weather Warms

This is a good time of year to explore the atmospheric conditions that create persistent squall lines that form over the U.S. central plains when cool, dry Canadian air masses collide with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.  Near the ocean, the Great Lakes, and mountains, uneven heating of land surfaces can produce spectacular afternoon thunderstorms announced by crackling thunder, life-threatening lightning, hail, tornadoes, and flash flooding.  Sharing information about thunderstorm and tornado safety with your students is very important.

The weather section of Windows to the Universe provides information about thunderstorms and tornadoes, explains how tornadoes form, and tells how meteorologists forecast when and where tornadoes will occur.  In addition, our Tornado in a Bottle activity provides a great way to illustrate tornadoes for your students.

A Recipe for Clouds

Many teachers present their weather unit in the spring.  You can't teach about weather until you have talked about clouds!

Do you talk to your class about the 'ingredients' needed to make clouds?  Cloud physics is extremely complicated and scientists are researching that area every day.  Fundamentally though, you do need three main ingredients to create a cloud - water, CCN, and a drop in pressure.

Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN) are vitally important in this 'recipe'!  When water in the vapor form experiences a drop in pressure, it wants to condense, but it needs a surface on which to condense.  That's where the CCN come in.  A CCN can be a speck of dirt, dust, pollen, or even a piece of human skin or hair.  Do you know what the most common CCN is?  It's tiny bits of sea salt released in sea spray.  It makes sense when you think about how much of the Earth is covered with ocean water.

We have an activity on the site called the Three Clouds Activity.  It will reinforce these concepts nicely.  The Cloud in a Bottle part comes with a great Student Activity Sheet that you are welcome to use in your classroom.

Black Carbon - Background and a Classroom Activity

Little particles in the atmosphere called aerosols may be small, but they have the ability to change climate.  These tiny particles are a natural part of the atmosphere, coming from erupting volcanoes, sea salt, and wildfires.  However, since the start of the Industrial Revolution, additional aerosols have been added to the atmosphere as fossil fuels are burned.  Black carbon is the term that has been given to the product of the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass. It is commonly known as soot.

Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for several days to weeks and then settles out onto the ground.  Sources of black carbon are open biomass burning (forests and savannah burning that can start from natural causes like lightning or human-induced causes like slash and burn methods for clearing land), biofuel burning, diesel engines, industrial processes, and residential coal burning.  Black carbon is produced around the world and the type of soot emissions vary by region.

Black carbon contributes to global warming in two ways.  First, when soot enters the atmosphere, it absorbs sunlight and generates heat, warming the air.  Secondly, when soot is deposited on snow and ice, it changes the albedo of that surface, absorbing sunlight and generating heat.  This warming causes snow and ice to melt, and darker-colored Earth surface and ocean are exposed and less solar energy is reflected out to space causing even more warming.  This is known as ice-albedo feedback.

The amount (and type) of aerosols in the atmosphere has an impact on the albedo of our planet.  Earth’s planetary albedo is about 0.31.  That means that about a third of the solar radiation that gets to Earth is reflected out to space and about two thirds is absorbed.  Aerosols like black carbon have a low albedo and reflect very little solar energy.  This air pollution is having an impact on Earth’s climate.

Scientists Ramanathan and Carmichael estimate that black carbon emissions are the second largest contributor to global warming, after carbon dioxide emissions.  Reducing black carbon emissions is one of the fastest strategies for slowing global warming.  Luckily, many policies have been put in place to reduce the production of black carbon around the world, and the technology necessary to lessen black carbon emissions already exists.  To improve further, we need to better regulate the industrial processes that produce black carbon, and individuals need affordable and available technology to be able to make shifts away from practices like biofuel cooking and residential coal combustion that are still used in much of the world today.  The importance of black carbon's role in global warming has come to the forefront of the minds of many concerned citizens and exciting steps are already being taken to address issues like making cleaner burning cook stoves available in developing nations.  These reductions of black carbon around the world will not only aid in reducing global warming, but will improve human health and environmental aesthetics.

Try out the Changing Planet Activity called Black Carbon - A Dusty Situation to teach about black carbon in your classroom.

Space Missions in April

April is a good month to talk about space exploration.  On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space.  He orbited the Earth once aboard the Vostok spacecraft.  The flight lasted 1 hour and 48 minutes.

20 years later, on April 12, 1981, the first space shuttle Columbia was launched, with two crewmembers aboard - astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen.  Columbia orbited the earth 36 times and returned to Earth on April 14.

On April 24, 1990, space shuttle Discovery launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.  Since its launch, it has been responsible for many groundbreaking astronomical observations and has captured awesome images of the solar system, distant stars, and galaxies.  In March 2013, NASA extended Hubble's science operations contract, so hopefully the telescope will be operating well into 2016!

Check out more manned and unmanned space missions on Windows to the Universe.

Join Us at the NSTA National Conference in Boston

Will you be at the NSTA National Conference in Boston this spring (April 3-6, 2014)?  If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.  We'd love to see you there!

Date Title Time Location
Friday, April 4 NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Geology Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30am Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Climate, Oceans and Atmosphere Share-a-Thon 11:00-12:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Earth System Science Share-a-Thon 12:30-1:30pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: It's Elementary! Effective Approaches for Addressing the Earth Science Next Generation Science Standards in the Elementary Classroom 2:00-3:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
AGU Lecture / Geosciences – The Nexus of Data Driven Science and Applications by Professor Suchi Gopal  2:00-3:00pm Boston University (CC 210A/B)
NESTA Session: Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom 3:30-4:30pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Friends of Earth Science Reception 6:30-7:00pm Boston Museum of Science
Saturday, April 5 NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Space Science Share-a-Thon 8:00-9:00am Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom 9:30-10:30am Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World 11:00-12:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lunchtime Lecture - The CLEAN Collection – Reviewed Climate And Energy Teaching Resources To Enhance Teaching by Dr. Tamara Ledley, TERC  12:30-1:30pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom 2:00-3:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-4:30pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Annual Member Meeting 5:00-6:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B

April Meteor Showers

I'm not sure what kind of flowers they might bring in May, but April does usher in one of the major meteor showers of the year - the Lyrids.  If you spot any meteors on the night of April 22nd (into the morning of the 23rd), you will be carrying on a long tradition...for Chinese astronomers first observed Lyrid meteors more than 26 centuries ago!  This year's viewing will be best in pre-dawn hours though a last quarter moon will rise in the middle of the night intruding on the light of the bright Lyrids.

Typically the Lyrids produce a meager 10-20 meteors per hour, though they sporadically generate large outbursts of 100 or more meteors per hour (as happened in 1803, 1922, 1945, and most recently in 1982).  Look toward the shower's namesake, constellation Lyra, on the night of the 22nd (or any time from the 16th-25th when the shower could still be active) to catch a glimpse of a "falling star".

Advertising and Membership

Those of you that use the Windows to the Universe website regularly, and are not members, notice that advertising appears on the website.  You might wonder why we need to include advertising on this website. 

The unfortunate reality is that the effort required to maintain this website needs to be supported somehow.  One of the ways we do this is through advertising - which we try to ensure is filtered so that inappropriate advertising does not appear.  Advertising does help support our efforts, but in no way is sufficient to cover the costs of maintaining the website and offering the professional development programs we offer. 

In addition to advertising, we raise support for the website and our programs through donations, memberships, and sales.  We also partner with organizations that share our commitment to improving K-12 Earth, space, and environmental science education and literacy. 

If you are a regular user of Windows to the Universe, and would rather not have to deal with the advertising on the website, please consider becoming an Educator Member.  This provides critical support we need for our ongoing programs, and also provides you access to an advertising-free version of the website.

Windows to the Universe Educator Membership Options!

Windows to the Universe is offering 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.

We hope you'll visit the Windows to the Universe web site many times this year, and we hope to see you at one of our sessions at the NSTA National Conference in Boston (see table below).

Table of Contents

Support Newsletter
Web Seminars
Ringed Asteroid
WA State Mudslide
No "Planet X"
Hubble Images
Radar Sinkholes
Lunar N Pole Mosaic
Satellite Rain/Snow
HST Asteroid
Long-Term Warming
Mars-Bound Comet
ISS Research
Black Carbon
Space Missions
NSTA in Boston
April Meteor Showers
Ads or No Ads
New Member Options

Am Geophysical Union
HHMI Wkshop/Resource
Critical Geoscience
NOAA - Oil Spills
NOAA Citizen Science
Time to Garden!
Earth Month 2014
Green Week 2014
Natl Wk of Ocean
Global Youth Service
EE Week 2014
Cassini Contest
Free Natl Parks
Earth Day 2014
Arbor Day 4/25
DNA Day!
Save the Frogs
RockOn! Workshop
Thacher Env Contest
Intel ISEF
Water Challenge
Endangered Sp Day
Send Name-Asteroid
ES Week 2014 Connect
Space Tech Grants
FMA Live!
Asteroid Hunters!
Disk Detective
VHUB - Volcano
Soil Sci Education
Arctic Permafrost













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Information about Opportunities with Stipends, Honorariums, or Awards for Teachers/students
Educator members of Windows to the Universe should log into the website and go to the Member Special Offers page for details about these opportunities. If you're not a member, join today and find out how to apply to these opportunities! Additional information for non-members is available at http://www.windows2universe.org/offers.html.

The American Geophysical Union

The American Geophysical Union, a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing more than 62,000 members in 142 countries, is dedicated to the furtherance of the Earth and space sciencesand to communicating our science’s ability to benefit humanity.  We achieve these goals through publishing scientific journals and other technical publications, sponsoring scientific meetings, supporting education and outreach programs designed to increase public understanding of and support for our science, and a variety of other activities.

NSTA Workshops and New Classroom Resources from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Join HHMI’s BioInteractive team at the NSTA National Conference in Boston, April 3-6, 2014.

Stop by booth #843 to get BioInteractive’s newest, free, educational resources, attend HHMI’s Night at the Movies to see the premiere of our short film Great Transitions: The Origin of Tetrapods, and come to any of our 10 workshops in Convention Center room 107A where we will be featuring new classroom-ready hands-on activities!  You will have two opportunities to win a Chromebook and other prizes, so come check us out!  

If you are not coming to Boston, then visit our website to find all of our free educational resources:  www.biointeractive.org

Climate Change Seen as the Most Critical Geoscience Issue

Climate change is the highest priority issue facing society, according to geoscientists, decision makers, and public citizens who responded to an online survey conducted by the Center for Geoscience Education and Public Understanding at the American Geosciences Institute.  Water, human population growth and health issues, and energy were also listed as issues needing
immediate attention by all groups of respondents.

The majority of responses were from geoscientists in the post-secondary academic sector.  This group ranked climate change as the highest priority issue that requires immediate attention; water as the next most important issue; and human population growth and health as the third highest priority.  Energy was cited frequently as a critical issue but geoscientists did not rank it among their top three priorities.  

The number of responses from the public and the decision-making community was substantially smaller than from geoscientists.  Climate change was again the highest-priority critical issue.

"There is a dynamic relationship between geoscience topics, such as water and energy resources, natural hazards, climate change, environment, etc., and human populations that is recognized across the geoscience, public, and decision making communities.  This highlights the importance of establishing strong communication pathways in order to provide timely, accurate geoscience information to decision makers and the public," said Dr. Leahy, Executive Director of the American Geosciences Institute which houses the Center for Geoscience Education and Public Understanding.  

The aim of the web-based survey was to understand how the decision-making community, geoscience community, and the public defined the term "critical issue," as well as which critical issues were of top concern to each community.  The report can be accessed from the Critical Issues program webpage.

Oil Spill Resources from NOAA

Can you believe it has been over 25 years since the Exxon Valdez ran aground, spilling nearly 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound?  The National Ocean Service looks at the spill, 25 years later.  And, of course, the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill of April 2010, where 210 million gallons of oil were released, is still fresh in the minds of many.

NOAA has a great collection of educational resources for teaching about oil and other types of chemical spills in ocean and coastal environments.  This collection includes background information, classroom activities, PowerPoint presentations, science data, and much more.

NOAA Citizen Science - Help Track Whale Movements

Are you a boater?  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration invites you to help scientists track the movements of endangered humpback whales between NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and its sister sanctuaries across the Caribbean as part of Carib Tails, a new international citizen science effort.

By photographing the tails of humpbacks they encounter at sea, boaters can support on-going research to collect migration data on the shared population of approximately 1,000 humpbacks.  Photographs will be matched to entries in the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog and images of previously unknown and unphotographed whales will be added to the collection.  A dedicated website provides tips on how to photograph flukes for research purposes, photo submission forms and other information about humpback whales.

Researchers identify individual humpback whales by the black and white patterns on the underside of their flukes (tails).  Scars and natural pigmentation, ranging from all white to all black, along with the scalloped shaped edge of the tail, give each whale a distinct identification.  Photographs of humpback flukes have allowed researchers to monitor the movements, health and behavior of individual animals since research began in the 1970's.

Read more about the program at the Carib Tails website.

April is National Garden Month

Every April, communities, organizations, and individuals nationwide celebrate gardening during National Garden Month.  Gardeners know, and research confirms, that nurturing plants is good for us:  attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, kids perform better at school, and community spirit grows.  Join the celebration and help to make America a greener, healthier, more livable place!

Here's 101 ways to celebrate Garden Month this April and ideas and useful tips from the EPA for greenscaping -- environmentally friendly practices to improve the health and appearance of your lawn and garden.  Remember, when you garden, you grow!  

Earth Month 2014 at Union Station in Washington DC

Union Station in Washington DC is hosting Earth Month 2014, a month-long event scheduled for April 1 through April 30, featuring interactive, eco-friendly experiences to raise awareness of environmental issues and encourage sustainability.  As a historic landmark that attracts travelers from around the globe, Union Station is an ideal setting to spread a message of sustainability and conservation to worldwide audiences.  In addition to the scheduled events, exhibitors from across the country will be on hand to highlight their own green initiatives, programs and events. 

Earth Month is presented by Earth Day Network and the Premier Tourist and Landmark Association and will feature a film festival, a farmers’ market, alternative energy demonstrations, a green fashion show and a science fair with local schools, all held at Union Station throughout the month of April.   In addition, there will be programmed activities, entertainment, discussion panels, contests, games, giveaways and much more, with a full day of special events and entertainment on Earth Day (www.earthday.org), Tuesday, April 22.  Most events are free and open to all ages.

What Week Will You Pick to be Your Green Week?

Green Week is turning 5!  Celebrate by selecting any week from February 3 to April 25, 2014, to be your 'Green Week!'  Choose from the six sustainability themes for preselected lessons and activities that will help you celebrate Green Week (activities are sortable by grade).  

The Green Education Foundation will be hosting multiple contests with an assortment of prizes.  Become a GEF member (it's FREE) to be entered to win!

National Week of the Ocean

National Week of the Ocean will be celebrated March 30-April 5, 2014.  Week of the Ocean is a marine education program credited with more than three decades of learning about and caring for the ocean.  It is a grassroots program that appreciates, protects and uses the ocean wisely.  Check out the schedule page for more information.

Global Youth Service Day

Your students don't need to wait to grow up to change the world!  Have them plug into the Global Youth Service Day, where children and teens are creating change every day through service to others.  They can create their own project or join an already-existing project.  This year, Global Youth Service Day is April 11-13, 2014.

Environmental Education Week 2014 is April 13-19

EE Week, sponsored by Samsung, is April 13-19, 2014.  EE Week is the nation's largest celebration of environmental education, inspiring environmental learning and stewardship among K-12 students.  This year, EE Week will focus on Engineering a Sustainable World

Get prepared for the celebration of EE Week at your school, workplace or in your community.  Check out the FAQ page to get your questions answered. 

The new EE Week blog provides educators with a forum to interact and engage with experts and their peers on a variety of topics surrounding environmental education and Greening STEM.

Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest

The Cassini spacecraft launched in October 1997 and has been orbiting Saturn since 2004.  NASA encourages you to join them in celebrating Cassini’s 10-year anniversary orbiting Saturn with a special edition of the essay contest.

The 2014 Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest is open to students in grades 5-12.  Essays must be under 500 words.  There are three essay topics to choose from:  Saturn’s F ring, Saturn's moon, Titan, or Saturn, specifically the north polar region of Saturn

Students choose one of these topics and write an essay about why they think this image should be taken by the Cassini spacecraft.  What questions do they hope will be answered by taking this picture?

Click here for contest rules, videos about each essay topic, a downloadable contest flyer, frequently asked questions, and more information.  For questions about the contest, e-mail scientistforaday@jpl.nasa.gov  The contest deadline is Thursday, April 17, 2014.

All students who write essays will receive a certificate of participation.  U.S. winners and their classes will be invited to participate in a teleconference with Cassini scientists.  U.S. and international winning essays will be posted on the Cassini website.

Free Entrance Days in National Parks

The National Park Service is proud to once again join with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, to present National Park Week (April 19-27).

Looking for something fun and fantastic to do with family and friends?  Head out to America's national parks where millions of stars light up the dark night sky, deer and antelope (and a few other critters!) play on the wide-open range, and history is an unbelievable experience, not an exam.

And the best news?  Our national parks are kicking off National Park Week with fee-free entrance days on Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20!  So, whether it is your first trip, or one of many memorable park experiences, there couldn’t be a better time to get out and explore!  Enjoy!

Earth Day 2014

Every year on April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day.  From San Francisco to San Juan, Beijing to Brussels, Moscow to Marrakesh, people plant trees, clean up their communities, contact their elected officials, and more - all on behalf of the environment.

Like Earth Days of the past, Earth Day 2014 will focus on the unique environmental challenges of our time.  As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever.  Earth Day 2014 will seek to do just that through its global theme:  Green Cities.  With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our cities and forge a sustainable future.  Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.  

Let's be among those who make a difference for the Earth on April 22 and all year long!  Check out Earth Day events in your area or Earth Day resources that will help you plan your own event.

Celebrate Arbor Day on April 25!

Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care.  Founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, it's celebrated on the last Friday in April.

An Arbor Day celebration can be as large or as small as you want to make it.  Your Arbor Day can be a few neighbors gathering to plant trees in a park behind your homes or at a nearby school.  It can be a weeklong regional festival with activities for thousands of kids and adults.  Arbor Day can be a single class project or an event for the whole school, an inner city neighborhood planting trees in a vacant lot, or a huge citywide or statewide celebration.

Learn how you can incorporate Arbor Day throughout your school curricula as well.

National DNA Day is April 25

April 25 is National DNA Day, when people around the U.S. commemorate the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA's double helix by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953.  Although the structure of DNA was only discovered 60 years ago, it sparked a revolution in biology and medicine that has continued into the present day in the field of genomics, and this annual celebration offers students, teachers, and the public many exciting opportunities to learn about the latest advances in genomic research and explore what they may mean for their lives.

A wide variety of National DNA Day events are sponsored by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), in cooperation with the American Society of Human Genetics, the Genetic Alliance, the American College of Medical Genetics (AMCG), the International Society of Nurses in Genetics (ISONG), the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), and the American Pharmacist Association.

To read more about DNA day, and for ideas on how to celebrate it in your classroom, visit the DNA Day website.

Save the Frogs Day 2014 - April 26th

Save The Frogs Day is the world's largest day of amphibian education and conservation action.  Last year our supporters held 270 events in at least 30 countries, directly reaching over 17,000 participants.  Please get involved and help spread the word so we can make Save The Frogs Day 2014 even more successful!  Check out events in your area here.

RockOn! Workshop

Registration is open for NASA's seventh annual RockOn! workshop to be held June 14-19 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, VA.  This workshop, offered in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia, engages university and community college students and faculty interested in learning how to develop science payloads for spaceflight.

During the workshop, participants work in teams to build experimental payloads to fly on a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket expected to fly to an altitude of 73 miles.  The flight will take place the final day of the workshop, weather permitting.  Since 2008, 240 people have participated in RockOn! workshops and have successfully built and launched 79 payloads into space.

Registration closes May 2.  Workshop participants must be U.S. citizens or have a valid, government-issued green card.  For more information and to register online, visit:  http://spacegrant.colorado.edu/rockon

2014 Thacher Environmental Research Contest Focuses on Refuges, Parks and other Protected Areas

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies is pleased to invite U.S. high school students to participate in the 2014 Thacher Environmental Research Contest. This annual contest allows students the opportunity to show off their science and technology skills by submitting research projects focused on the use of remote sensing and analysis tools. Students are asked to identify a U.S. protected area of interest, and design a research project that identifies why the area is unique, why it significantly contributes to our society, how this area has changed over time, and ways remote sensing and geospatial tools can be used to monitor these environmental treasures.

Cash Awards from $200 to $2,000

Participation is open to all U.S. students in grades 9-12. Entries may be submitted by individuals or student teams. Three cash prizes will be presented, with the first place student or team receiving $2,000, along with a feature in the magazine Apogeo Spatial. In addition to prizes for the winning students, the teacher/coach of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants will receive a $200 Amazon.com gift card.

Entries must be postmarked or emailed by May 5, 2014

For full contest rules and to enter, please visit http://bit.ly/Lt6CnN.

This year's contest also has two new aspects:

  1. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Wilderness Act, the  focus is on studying protected areas (e.g., National Parks, Wildlife Refuges).

  2. The winning entry will be published in the summer issue of Apogeo Spatial (a nice addition to a student's college application).

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF)

Intel ISEF is the world's largest international pre-college science competition and will be held May 11-16, 2014, in Los Angeles, CA.  It is the premier global science competition for students in grades 9–12.  Each year more than 1,500 high school students from about 70 countries, regions, and territories display their independent research and compete for more than $3 million in awards.  We encourage you to visit the Intel ISEF homepage to learn more, view the Recent Results page for information about past Intel ISEF award winners, and check out all the latest pictures from the event on Facebook.

Water Research Challenge

The National Aquatic Resource Survey Campus Research Challenge invites college and graduate students to develop innovative ways to protect water resources using EPA’s data.  Prizes total $50,000.  Read more about this challenge and how to apply.  Applications are due by May 15.

Endangered Species Day (May 16)

President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law on December 28, 1973.  Our legislators understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation's living resources would become extinct.

What are some ways that you can help protect endangered species?  Celebrate Endangered Species Day on May 16, 2014, gain the public's attention by tweeting what the ESA has meant to you (#myESA), and preserve wildlife habitats and clean up the outdoors where you live.

NASA Invites Public to Send Names on an Asteroid Mission

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip that will be on a spacecraft headed to the asteroid Bennu in 2016.

The "Messages to Bennu!" microchip will travel to the asteroid aboard the agency's Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft.  The robotic mission will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid.  The spacecraft will collect a sample of Bennu's surface and return it to Earth in a sample return capsule.

"We're thrilled to be able to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth, to Bennu and back," said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission from the University of Arizona in Tucson.  "It's a great opportunity for people to get engaged with the mission early and join us as we prepare for launch."

Those wishing to participate in "Messages to Bennu!" should submit their name online no later than Sept. 30 at:  http://planetary.org/bennu

After a person submits their name, they will be able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission.  "You'll be part of humankind's exploration of the solar system - How cool is that?" said Bill Nye, chief executive officer of The Planetary Society, the organization collecting and processing the entries.

Earth Science Week 2014: ‘Earth’s Connected Systems’

AGI is pleased to announce that the theme of Earth Science Week 2014 (October 12-18) will be “Earth’s Connected Systems.”  This year’s event will promote awareness of the dynamic interactions of the planet’s natural systems.

Earth Science Week 2014 learning resources and activities will engage young people and others in exploring the ways that geoscience illuminates natural change processes.  By deepening our understanding of interactions of Earth systems - geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere - Earth science helps us manage our greatest challenges and make the most of vital opportunities.

“With this theme, Earth Science Week cuts to the core of Earth science and what it means to society,” says Geoff Camphire, AGI’s Manager of Outreach.  “The interactions of Earth systems are at the heart of our most critical issues, from energy and the environment to climate change and emerging economic realities.  No matter where we come from or where we’re going, we all need to understand Earth’s connected systems.”

Reaching over 50 million people a year, Earth Science Week offers opportunities to discover the Earth sciences and engage in responsible stewardship of the Earth.  The program is supported by the U.S. Geological Survey; the AAPG Foundation; the National Park Service; NASA; Esri; National Geographic; the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration; the Geological Society of America; and the American Geophysical Union.  To learn more, go to http://www.earthsciweek.org.

NASA Offers Space Tech Grants to Early Career University Faculty

NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate is seeking proposals from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of outstanding faculty members who are beginning their independent careers.  The grants will sponsor research in high priority areas of interest to America's space program.

NASA expects to award about five grants this fall, funded up to $200,000 each per year for as many as three years, based on the merit of proposals and availability of funds.  Funded research will investigate unique space technologies in areas such as soft machines for robotic mobility and manipulation, science-based digital materials and manufacturing, and low size, weight, and power lasers.

For information on the solicitation, including specific technology areas of interest and how to submit notices of intent and proposals, click here.   Deadline to submit proposals is Thursday, December 18, 2014.

FMA Live! Forces in Motion

This year marks the 10th anniversary of FMA Live! Forces in Motion, an innovative collaboration designed to ignite students' interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

FMA Live! is a high-energy live show that features actors, hip-hop dance, music videos, interactive scientific demonstrations, and video interviews with NASA scientists to teach Sir Isaac Newton's three laws of motion and universal laws of gravity.  The name of the show comes from Newton’s second law of motion:  force = mass x acceleration. 

"Each student needs to understand that a solid foundation in STEM can open doors they may not have known existed," said Dr. Roosevelt Y. Johnson, NASA's acting associate administrator for education.  "Getting them excited is the first step – from there, the career possibilities are endless.  This has been a great collaboration between NASA and Honeywell, and I'm proud of how many students we've engaged through FMA Live! during the past 10 years."

The show is currently touring central and southeast U.S. locations (Houston; Baton Rouge, LA; Hattiesburg, MS; Atlanta; Huntsville, AL; Nashville; Pulaski, VA; Columbia, SC; and Jacksonville, Miami, and West Palm Beach, FL).  A similar schedule is slated for the western part of the United States this fall.

Be an Asteroid Hunter in NASA's First Asteroid Grand Challenge Contest Series

NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter contest series will offer $35,000 in awards over the next six months to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids.

Managed by the NASA Tournament Lab, the entire contest series runs through August and is the first contest series contributing to the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.  This contest series is being conducted in partnership with Planetary Resources Inc. of Bellevue, WA.

“Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are,” said Jenn Gustetic, Prizes and Challenges Program executive.  “By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge.”

'Disk Detective' Lets Public Search for New Planetary Nurseries

NASA is inviting the public to help astronomers discover embryonic planetary systems hidden among data from the agency's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission through a new website, DiskDetective.org.  Disk Detective is NASA's largest crowdsourcing project whose primary goal is to produce publishable scientific results.  

The WISE mission was designed to survey the entire sky at infrared wavelengths.  It took detailed measurements on more than 745 million objects, representing the most comprehensive survey of the sky at mid-infrared wavelengths currently available.  Astronomers have used computers to search this haystack of data for planet-forming environments and narrowed the field to about a half-million sources that shine brightly in the infrared, indicating they may be "needles":  dust-rich disks that are absorbing their star's light and reradiating it as heat.  But galaxies, interstellar dust clouds, and asteroids also glow in the infrared, which stymies automated efforts to identify planetary habitats.  There may be thousands of nascent solar systems in the WISE data, but the only way to know for sure is to inspect each source by eye, which poses a monumental challenge.

Disk Detective incorporates images from WISE and other sky surveys in brief animations the website calls flip books.  Volunteers view a flip book and classify the object based on simple criteria, such as whether the image is round or includes multiple objects.  By collecting this information, astronomers will be able to assess which sources should be explored in greater detail, for example, to search for planets outside our solar system.

VHub - Volcano Resources

VHub is a site for collaborative volcano research and risk mitigation.  Use the Resource Warehouse to locate a plethora of quality educational resources including posters, crossword puzzles, slide shows, factsheets, and activities.  This is your one-stop free shop for all things volcanic!

Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness

The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) is a wonderful community with more than 500 different teaching resources on climate, climate change, and energy.  These resources (including classroom activities, experiments, and visualizations) are reviewed by educators and scientists, and are annotated and aligned with standards and benchmarks, making it easy to locate the best resources to meet your needs.  Make climate literacy and energy awareness a priority by visiting the CLEAN web site.

SSSA Offers Riches Of Soil Science Education

Six thousand members strong, the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a scientific organization that aims to support geoscience teaching and learning about soils.  This AGI member society provides an educational resources web page that includes lessons, activities, fun facts, information about soil disciplines, and soil definitions for the novice soil scientist.

You can also visit the online version of “Dig It,” an SSSA-sponsored exhibition on soil that ran in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History through January 2010.  Explore Dig It online and you'll find interactives, videos, educational materials, and more.

Scientists Go to Extremes to Monitor Arctic Permafrost Loss

Join EARTH Magazine and guest writer Irina Overeem on an expedition that pitted a team of scientists against rapid erosion in the Arctic.  Overeem transports readers to the edge of the North Slope of Alaska where her team explored the effects of rapidly melting permafrost on cliff erosion — a process that's resulted in an annual average of 15 meters of shoreline recession in recent years.  The researchers expect that, with continued warming, the processes responsible for erosion will only accelerate.

It is important to document and understand Arctic coastal erosion processes because they have immediate impacts on local infrastructure.  Time-lapse photography and detailed analysis helped the team identify what triggered massive blocks of the coast to fall into the Beaufort Sea.  Discover the causes and potential impacts of permafrost loss in the April Issue of EARTH Magazine.

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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.