June 2014

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Happy Summer!
by Roberta

Happy summer everyone!  If your academic year is not over yet, it will be soon, and I hope you have great plans for rest and relaxation.  We'll be hard at work at NESTA and Windows to the Universe this summer, preparing for a busy season of professional development in the fall. 

In the meantime, I hope you join us for our ongoing series of web seminars this summer, covering topics in space science and astronomy!  The series has been so successful, in the first three web seminars, that I expect we will continue to offer web seminars on a variety of topics over the coming year - leveraging our in-person professional development resources. 

I'd also like to renew my request for your support for our programs at NESTA and Windows to the Universe.  Your support - through membership of NESTA or Windows to the Universe (or preferably both!) and your donations help to make it possible for us to continue to offer the programs we do. 

Thank you for your support, and have a wonderful summer!  May this upcoming break refresh your love of the Earth and space sciences!

  Site and Science News

Help Support the Windows to the Universe Earth and Space Science Education Newsletter

If this newsletter is useful to you, please consider a charitable contribution to the Windows to the Universe project at the National Earth Science Teachers Association Producing this free newsletter alone costs about $1500 each month! 

Thanks to donations by dozens of individuals, we have received over $700 in support of this newsletter.  If everyone that subscribes to this newsletter donated just $5, our newsletter production costs would be covered for the entire year!  Better yet, become an Educator Member, and get access to all the resources and services available through Windows to the Universe - without advertising, too! 

NESTA/Windows to the Universe Web Seminars

We are happy to announce a series of 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-year 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).  All seminars will be at 7 pm Eastern and will continue approximately every three weeks through the end of September 2014.  Our next web seminar is on June 10 and will focus on The NGSS, Space and Planetary Science and Astronomy.  Register and find out more on the Windows to the Universe Web Seminar page.  

It's Hurricane Season!

Storm surge, high winds, and heavy rain - it's that time of year again!  Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th.  The Eastern Pacific hurricane season began May 15th and also ends November 30th.  Check out Windows to the Universe to learn more about how hurricanes form.  

NOAA’s 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook indicates that a near-normal or below-normal hurricane season is likely this year.  NOAA’s 2014 eastern Pacific Hurricane Season Outlook indicates a near- or above-normal season is likely.  The eastern Pacific was, of course, off to a record-breaking start as Hurricane Amanda sustained wind speeds of 155mph, just below category 5 status, making it the strongest May hurricane on record.  Amanda brought heavy rains and flooding in Mexico, and these caused several weather-related deaths.  On the whole, as climate change warms ocean waters long-term, hurricanes will become more frequent.

Check in at the NOAA National Hurricane Center web site for safety and preparedness information, the list of storm names that will be used this year, and hurricane tracking maps.  Print out a tracking map and plot the paths of the eye of each storm as it travels across the Atlantic or Pacific this summer.

Loss of West Antarctic Glaciers Appears Unstoppable

A new study by researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, has found that a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea.

The study presents multiple lines of evidence, incorporating 40 years of observations that indicate the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica have passed the point of no return.  These glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet.  They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) and are melting faster than most scientists had expected.  Scientists say that the new findings will force an upward revision to current predictions of sea level rise.

The Antarctic glaciers flow out from land to the ocean, with their leading edges afloat on the seawater.  Nearly all glacier melt occurs on the underside of the leading edge of the glacier, where it is floating on seawater, and these glaciers have melted and thinned so much they are now floating above places where they used to sit solidly on land.

As glaciers flow faster, they stretch out and thin, which reduces their weight and lifts them farther off the bedrock.  As more of the glacier becomes waterborne, there's less resistance underneath, so the flow (and melting) accelerates.

Because of the importance of this part of West Antarctica, NASA's Operation IceBridge will continue to monitor its evolution closely during this year's Antarctica deployment, which begins in October.  IceBridge uses a specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of science instruments ever assembled to characterize changes in thickness of glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice.

U.S. National Climate Assessment

On May 6th, the White House released the National Climate Assessment, a report that summarizes the effects that climate change is already having on different parts of the United States as well as on the U.S. economy.

The report’s overall message is that human-caused climate change continues to accelerate, and it cites specific threats to different parts of the country that will occur if climate change continues.  These include increased flooding in low-lying U.S. cities, heavier droughts in the Great Plains and Southwestern states, and more frequent wildfires in the Western U.S.  The more than 300 experts who helped produce the report also agreed that the U.S. will experience increasingly erratic weather, and rising sea levels that will affect all those living in coastal areas. 

The White House released a statement alongside the report emphasizing the need for action in mitigating the effects of climate change by working to eliminate the causes and in adapting to the effects that have already begun.  Many communities have started to work to address the effects of climate change—Miami, for instance, is planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to address the risks of flooding, while Philadelphia has developed a plan to deal with extreme heat waves.

Read the National Climate Assessment for yourself here.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is Smaller Than Ever Measured

I was recently giving a presentation on solar system exploration in an elementary school classroom and the students found this news headline to be amazing!  It is a change that is clearly visible even in their lifetime.

Jupiter's trademark Great Red Spot -- a swirling anti-cyclonic storm larger than Earth -- has shrunk to its smallest size ever measured!

Hubble Space Telescope observations confirm the Great Red Spot is now approximately 10,250 miles across.  Astronomers have followed this downsizing since the 1930's. 

Historic observations as far back as the late 1800's gauged the storm to be as large as 25,500 miles on its long axis.  NASA Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 flybys of Jupiter in 1979 measured it to be 14,500 miles across.  In 1995, a Hubble photo showed the long axis of the spot at an estimated 13,020 miles across.  And in a 2009 photo, it was measured at 11,130 miles across.

Beginning in 2012, amateur observations revealed a noticeable increase in the rate at which the spot is shrinking -- by 580 miles per year -- changing its shape from an oval to a circle.  

Very small eddies have been observed and are feeding into the GRS storm, and these may be responsible for this yet unexplained shrinkage.

NASA's WISE and Spitzer Telescopes Find Coldest Brown Dwarf Known

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered what appears to be the coldest "brown dwarf" known -- a dim, star-like body that, surprisingly, is as frosty as Earth's North Pole.  Images from the space telescopes also measured the object's distance at 7.2 light-years away, earning it the title for fourth closest system to our sun.  The closest system, a trio of stars, is Alpha Centauri, at about 4 light-years away.

Brown dwarfs start their lives like stars, as collapsing balls of gas, but they lack the mass to burn nuclear fuel and radiate starlight.  The newfound coldest brown dwarf is named WISE J085510.83-071442.5.  It has a chilly temperature between -54 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit (-48 to -13 degrees Celsius).  Previous record holders for coldest brown dwarfs, also found by WISE and Spitzer, were about room temperature.

Chandra Observatory Delivers New Insight into Formation of Star Clusters

Using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and infrared telescopes, astronomers have made an important advance in the understanding of how clusters of stars come into being.  The data show that early notions of how star clusters are formed cannot be correct.

The simplest idea had been that stars form into clusters when a giant cloud of gas and dust condenses, which would mean that stars in the middle of the cluster form first and are therefore the oldest.  However, the latest data from Chandra suggest something else is happening.  Researchers studied two clusters where sun-like stars currently are forming – NGC 2024, located in the center of the Flame Nebula, and the Orion Nebula Cluster.  From this study, they discovered the stars on the outskirts of the clusters actually are the oldest. 

Scientists have several possible explanations for these new findings.  To read more about their hypotheses, and to view interactive images, a podcast, and a video on the finding, visit:  http://chandra.si.edu

Spinoff 2013 - How Space Exploration Improves Our Lives

Water filtration bottles, comfortable car seats and remote medical monitoring devices all have one thing in common -- they all have benefited from NASA technology.

These products are featured in Spinoff 2013, an online publication now available that highlights commercial products created using NASA-developed technology.  Also featured in the 2013 edition is an air purification system that can sustain miners in the event of a disaster, solar-powered vaccine refrigerators that save lives in remote areas throughout the world, and a powerful heat shield used on the first commercial spacecraft to successfully achieve orbit and return to Earth.

“NASA develops technologies to push the boundaries of what’s possible in space, but those same technologies also make life better here on Earth,” said Daniel Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer program executive. “Spinoff 2013 is filled with examples of how NASA technology benefits our lives every day.”

Learn about Tornadoes!

Although tornadoes can happen at any time of the year, they are especially common during the spring and early summer.  May and June are usually the peak months in terms of numbers of tornadoes in the northern hemisphere.  In late April 2014, an outbreak of tornadoes swept through at least 11 states of the U.S. bringing widespread devastation both in loss of life and in damage and destruction of buildings and roads.  May 2014 has seen upwards of 50 U.S. tornadoes, but it has been considered a light month, because none of these tornadoes was higher than EF3 and while many did damage to buildings and farms, the May tornadoes did not cause any deaths. 

The conditions that lead to the formation of tornadoes are most often met in the central and southern U.S., where warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with cool, dry air from the Rockies and Canada.  The area where tornadoes occur most often extends roughly from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, and from Iowa and Nebraska to the Gulf of Mexico.  The center of this area, which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, is often called tornado alley.  Tornadoes can also occur elsewhere though, including all U.S. states, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

The weather section of Windows to the Universe provides information about these storms, including how tornadoes form, how meteorologists forecast where and when tornadoes will occur, and how scientists use the Enhanced Fujita Scale to determine the strength of a tornado.  In addition, our Tornado in a Bottle classroom activity provides a great way to illustrate tornadoes for your students.

Solstice is Coming!

The solstice occurs this month on June 21.  The solstices (summer and winter) and equinoxes (spring and fall) are astronomical events that mark our seasons.  Because of the tilt of Earth's axis, the Sun appears to climb higher (in the summer) and sink lower (in the winter) in the sky as viewed from our planet.  A solstice is a time when the Sun momentarily pauses in this apparent migration as it reaches the greatest extremes of its "wanderings" and begins to "move" back in the opposite direction.  The word "solstice" comes from two Latin roots:  "sol", which means "Sun", and "sistere", which translates as "stand still".

The June solstice is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.  The situation is, of course, reversed in the Southern Hemisphere - where the June solstice is the winter solstice.  Because our planet's atmosphere and oceans "store" heat, seasonal temperature extremes tend to lag behind the dates of minimum (or maximum) heating by the Sun, so the coldest part of winter (or hottest part of summer) happens after the solstice.

Students often mistakenly believe that the seasons are caused by variations in Earth's distance from the Sun.  This misconception doesn't make sense when one remembers that the seasons are opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres - why isn't it cold everywhere on the globe when the Earth is farthest from the Sun?  As Earth travels around the Sun in its elliptical orbit, its closest approach to our celestial furnace is in January, during the depth of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

To learn more about the solstice and seasons, check out these pages on Windows to the Universe:

Sun Safety Tips

Stay safe!  If you're outdoors this summer, protect yourself and your family from sun overexposure.  Use a sunblock of SPF 30 or higher, wear clothes and sunglasses that help shield your body from solar radiation, and use extra caution near water and sand, which can reflect the sun’s rays and increase your exposure.

Click here for more sun safety tips and access free printable activity books and sun safety fact sheets for the kids.

Are You Feeling the Heat?

Did you know that the air in urban areas can be 2 - 5°C (3.6 - 9°F) warmer than nearby rural areas?  This is known as the urban heat island effect.  An urban heat island can increase the magnitude and duration of a heat wave.  It can also influence weather - wind patterns, clouds, and precipitation.

In the classroom activity, Feeling the Heat, students learn about the urban heat island effect.  They investigate how trees, grass, asphalt, and other materials in their schoolyard affect temperatures.  Based on their results, students hypothesize how the temperature of cities might be affected by abundant asphalt and concrete and fewer planted areas.  These surfaces have a large impact on temperature.

In the second part of the activity, students explore a case study of the urban heat island in action.  They examine data about how the number of heat waves in Los Angeles, CA, has increased as population has grown.  This part of the activity makes data analysis a kinesthetic experience as students each represent a decade and order themselves along a rope based on the data from their decade.  Like good scientists, students look for patterns in the data and explore the possible reasons for those patterns.

Take a look at the Feeling the Heat Classroom Activity for more information.

Warming of Large Lakes - Video and Classroom Activity

Many of us will be vacationing during this upcoming break.  Lakes are a great place to visit on a family vacation.  Did you know that scientists have found a global warming trend in large lakes?  Now warmer water to swim in might sounds like a good thing, but like other effects of global warming, the warming of large lakes could have undesirable implications.  We sure hope you don't find these on your travels, but these effects are something to be aware of for yourself and your students.

Scientists are just starting to study and understand the implications of rising temperatures on lake ecosystems.  One area of concern is the fact that rising lake temperatures result in increased algal blooms.  Algae are naturally found in lake ecosystems and are in fact the base of the aquatic food web.  But when the numbers of algae in a lake rise dramatically, a bloom results.  Some algal blooms are harmless to life, but are simply unappealing.  Water in that area might look terrible, smell foul, or even taste bad (when water is drawn for drinking and purification from that source).  Other times, algal blooms can be toxic to fish, other aquatic organisms, wild and domestic animals that use that source of water, and humans.  Humans can experience gastroenteritis (if the toxin is ingested), lung irritations (if the toxin becomes aerosolized), or skin irritation (e.g., if the algae/toxin is touched while swimming).

Rising lake temperatures have also been shown to favor invasive species found in lakes.  In the Great Lakes region, two examples of invasive species under scrutiny are zebra mussels and lampreys.  Zebra mussels have been seen to thrive in warmer and warmer waters, which means they can extend their living range to higher and higher latitudes.  Lampreys seem to thrive in warmer waters growing bigger and bigger and are staying active for more of the year.  Both of these invasive species are extreme pests that are killing off native species, eating the food of native species, or in the case of zebra mussels, causing billions of dollars of damage to structures and aquatic vehicles.

Clearly, more study and attention is due these important limnic ecosystems where so many people live, work, make their homes, and enjoy recreation and relaxation.

To learn more, explore our Warming Lakes Classroom Activity or watch a video produced by NBC Learn called Warming Lakes.

The Water Cycle

Water is always on the move, and summer can be a great time to learn more about the water cycle.  While you're on vacation, notice what is happening with water all around you.  It can be in the form of water droplets in clouds or in the form of precipitation falling as rain or hail.  Water collects in rivers, lakes, and the ocean, and can be found in plants on the land.  It also falls as snow and ice and is stored in glaciers and other types of ice.

Water moves through the water cycle through various processes, including precipitation, evaporation, transpiration, and condensation.  During the water cycle, water changes state between liquid, solid (ice), and gas (water vapor).  It is recycled over and over through the cycle, and stays in some places longer than others.  For example, a water drop usually spends a lot longer in the ocean than it does in the atmosphere.

Encourage your students to notice water in its many forms this summer!

There's No Place Like Home!

In the familiar children's story Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks found a porridge that was just right.  There is a Goldilocks idea in science that says that the Earth is just right for living creatures.

There are so many factors that make our home planet just right - consider just a few of the things that make Earth habitable by living creatures.

The temperature of Earth is just right for flowing water on the surface, and for rock that allows for continental drift.  With continental drift, particles of the atmosphere, which become trapped within the ground, are brought back to the atmosphere through eruptions of volcanoes.  These conditions refresh the planet's atmosphere.  A medium-sized atmosphere helps keep temperatures just right through the greenhouse effect.

The atmosphere contains oxygen that is needed by most creatures.  And the atmosphere works to protect life, as the ozone layer filters out the Sun's harmful rays.

The Earth has yet another layer of protection - the magnetosphere (including the radiation belts) which prevents most of the particles from the Sun, carried in solar wind, from hitting the Earth.  Some particles from the solar wind enter the magnetosphere, creating the harmless auroral oval light shows.  Other particles become trapped in the radiation belts, making the belts an extremely dangerous place for humans or animals to stay in without protection.  But, most of us remain safe here on Earth, which is just right.

It's worth thinking about how wonderful and unique this home of ours is.  And it's worth taking care of this planet of ours - after all, moving is such a pain!

Women in Space Anniversaries

June marks two anniversaries for women in space.  The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova (born in 1937), flew aboard Soviet spaceship Vostok 6 51 years ago on June 16, 1963.  At that time, she was a factory worker without a college degree, and was selected for her skydiving skills.  Later, Tereshkova obtained a graduate degree in engineering and was active in politics.

20 years later, the first American woman in space, Sally Ride (1951-2012), flew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.  Ride, a physicist by training, remains the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space.  Later, she founded a company that develops classroom materials for STEM educators.  She also wrote or co-wrote five children's books about science.  Her family accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on her behalf from President Obama in 2013.

Eratosthenes Measured Our World

Eratosthenes, an ancient Greek scientist, made the first accurate measurement of the size of the Earth on June 19th, 240 B.C.  He knew that the Sun made no shadow in a well in the Egyptian town of Syene on the summer solstice; and therefore, that the Sun must be directly overhead in Syene on that day.  He measured the length of the shadow of a tall tower in his hometown of Alexandria on the solstice.  He combined this information with the distance between Alexandria and Syene (about 800 km), and with a little geometry, was able to determine the circumference of the Earth with surprising accuracy for that time.

Eratosthenes was a mathematician, elegiac poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, music theorist, a friend of Archimedes and a chief librarian of the famous Alexandrian library.  He proposed a simple algorithm for finding prime numbers, known in mathematics as the Sieve of Eratosthenes.  He made other major contributions to mathematics, geography and astronomy.  Surprisingly, his contemporaries nicknamed him beta, from the second letter of the Greek alphabet, because he supposedly proved himself to be the second best in almost every field.

  Partner Announcements

DataStreme Atmosphere, Ocean or Earth’s Climate System Courses

Fall and Spring Semesters

The American Meteorological Society’s Education Program offers the DataStreme courses as free professional development for K-12 teachers.  These courses are intended to train educators who will promote the teaching of STEM topics across the K-12 curriculum.  Successful participants will receive three free graduate credits through these semester-long courses in meteorology, oceanography or climate science.  Precollege educators who teach classes with STEM content are encouraged to apply.

For more information, please visit: http://www.ametsoc.org/amsedu/

Digital Earth Watch and Picture Post Network - Activities and Tools for Observing and Measuring Environmental Change

The land, water, and air around us are changing.  Often, the changes are subtle and we cannot see them without the help of modern technology.

Repeat photographs reveal measurable changes in vegetation including phenology, growth patterns and plant health, snow and water levels, and sky conditions.  A Picture Post is an easy-to-build platform for collecting panoramic photographic data from the same vantage point.  Participants upload their pictures and share findings on the Picture Post website.  As a whole, the Network contributes to national climate change monitoring programs.

Collecting pictures is just the beginning!  Picture Post and Digital Earth Watch (DEW) are online resources for educators, students, communities, and citizens to design and carry out investigations, challenges, and environmental stewardship projects with low-cost, do-it-yourself tools and a free software program, Analyzing Digital Images (ADI), that measures spatial features in a picture and analyzes plant health based on color.

For more information, contact Dr. Annette Schloss, University of New Hampshire, 446 Morse Hall, Durham, NH 03824.  Email: picturepostsupport@picturepost.unh.edu  Phone: (603)862-0348

The Picture Post Network is part of the Digital Earth Watch (DEW) environmental-monitoring program.  Picture Post is based at the University of New Hampshire and was developed with funding from NASA.

Announcing a New YouTube Channel for Science Short Films from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

HHMI's BioInteractive now has a YouTube channel!  This series of films brings compelling stories of scientific discovery, featuring leading scientists in fields ranging from earth science to evolutionary biology and genetics (e.g., The Origin of Tetrapods posted in April 2014 features University of Chicago paleontologist and award-winning author Neil Shubin).  Each film runs for about 10 to 30 minutes, a length optimized for use in the classroom.  These films are also available on http://www.BioInteractive.org along with supporting classroom activities, animations, and interactives.

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.

  Calendar of Events

National River Cleanup and National River Month

In June 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire, spurring the Clean Water Act and other water pollution control legislation.  Over forty years later and the Cuyahoga is doing much better!  

Why not make a difference during National Rivers Month (every June) to help clean up a river near your home?  The National River Cleanup is celebrating 20+ years of making a difference.  In 2013, there were over 500+ cleanup locations, 104,000+ volunteers nationwide, and 4.2 million pounds of trash removed from waterways!  That makes 2013 the most successful year in the history of National River Cleanup!  Make this June a month in which you and your family make a difference!

June is a Month to Garden!

June is Perennial Gardening Month.  Celebrate by getting your hands dirty!

Need some help getting started?  KidsGardening.org provides lessons, activities, handouts and articles (PK-12th grade) that apply across the curriculum.  Educators can register school and community gardens, communicate with other programs and engage in meaningful discussions about garden activities.  Complete with how-to guides, garden stories, grants and resources, this free resource helps educators of all ages engage children in hands-on learning opportunities.

UN World Environment Day - Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level

On June 5th, the United Nations will sponsor the 43rd annual World Environment Day (WED).  World Environment Day is a day in which activities around the world are aimed at stimulating awareness of the world we live in and encouraging people to come together and work toward a cleaner environment.

This year’s focus is climate change, with a special emphasis on Small Island Developing States.  WED will encourage a greater understanding of the importance of Small Island Developing States and of the urgency to help protect the islands in the face of growing risks and vulnerabilities, particularly as a result of climate change.  "Planet Earth is our shared island, let us join forces to protect it," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the launch of the 2014 International Year of Small Islands and Developing States.

Learn more about World Environment Day and this year’s theme at:  UN World Environment Day.

June 8th is World Oceans Day

Join in the celebration of World Oceans Day (June 8), our planet’s biggest celebration of the ocean.  Explore the World Oceans Day web site for ideas, resources, and information about how you can get involved.

Every year, more and more people take action to celebrate and protect our planet’s ocean, which connects us all.  Thanks to people like you, approximately 600 events were held last year to celebrate World Oceans Day!  And the volume of social media chatter about World Oceans Day grew by 85% in 2013.  Let’s make this year even better by holding at least 1,000 great events!  You can help by spreading the word about this celebration.

National Mosquito Control Awareness Week 2014

The week of June 22-28, 2014, has been declared the 18th annual “National Mosquito Control Awareness Week” by the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA).  Many scientists argue that the mosquito is the most dangerous animal on Earth because of its ability to carry a wide range of human diseases like malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and others.  With this in mind, the AMCA, an international organization of nearly 2,000 public health professionals, has been dedicated to preserving the public’s health and well-being through safe, environmentally sound mosquito control programs since 1935.  During “Mosquito Week”, the AMCA’s goal is to educate the general public about the significance of mosquitoes in their daily lives and the important service provided by mosquito control workers throughout the United States and worldwide.

Events during this week will include displays, lectures, demonstrations and educational programs, all of which will focus on mosquitoes as disease carriers and pests.  Activities will also provide information about the mosquito life cycle and tips on how to eliminate mosquito egg-laying sites around homes, to try to help citizens reduce the numbers of mosquitoes in their own neighborhoods.

Read more about “Mosquito Week”, and help the AMCA get the word out.  You can also read more about mosquito control on the Environmental Protection Agency website.

NASA Invites Public to Send Names to Asteroid Bennu

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.

  Other Announcements

Environmental Summer Reading List by Project Learning Tree

Do you want to motivate your students to learn more about the environment over the summer?  Would you like to brush up on some nature literature yourself?  With summer break right around the corner, it's a perfect time to check out Project Learning Tree's Environmental Summer Reading List that will help students (and teachers) develop the knowledge, critical thinking skills, and leadership they will need to tackle the environmental challenges of the future.

This list is sorted according to age group.  Please take a look – we hope you find something inspiring for your students – and maybe even for yourself!

Are You Weather-Ready? Be a Force of Nature with NEEF

From floods and drought to heat waves and tornado outbreaks, the United States experienced seven weather and climate disasters in 2013, each with losses in excess of one billion dollars.  Severe weather can strike at any time, anywhere, and it affects all of us.

Be a Force of Nature:  NEEF (National Environmental Education Foundation) is proud to be recognized as a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador and recommends taking a few minutes to know your risk, prepare for severe weather, and share your knowledge and actions with friends, family, and your community.

For more information, graphics, and resources, visit earthgauge.net/beaforce.

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 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.”

Take a Second for the Environment!

Did you know there are over 80,000 seconds in a day?  Individual environmental actions only take a few seconds.  Together, we can make a huge impact with simple everyday actions.  NEEF invites you to learn about the environment and see how just a few seconds add up to a huge impact.

Watch NEEF's Take a Second video and be inspired, learn from the EPA how simple everyday environmental actions add up to a huge impact, and share how you are taking a few seconds for the environment to help inspire others at takeasec.org.

'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.

Flying Wild: An Educator's Guide to Celebrating Birds

Flying WILD's focus on migratory birds is designed to inspire young people to discover more about the natural world.  It encourages students to get involved in activities that promote environmental learning and stewardship.  The Flying WILD program places special emphasis on reaching urban schools with student populations that traditionally receive few opportunities to participate in environmental education initiatives.

The Curriculum Guide's many activities can be used to teach classroom lessons or to initiate service-learning projects that help birds and improve natural habitats.

Disney's Friends for a Change

If you're looking for a way as a parent or as a teacher to get your teens and tweens involved in a fun, safe environmental movement, you should take a look at Disney's Friends for Change.  It encourages kids to get involved to help the planet in a variety of ways.  And as you can imagine coming from Disney - they make things just plain fun!

Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures

The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures, featuring noted scientists giving nontechnical illustrated lectures on recent developments in astronomy, are now available on their own YouTube Channel at:  AstronomyLectures.  The talks are also available for direct download and you may listen to them as mp3 files.  Recent topics include:

The lectures are taped at Foothill College near San Francisco, and are co-sponsored by NASA's Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Space Math @ NASA

Are you looking for a way to bring math into your geoscience curriculum?  Check out the Space Math @ NASA site posted by Dr. Sten Odenwald.  To date, there are over 680 problems posted!  Problems range from upper elementary to high school level, and use math to solve real problems in the Earth and space sciences!

Project Noah

Project Noah is an online and mobile location-based application that encourages people to reconnect with nature by documenting local wildlife.  The tool harnesses the power and popularity of smart phones and tablets to collect important ecological data and help preserve global biodiversity.

You can discover what wildlife lives near you, identify plants and wildlife that others have photographed, go on missions and become a citizen scientist.  Join today!

Project Learning Tree Blog

If you’re like most educators, you want your students to have a deep understanding of the environmental issues in our country – but if you’re like most educators, you probably also have difficulty incorporating environmental education into a classroom schedule that’s already packed. And with the proliferation of new standards, your job isn’t getting any easier.

Project Learning Tree works to support teachers like you by creating environmental education materials and curriculum resources that link with existing educational mandates, such as the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, National Social Studies Standards, as well as state-specific learning standards.

With Project Learning Tree, you can help your students develop the knowledge, critical thinking skills, and leadership they will need to tackle the environmental problems of the future – all while enhancing student achievement.  Please visit our blog to see what PLT curriculum resources and activities might fit your needs and teaching standards.

Geography Resources

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) offers an array of web resources for K-12 and college-level Earth science education:  

* The Geographic Advantage (http://geographicadvantage.aag.org/), an educational companion for the National Research Council’s “Understanding the Changing Planet,” outlines teaching strategies and geographic investigations that show students how geographers explore environmental change and sustainability.

* AAG’s Center for Global Geography Education (http://www.aag.org/cgge) offers online modules for undergraduate courses in geography and related social and environmental sciences.  All modules feature a conceptual framework, regional case studies, and collaborative projects.

* GeoSTART materials will help middle/high school students learn state-of-the-art approaches to geography, earth science, and spatial thinking skills using NASA Earth Observing Missions' remote sensing imagery and related data.  Go online (http://www.aag.org/cs/education/k12_and_teacher_education/geostart_teaching_earth_science) for free activities and materials.

Table of Contents


Support Newsletter
W2U Web Seminars
Hurricane Season!
Antarctic Glaciers
Natl Climate Assess
Jupiter GRS
Coldest Brown Dwarf
Chandra - Stars
Spinoff 2013
Tornadoes 2014
Sun Safety Tips
Feeling the Heat
Large Lakes
The Water Cycle
Women in Space

DataStreme Courses
DEW & Picture Post
HHMI YouTube
Am Geophysical Union

June Gardens
WED-Small Islands
World Oceans Day
Mosquito Control Wk
Send Name-Asteroid
ES Week 2014 Connect
Space Tech Grants

Env Summer Reading
Asteroid Hunters!
Take a Second
Disk Detective
Flying Wild
Disney's Friends
Si Valley Astronomy
Space Math @ NASA
Project Noah
PLT Blog
Geography Resources













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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.