Update your bookmarks! Our new website url is http://windows2universe.org!
If you haven't already, please respond to the email about forwarding UCAR subscription information to NESTA (sent from firstname.lastname@example.org and subject: For Windows to the Universe Educators). If you missed this email, it will be sent out again next month. It's easy - only two clicks of the mouse!
September marks a time of new beginnings, when many of you are returning to the classroom for a new year of instruction - new faces and frequently, new requirements. The equinox falls in September, too, which is an opportunity to discuss the reason for the seasons and Earth's orbit with your students.
This September, we are delighted to share with you our newly redesigned Windows to the Universe website. We have been working for months to update our website design, bringing in new capabilities and content to serve you better. We hope you like it!
Some of the new features include RSS feeds from organizations posting news relevant to our topic and audience, which we show in the left column of every page. Below this, we link to a number of relevant science blogs which may be of interest to you. We have also developed a number of new tools for you. The Earth and Space Science Concept of the Day appears on each of the main subject area pages of the site (like "Earth" and "Space") - these are definitions of rather obscure words, phrases, or concepts in geoscience. We have significantly expanded our list of "Did You Knows?" to provide more variety and delve into all sections of the website. Windows to the Universe Obscurities, available on the front page, links to hidden gems in the website you might otherwise miss. "Research Highlights" links to information about cutting edge Earth and space science research from the National Science Foundation.
We have greatly expanded our Earth and Space Science History Calendar, which lists major historical events in our field ranging from major natural disasters to anniversaries of launches, discoveries, and birthdays of famous scientists. These events provide opportunities to introduce topics to your students in a timely way. In addition, we have included a calendar of opportunities and events for teachers! For both of these calendars, events coming up in the coming week are available to everyone - to access the full calendars, you need to become a Member of Windows to the Universe.
Windows to the Universe Educator Membership costs only $20 per year (less for multiple years, and NESTA members get a 50% discount on Windows to the Universe membership). Windows to the Universe membership offers a growing list of special services and opportunities, including news about free materials (such as free telescopes), access to our full calendars including professional development opportunities for teachers, a 10% discount in our store, and access to an advertising-free version of our website. We will continue to add to this list of benefits of membership in coming months. Join today!
We're also happy to offer products associated with the Earth and space sciences in our new online store. In addition to Windows to the Universe and NESTA products (such as classroom activities and copies of our journal, including posters), we are partnering with other organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences and Nature's Own to bring you Earth and space science publications, mineral and fossil specimens, as well as beautiful jewelry and household items. Purchases through our store help support Windows to the Universe and NESTA!
Please do send us comments and suggestions regarding the website, and if you find any problems, please let us know - be sure to tell us the page where you found the problem (copying the URL into your comment is the easiest way to do this). Despite our best attempts, we're sure to have missed something in a website this big!
NASA's Kepler space telescope has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star. Kepler's ultra-precise digital cameras measure tiny decreases in the brightness of stars that occur when a planet passes in front of them. The size of the planet can be derived from these dips in brightness.
The new planetary system, around a sun-like star designated Kepler-9, contains at least two planets called Kepler-9b and 9c that transit the star every 19 days and 38 days respectively. The fact that the orbital period of the outer planet is twice that of the inner planet allowed the team to measure the masses of the planets from their interactions. When the two planets pass each other every 38 days, the gravitational pull between them changes their orbits slightly. These changes cause variations in the timing of future transits, with larger variations expected for more massive planets. From observations spanning 7 months, the team determined that both planets have masses similar to Saturn.
In addition to the two confirmed planets, the Kepler team also identified a third, much smaller transit in the observations of Kepler-9. If this signal is caused by another planet, it would be about 1.5 times the radius of the Earth orbiting the star every 1.6 days. Further observations are needed to determine whether this third signal is actually a planet.
Many of you may be following the news from Pakistan, where there has been massive flooding since July. Current UN estimates say that nearly 20 million people have been displaced from their homes, and at least several thousand have died as a result of the floods, which have placed almost 160,000 square kilometers (nearly 20% of Pakistan’s total land area) underwater.
The floods have been blamed on unusually intense monsoon rains, and though it is difficult to attribute the monsoon’s strength to a single cause, many scientists have noted that essentially all climate models predict that as global warming progresses, extremes of temperature and precipitation will become more and more frequent. Unfortunately, those predictions suggest that the flooding we see in Pakistan, the wild fires in Russia earlier this summer, and the heat wave that the U.S. experienced this summer will all be more likely to occur again in the future.
With over 5,600 schools damaged or destroyed, and another 4,000 being used as shelters for displaced families, access to education in Pakistan is limited. Teachers Without Borders' Emergency Education Program is working to make both safety and education accessible to the people of Pakistan during this crisis. You can read more about Teachers Without Borders and their work to help the flood victims at the TWB Pakistan Floods Resource Page.
NASA's new Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is capturing some great new images of the Sun. Launched on February 11, 2010, the SDO satellite carries several telescopes and other instruments for observing the Sun. The cameras on SDO produce much, much higher resolution images than did the instruments on earlier orbiting solar observatories.
With support from NASA, and in collaboration with NSTA, Windows to the Universe and the UCAR Office of Education and Outreach are offering a series of free web seminars on teaching global climate change. Building on our existing Climate Discovery online courses, these short web seminars showcase special topics such as how scientists study ancient climates and the effects of climate change on living things. Each web seminar combines science content with classroom activities that your students will love. Online networking after each web seminar will allow you to continue the conversation about teaching climate change with teacher participants and our professional development staff.
These six free web seminars will take place weekly from September 22 through the end of October. We hope you can join in and participate in one or more of the topics. For more information, please visit the Global Climate Change Educator Professional Development Network. For registration information, please visit NSTA Web Seminars.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been at the center of attention all summer, and it is now by far the largest marine oil spill in world history. The U.S. Government estimates that 4.9 million barrels of oil were released, and that only roughly 800,000 barrels were collected by containment efforts. Fortunately, on July 15 the well was capped by BP, and in August the company completed what is called a ‘static kill’, in which heavy mud and then cement were pumped into the well, sealing it permanently.
British Petroleum is currently working to complete relief wells that will redirect the pressure of the oil and gas that remains under the ocean floor. Most scientists believe that this represents the best option for permanent closure of the leaking well.
Many scientists are struggling to assess the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill. The oil on the surface has been dissipating faster than expected, but in August scientists reported evidence of a large plume of oil in the open gulf that is more than 20 miles long that they think poses a long-term threat to deep ocean marine life.
The effects on wildlife are still not fully understood, but many experts agree that because the use of dispersants made it easier for the oil to enter the marine food chain, and because the oil and natural gas dissolved into the ocean waters will likely reduce oxygen levels in the Gulf, the Gulf ecosystem could take years or even decades to completely recover.
Likewise, the economic effects are difficult to predict, though it is already clear that they will reach far beyond the Gulf region. Locally, the fishing, shrimping, and oyster industries in that region are struggling to recover, and tourism in the Gulf states is far below expected levels. Beyond the Gulf, the Deepwater Horizon spill is already prompting changes in how oil exploration is done worldwide, and many experts think this will likely mean higher oil prices for the foreseeable future. Many other effects are harder to predict, but there is no doubt that we’ll be feeling them for years to come.
Why not use this story to show your students how environmental disasters have widespread effects, and explain why environmental stewardship is important for all of us! Visit our page of resources for teaching about oil spills to access web-based content and classroom activities that address the science of oil spills and their effects on ecosystems. The National Wildlife Federation has also compiled a number of resources pertaining to the BP Oil Spill.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1 to November 30. You'll remember that Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana right in the middle of hurricane season. The five year anniversary of Katrina's landfall was August 29, 2010. So now is a perfect time to teach about the perils of hazardous summer and fall weather!
Hurricanes are tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean. Have your students explore the Windows to the Universe section about hurricanes to foster understanding of how hurricanes form and the damage that they can cause in coastal areas, including damage from storm surge. Peruse the hurricane section of the Windows to the Universe image gallery for pictures of hurricane damage, satellite images of hurricanes, and illustrations to use in your teaching. And have your students explore the likely connection between hurricane strength and climate change in the activity Hurricanes and Climate. This data-rich activity gets students interpreting graphs and exploring geography as they consider whether hurricanes have become more common or more fierce.
This year, the Autumnal equinox will occur on September 22nd (the beginning of Fall for the N. Hemisphere and the beginning of Spring for the S. Hemisphere). At the equinox times in the Earth's revolution, the Earth is neither tilted directly towards nor directly away from the Sun. In other words, both hemispheres receive roughly equal amounts of sunlight. Equinoxes mark the seasons of autumn and spring and are a transition between the two more extreme seasons, summer and winter.
Contrary to what is commonly believed, day and night are not exactly of equal length at the time of the March and September equinoxes. On the day of an equinox, the geometric center of the Sun's disk crosses the equator, and this point is above the horizon for 12 hours everywhere on the Earth. However, the length of the day is defined as the period when some sunlight is visible, and this also happens when the upper edge of the Sun is visible but its center is below the horizon. The date at which the length of day and night are closest to being equal is called the equilux. The specific dates of equiluxes are different for different latitudes.
The Great World Wide Star Count encourages everyone to go outside, look skyward after dark, note the stars in certain constellations, and report what they could see online. Star Count is designed to raise awareness about the night sky and encourage learning in astronomy. All the information needed to participate is available on the Star Count Web site. Be sure to download the 2010 Activity Guide (available in 8 languages) to prepare your class for this project.
Participation involves use of a simple protocol and an easy data entry form. During the first three years, over 31,000 individuals from 64 countries and all 7 continents participated in this campaign to measure light pollution globally.
At the conclusion of the event, maps and datasets will be generated highlighting the results of this exciting citizen science campaign. Mark your calendars and plan on joining thousands of other students, families, and citizen scientists counting stars this fall.
The Great World Wide Star Count will be held from October 29 - November 12, 2010. For more information visit http://windows2universe.org/citizen_science/starcount/index.html or email email@example.com.
You don't have to live in the Arctic to know that sea ice is very important. Polar bears roam on top of it. Arctic marine life lives under it. And its light color reflects solar energy out to space, helping to keep the Earth's climate from warming too fast.
Each year Arctic sea ice freezes during the cold winter months and then melts during the warm summer months. September is the time of year when there is the least sea ice in the Arctic. This is known as the Arctic sea ice minimum. In recent years, the minimum amount of ice in the Arctic has grown smaller. As of August 25, sea ice area within the northern route of the Northwest Passage is well below the 1968 to 2000 average and is almost a month ahead of the clearing that was observed in 2007, with another month of melting yet to come. This route from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean amidst Canada's Arctic islands was famously explored by Roald Amundsen in 1903.
Because of global warming, the sea ice starts melting a little earlier each spring and starts freezing a little later each autumn. So there is more time during the year when melting occurs. As more ice melts, the albedo of the Arctic is decreased, meaning that less solar energy is reflected and more is absorbed by the Earth. More energy means more warmth in the Arctic which causes more ice to melt. This compounding process is called the ice-albedo feedback. For up-to-date information on the state of Arctic sea ice throughout the year, visit Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis on the web site of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Take a look at these Windows to the Universe resources for teaching about sea ice:
Earth system science literacy means that we understand how our planet functions as a system of interdependent, interconnected parts, and that we use this knowledge to make decisions that affect Earth’s sustainability.
A set of conceptual frameworks have been developed to describe what we should know to be literate about the Earth system — the atmosphere, oceans, Earth, and climate. These frameworks describe aspects of the Earth when considered alone, and they complement each other in describing the entire Earth system. They are intended to be useful to promote informed decision-making in all sectors of society, and they are a resource for teachers to use in planning curricula. In order to help you with your planning, they are linked to science education standards and benchmarks. Check out these frameworks to see how they can help you with your science teaching!
Listening to science podcasts is a great way to brush up on your own content knowledge! They are easy to "carry with you" on trips and they are free! You'll glean tidbits of information that will make your subject fun and fascinating, plus relevant, for your students.
The Windows to the Universe podcast zone is a great place to find brief podcasts produced by the National Science Foundation. Other favorite podcasts of ours include Lab Out Loud podcasts produced by NSTA and Astronomy behind the Headlines podcasts produced by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Listen, learn and enjoy!
Will you be at the NSTA Regional Conferences in Kansas City, MO (October 28-30, 2010), Baltimore, MD (November 11-13, 2010), or Nashville, TN (December 2-4, 2010)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.
Kansas City NSTA Regional Conference
Nashville NSTA Regional Conference
Table of Contents
Alien Solar System
Gulf Oil Spill
Arctic Sea Ice
Earth Sci Week
4-H Natl Sci Day
STEM for Women
HS Software Comp
Online with NOAA
Online Lunar Game
Teacher SubmissionsClick here to submit your ideas to the newsletter
Announcements from PartnersClick here to submit information about your program to the newsletter
Are you headed back to school soon? What a perfect time to join the National Earth Science Teachers Association! Membership benefits are many and include receiving The Earth Scientist (a quarterly journal), full voting privileges, access to members-only areas of the NESTA web site, a discount on Windows to the Universe Educator Membership, and the monthly e-mail newsletter, NESTA ENews, that shares new resources, opportunities, alerts, and upcoming events. There are also many special NESTA events at professional meetings. Plug into this supportive network. Cost is low - only $10 for an annual membership! Join today!
The American Geological Institute invites you to take part in Earth Science Week 2010! Being held October 10-16, Earth Science Week 2010 will encourage people everywhere to explore the natural world and learn about the geosciences.
The theme of Earth Science Week 2010 is "Exploring Energy," and it is aimed at engaging young people and the public in learning about Earth's energy resources.
Learn more at the Earth Science Week website.
On October 6, 2010, millions of young people across the nation will become scientists during the third annual 4-H National Youth Science Day. In this year's experiment, 4-H2O, youth will learn about carbon dioxide and discover how we as a nation can reduce our environmental impact.
You and your class can join in an experiment that will be done across the nation by millions of students. There are even experiment kits you can order to make things easier.
There are also Science Day events happening around the nation during this timeframe. To find an event near you, visit the 4-H Map page.
Are you planning on attending one of the NSTA regional conventions this fall? If so, please consider sharing your favorite, tested classroom activity with your colleagues at the National Earth Science Teachers Association Share-a-Thons at the fall regionals. This is a great opportunity to help your colleagues, and also be listed in the official program as a presenter (if you let us know far enough in advance), which may help you get support from your school administrators for attending the meeting. If you're interested in presenting, please see the complete list of NESTA Share-a-Thon and Rock Raffles at Fall NSTA Area Conferences.
What does being presenter at a NESTA Share-a-Thon entail? (1) Contact NESTA's Share-a-Thon coordinator, Michelle Harris, and let her know that you'd like to present (at firstname.lastname@example.org. (2) Select your favorite activity, make about 100 copies to distribute to your colleagues. (3) If appropriate - bring along a demo or samples to illustrate the activity. (4) Appear 30 min before the Share-a-Thon is scheduled to start and select a table to sit at. Set out your materials and then get ready! The fun is about to start! (5) When the Share-a-Thon starts, teachers stream in and browse for resources they think might be useful to them. This is your chance to share and also meet new colleagues as well as old friends! (6) When the Share-a-Thon is over, pack up your materials and you're all done!
Be sure to take along the set of copies that NESTA provides to presenters of all the other activities that have been shared at the Share-a-Thon (it will be delivered to you during the session). NESTA is happy to provide letters of recognition to presenters, which you can use toward your professional advancement.
NASA is collaborating with award-winning recording artist Mary J. Blige to encourage young women to pursue exciting experiences and career choices by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). A public service announcement featuring veteran NASA space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin and Blige debuted last month on NASA TV and the agency's website at http://www.nasa.gov.
Blige has created a foundation called FFAWN - Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now. "Working with FFAWN is a rare opportunity to help spread the STEM message into communities not always readily accessible to us," astronaut Melvin said. "Mary's presence can help NASA make the STEM message more appealing to these communities and increase the pipeline of underrepresented students going into these disciplines."
Working with the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy project at York College of the City University of New York (CUNY), the joint effort is providing on-the-job training for FFAWN high school participants. High school girls in the program then in turn work with middle school students the following summer as part of the Summer of Innovation, a presidential initiative.
The National Groundwater Association (NGWA) urges you to join them in observing Protect Your Groundwater Day on September 14, 2010. Many people don't realize how vulnerable our groundwater resources are, or how much we depend on them, and the NGWA is working to raise awareness about how we can keep groundwater safe from contamination and use it wisely.
To discuss groundwater protection and other groundwater-related issues, visit NGWA’s Protect Your Groundwater page and post your comments or questions on the their discussion board.
For more information on Protect Your Groundwater Day, contact NGWA Public Awareness Director Cliff Treyens at 800 551.7379, (614 898.7791), ext. 554, or email email@example.com.
Three runner-ups will also receive two historical trees for their school or community along with an educational program to teach students and the community about the significance of the trees and how to care for them.
The contest will be starting after Labor Day, and anyone interested can contact Brittney Kirk (Kirkb@cintas.com) or (513)701-2290 for more details.
NASA is challenging high school teams to design software to program small satellites aboard the International Space Station. The competition centers on the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES.
SPHERES are bowling ball-sized spherical satellites used to test maneuvers for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking. Three of these satellites fly inside the station's cabin. Each is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment.
The Zero-Robotics investigation, run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., is designed to inspire future scientists and engineers. The teams are asked to address challenges of satellite docking, assembly and flight formation. The 2010 Zero-Robotics Challenge expands on a limited pilot program performed in fall 2009. This expanded pilot, called HelioSPHERES, will involve high schools from across the country during the 2010 - 2011 academic year. This new education program builds critical engineering skills for students, such as problem solving, design thought process, operations training, teamwork and presentation skills.
The first 100 high school teams to register by Sept. 10 will be selected for the competition. Their full proposals are due by Sept. 14. More information and registration instructions are available at: http://zerorobotics.mit.edu
The QuestBridge National College Match helps high-achieving high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to some of the nation's most selective colleges. If you are the teacher of a promising student who has excelled academically while facing economic challenges, encourage that student to apply.
The QuestBridge National College Match application provides students with a single, free application to partner colleges. It is designed to offer high-achieving students the opportunity to highlight their strengths and the obstacles they have overcome. The application is available on the QuestBridge web site (www.questbridge.org) and is due September 30th, 2010.
QuestBridge is a venture of the Quest Scholars Program, a nationally focused non-profit organization that has worked since 1994 to connect outstanding students with college admissions, scholarships, and other educational opportunities.
If you like music, the space program, and are a little nostalgic, NASA has the perfect opportunity for you.
Traditionally, the songs played to wake up the astronauts are selected by friends and family of the crews. For the last two scheduled missions, NASA is inviting the public to visit the "Wakeup Song Contest" website to select songs from a list of the top 40 previous wakeup calls or to submit original tunes for consideration.
The two songs with the most votes from the list of top 40 previous wakeup calls will be played as crew wakeup calls on the final scheduled flight of space shuttle Discovery. Discovery's STS-133 mission is targeted to launch on November 1, 2010.
In a separate contest, the top two original songs submitted by the public will be used to wake space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 crew. Original songs must have a space theme and be submitted to NASA by 4 p.m. CST on Jan. 10, 2011. The songs will be reviewed by agency officials and the top finalists will be put to a public vote. Endeavor's STS-134 mission is scheduled to launch February 26, 2011.
The PEYA program promotes
awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive
community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States
has joined with the EPA to recognize young people across the U.S. who are
protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. It is one of the
most important ways the EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to
environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation’s
young people. One outstanding project from each region is selected for
national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals,
school classes (K-12), summer camps, and youth organizations to promote
environmental stewardship. Thousands of young people from all 50 states
and the U.S. territories have submitted projects to the EPA for
consideration. Winning projects in the past have covered a wide range of
subject areas, including:
Evaluation results consistently demonstrate that the experience is a life-changing event for many of the young people and sponsors who participate.
"How Do We Explore?" - Okeanos Explorer Online Teacher Professional Development Series Date: October 11 - 29, 2010
This three-week online professional development offering will introduce participants to the new Education Materials Collection for the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Entitled "How Do We Explore?," this course has been designed to include instruction on topics including searching for anomalies, selecting sites for exploration, communication tools including telepresence technology, mapping techniques, water column study and operating remotely operated vehicles. It will include inquiry-based lessons for all grade-levels, and facilitated online reflective conversations about how we approach the study of our largely unexplored ocean.
The workshop is free for all participants and will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Educators will have the option to receive one graduate credit ($90) or obtain a certificate of completion. To register, please visit http://coexploration.org/oe/
NASA has given gamers a taste of lunar adventure with release of Moonbase Alpha, an exciting new, free online video game.
The game has single and multiplayer options that allow participants to step into the role of an exploration team member in a futuristic 3-D lunar settlement. Players must work to restore critical systems and oxygen flow after a meteor strike cripples a solar array and life support equipment. Available resources include an interactive command center, lunar rover, mobile robotic repair units and a fully-stocked equipment shed.
The game is a proof of concept to show how NASA content can be combined with a cutting-edge game engine to inspire, engage and educate students about agency technologies, job opportunities and the future of space exploration. Moonbase Alpha is rated "E" for everyone.
PS. We won't tell anyone if you join your class of students in the fun!
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.