Please visit our Web Seminars page to view archived webinars on topics in space science, planetary science, and astronomy. The webinars were recently offered by NESTA and Windows to the Universe and featured 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). Enjoy learning about tides, dwarf planets, distances in space, galaxies, and more on the Windows to the Universe Web Seminar page.
Site and Science News
We have books, CD's, DVD's, and even classroom materials for the geoscience enthusiasts on your list!
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After 10 years of hard work, the Rosetta mission has made history by being the first to deploy a lander (named Philae) to the surface of a comet (Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) on November 12 at 12:35 AM PST. Images from the Rosetta mission are breathtaking! The lander is currently asleep, but Rosetta will now enter its full science phase. Keep abreast of mission happenings using the Rosetta main page. For images, click here.
Winter storm Astro swept through the northern and midwestern U.S. last week bringing with it over 1.5 feet of snow in places and plummeting temperatures. Currently, winter storm Cato is snarling Thanksgiving travel with snow, wind, and freezing rain. More winter storms are surely on the way!
Snowflakes are intricate and fascinating. Some are perfectly symmetrical and others are lopsided, depending on the conditions occurring in the atmosphere when the snowflake falls to the ground. Blizzards are very powerful storms, with winds greater than 35 mph (56 kph), large amounts of snow, and visibility of less than ¼ mile (0.4 km).
If you live in an area with cold and snowy winters, be on the alert for severe weather advisories. Check out our information on blizzard safety - cold temperatures can cause frostbite or hypothermia and winter storms can create dangerous driving conditions. Be safe out there!
Also, we encourage you to check out our Postcards from the Field - Antarctica. That will put cold weather into perspective!
This year, the Moon will make viewing a bit difficult since the waning moon will rise about half way through the viewing window (between sunset and dawn) and this will make faint meteors harder to see. Still, the Geminids are often the most active shower during fall and winter. Meteors may be visible for a few nights before and after the 13th, though the best viewing is expected on the 13th into the 14th when more than 50-100 meteors per hour could appear (the intensities of meteor showers are notoriously difficult to predict!). You can always watch this shower before moonrise or try to place a row of trees or hedges between you and the moon, so that viewing is maximized! The brightest of the meteors should still overcome moonlight skies. Find out when moon rise and set are at your location.
This year, the solstice falls on December 21st, which is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. The solstices (winter and summer) 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. The solstice is when the Sun shifts the direction of this apparent migration. The word "solstice" comes from two Latin roots: "sol", which means "Sun", and "sistere", which translates as "stand still".
Many cultures around the world celebrate the winter solstice. These celebrations include festivals of light or acknowledgement of rebirth. Historically, in many places in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice included a large feast because it occurred just before the coldest part of winter, and this was a good time to slaughter livestock so they wouldn't have to be fed during the winter months. This can provide some "food for thought" for your students as we head into our own season of holiday celebrations!
Many holidays are celebrated in the month of December. We wish that your holidays might be happy and peaceful. Here are some ideas for keeping those holidays "Green". Please share them with your students and hopefully, they will share them with family and friends!
Our "Green" Holiday Ideas:
2. Put small electric candles in your windows as a house decoration versus the long strings of lights and light bulbs. Use compact fluorescent bulbs in the candles. Turn them off when you turn in for the night or use timers so that you don't forget!
3. When shopping for holiday meals, don't worry about the question of paper versus plastic - bring your own reusable bags to the store! Many stores give monetary credit for your effort and you keep paper or plastic out of landfills.
4. Instead of sending paper holiday cards in the mail, send an e-card to family and friends. This saves materials and the energy needed for production and delivery of paper cards. With the money saved, consider making a charitable donation in the name of your family and friends.
5. Of course, you can give new life to the holiday cards you do receive in the mail - by cutting out your favorite images and reusing them as gift tags. Kids love helping with this holiday "chore"!
6. When you're on the road for a quick meal, remember to take a minimum of napkins. Many people take a large handful, only to throw away many unused napkins. If everyone takes just the napkins they need, we can save thousands of pounds of waste from needlessly filling landfills. At home, use cloth napkins.
7. Use gift bags instead of wrap, they can be reused for several years. Or make your own gift wrap out of old newspapers! Also, you can always visit the remnants bin at the local fabric store for present wrapping "paper". There are many, many pieces large enough to wrap just about anything. Plus the cloth is re-usable year after year!
8. Choose your gifts wisely. For example, gifts of food add less to our collective "domestic mass accumulation", and significantly reduce our CO2 emissions. Vegan, locally-produced, organic food, with its own natural packaging (e.g., a pie one bakes from locally grown pumpkins or bushel of avocados) is perfect!
9. A final idea from the EPA - Reduce food waste. As we enter the holiday season remember to feed people – not landfills. 1 in 6 Americans lacks food security. Donate your extra food to your local food bank and prevent waste by being smart about what you buy, how you prep, and how you store your food. And, if you do end up with some scraps, compost them.
Happy and "Green" Holidays from the Windows to the Universe Team!
In the traditional Christian story of Christmas, a star is described that glowed so bright in the sky that three kings, also known as wise men, followed it from the far east and it led them to Bethlehem shortly after the baby Jesus was born. Known as the Star of Bethlehem, this bright star has been intriguing to astronomers for centuries.
Astronomers have developed several possible explanations of what that astronomical sighting may have been. Some think it was a nova (an exploding star that would stay bright in the sky for a few days). Others hypothesize that it was not a star, but a comet. The most probable astronomical hypothesis to explain the bright star is a planetary conjunction. A conjunction is when two or more objects appear very close together in the sky.
Of course, there are other theories as well. This Wikipedia article provides an interesting summary covering a range of theories about the Star of Bethlehem.
While our minds wander towards warm comfort foods this time of year, let us not forget the diversity of living things that makes those foods possible. When you look at your holiday table you may instantly recognize the presence of representatives from the Kingdoms Animalia and Plantae, but did you realize that the two other kingdoms of the Eukaryota domain of life may be contributing to your holiday meal as well? Here are a couple of examples of how some unsung, single-celled heroes of the Kingdom’s Fungi and Protista wind up at the table.
To get dough to rise, bakers rely on single-celled helpers called yeast. Yeasts are living things, classified as part of the Kingdom Fungi. They are eukaryotic microorganisms. Not only found in your bread dough, wild yeasts are also found worldwide in ocean and terrestrial ecosystems. In the kitchen, yeast eats sugars in the dough and respires making carbon dioxide bubbles, causing the dough to rise. When the dough is baked, the yeast die.
Algae, usually included within the Kingdom Protista, are a staple in Asian cuisine. Even if you do not eat them, algae can contribute to your dinner because they are used as fertilizer in organic farming. Most industrial fertilizers are made chemically and are problematic for ecosystems when they get into waterways, forming dead zones where rivers empty into the ocean. Organic farms do not use these fertilizers, but instead use natural soil amendments such as species of algae called kelp. Kelp is brown algae that grow in cold-water areas of the shallow ocean, forming large forests that are home to a diversity of marine life.
For centuries, people have tried to predict the weather, and we’ve come to expect that meteorologists can usually give us a pretty good sense of what conditions will be like in a given location over the next few days. But what about long-range forecasts that extend out much further, and predict general trends in weather over a whole season?
Various almanacs, such as Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, or the Farmer’s Almanac (which is still being published in 2014-15), have attempted to provide long-range weather forecasts through the years, often with the idea of helping farmers plan their planting and harvesting activities throughout the year. These publications often rely on secret methods for predicting weather trends, and have generally not proven to be more accurate than random chance.
More recently, computer modeling of global weather patterns has led to scientists being able to make general predictions about months of weather. In the United States, these predictions take into account things like the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, the position of the jet stream, temperatures of the oceans surrounding the U.S., and other factors, and they can accurately forecast overall levels of rain and snow, the frequency of major storms, and gross trends in temperature by anticipating how different weather systems (high and low pressure systems, storms, or air currents) will move and interact throughout the upcoming season.
Better data from scientific studies and better computer models will help make this process more and more accurate as time goes on, but weather forecasting beyond a few days from now remains a very difficult and complex thing to do. You can read more about how weather and climate are modeled by scientists on the Windows to the Universe site and see predictions for U.S. 2014-15 winter weather from both the Farmer’s almanac and the National Weather Service (a modern, computational model). You can also read NOAA's Winter Outlook 2014-15 which was released on October 16th.
Ocean water is always moving. It moves around surface ocean currents in the upper 400 meters of the ocean, creating swift-flowing currents like the Gulf Stream and eddies that spin off the flow of water. Water from deep in the ocean moves towards the surface by upwelling. Currents along coastlines move water as well as sand. Each day ocean water moves with the tides. And, over a long time, water circulates from the deep ocean to shallow ocean and back again because of thermohaline circulation.
December in the northern hemisphere often brings with it chilly temperatures and snow and ice to go with those dropping temperatures. Did you know that we have a suite of activities that have to do with the poles of the Earth? Get in the mood for some "chilly" classroom activities!
We have some powerful visual interactives that can only be used online. Middle school to high school students can access this page to look at animations of annual variation of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, to compare images of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice side-by-side, and to utilize an interactive about the Earth's north magnetic pole.
We have several activities that cover the topic of glaciers. Model a Moving Glacier has students make a model of glacier motion and then experiment with it. There's also Glaciers: Then and Now where students compare photographs of glaciers to observe how Alaskan glaciers have changed over the last century.
Educators, you may now register to attend GIFT 2014! In this free two-day workshop (December 15-16) at the AGU Fall Meeting, you will hear from scientists about the latest geoscience research and learn new ways to incorporate science into your classroom. Attendees will be given classroom materials and teaching guides, and will be shown hands-on activities to engage students in learning about a variety of geoscience topics. Visit the GIFT Workshop page to register.
AGU’s Live Education Activity Resource Network (LEARN) is a great resource for K-12 teachers. LEARN contains videos and teaching guides from AGU’s GIFT (Geophysical Information for Teachers) workshop, designed to provide geoscience educators with hands-on activities they can use to engage their students in such topics as climate change, earthquakes, planetary science, and more. All of the resources tie back to the Next Generation Science Standards. And, if you have a great activity that you’d like to share, you can also submit your own video to the LEARN collection.
The National Center for Science Education’s Mark McCaffrey has a new resource to improve your students’ understanding of the intersection of science and social policy by making climate and energy literacy the centerpiece of your curriculum. The book offers a virtual blueprint to climate and energy education, packed with resources and strategies, including:
For details about Climate Smart & Energy Wise and for ordering information, visit the publisher’s website: http://www.corwin.com/books/Book241767.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Calendar of Events
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Foundation will award $6,000 at its Annual Convention in Denver (May 2015) to its Teacher of the Year.
Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), December 8-14, 2014, is a call to action to share information and offer activities that will promote computing and elevate computer science education for students at all levels. Everyone can participate (even if you don't own a computer!)!
One of the big events this year will be to have as MANY people as possible participate in an Hour of Code - a one hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify "code" and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator. If you take on the Hour of Code, you will join over 46,882,000 people that have tried an Hour of Code! That is just one of the many events planned for CSEdWeek. If you are a CS teacher, see our Participation Kit for CS Teachers, and if you plan a special event, tell us about it so we can celebrate your hard work.
Computer science education prepares students for engaging and high-paying computing careers. Hundreds of thousands of new computing jobs will be created in the next decade. Get ready for the future!
NASA's Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is now accepting applications for the Cycle 3 – 2015 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) Program. The AAA program is an exciting opportunity for educators. The teams that are selected receive online astronomy instruction and a trip to Palmdale, California, to participate in two SOFIA Science Flights. The science flights offer educators interaction with astronomers, engineers, and technicians on board the aircraft, and a view of the collaboration that leads to astronomical data collection and the research papers that follow.
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.
Find out how to apply. The annual deadline for the regional award program is December 31.
NASA has opened team registration for the 2015 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the event will be held April 16-18, 2015, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, also in Huntsville.
The challenge engages high school, college and university students in hands-on, experiential learning activities, while also testing potential technologies needed for future deep space exploration. Both U.S. and international teams may register to participate. For U.S. teams, registration closes February 6, 2015. Registration for international teams closes January 9, 2015.
Student teams participating in the Rover Challenge must design, engineer and test a human-powered rover on a mock course designed to simulate the harsh and demanding terrains future NASA explorers may find on distant planets, moons and asteroids.
"Throughout the months-long process, students gain meaningful experience and valuable feedback, while receiving encouragement to pursue technical careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Diedra Williams, an education specialist in Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office. "Students must use their educational background to apply practical designs and solve engineering problems similar to those encountered by NASA mission teams."
AGI has announced details for the 2015 Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching. Each year, this award recognizes one full-time, U.S., K-8 teacher for leadership and innovation in Earth science education.
This award is named in honor of Dr. Edward C. Roy, Jr., a past president of AGI, who was a strong and dedicated supporter of Earth science education. To learn more, visit http://www.agiweb.org/education/awards/ed-roy.
The EPA is looking for nominations for the 2015 Gulf Guardian Awards. These awards recognize businesses, community groups, individuals, or organizations taking extraordinary steps to keep the Gulf of Mexico healthy, beautiful, and productive. Nominations are due January 15.
The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) encourages U.S.-based geoscience professionals, faculty, students, and enthusiasts to sign up and receive their own free lapel pin stating "I'm a Geoscientist." Enter in mailing information at this link and be part of increasing the visibility and diversity of the profession.
Ever wish you could go online to search for a classroom activity tailor-made to match the Earth science topic you’re teaching? Visit the Earth Science Week Classroom Activities page - continually updated and recently redesigned - for more than 120 free learning activities.
The National Park Service wants you to become a Web Ranger! The interactive Web Ranger program helps people of all ages learn about the national parks. For example, enter White Sands National Monument in New Mexico from your desktop and identify animal tracks left in the 275 square miles of gypsum dunes that give the park its name.
The new "Energy Savings Plus Health" guidance offers practical guidance to help school districts protect school indoor air quality and increase energy efficiency during school renovations. Nearly 55 million elementary and secondary students attend school, but about 25 million are not yet protected by indoor air quality management programs.
The Young Meteorologist Program (YMP) is an innovative, fun, and informational online game designed to help students learn to prepare for weather-related disasters. YMP was created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the non-profit organizations American Meteorological Society (AMS) and PLAN!T NOW as a free resource that can be utilized in classrooms to help students comprehend complex natural phenomena, and learn actions they can take to keep themselves and their families safe.
Weather is a feature that inspires curiosity and fear, and impacts every person on Earth. The AMS is distributing this online game to its vast network of U.S. K-12 science teachers, ensuring this resource reaches thousands of AMS-trained science teachers and their students. Educators can use this activity to supplement general Earth science lessons at their schools. There is an expanded section for educators available on the Young Meteorologist website that includes lesson plans, related math activities, videos, and discussion pieces ideal for helping teach about weather.
YMP is set up as a five-module game covering natural disasters including hurricanes, lightning, flooding, tornadoes, and winter storms. Using new media, students follow Owlie, a young owl led by two meteorologists, and Girdie, a wise bird who challenges common misconceptions people have about weather events. The game is filled with clever rhymes, familiar games, and some math to reinforce safety messages, and is best suited for middle school-aged students. The entire game takes 1-2 hours to complete, ending with a certificate of completion to share with family and friends.
For over 14 years, crews have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station. You can see the orbiting laboratory when it passes over your home! NASA's "Spot the Station" service will send an email or text message to those who sign up for the service a few hours before they will be able to see the space station.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a climate education web site for students, teachers, and school administrators, including information and activities related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Table of Contents
SITE AND NEWS
Rosetta Land Comet
Winter Weather 2014
Geminids MS 2014
Star of Wonder
DEW & Picture Post
AAPG Teacher Award
CS Ed Week 12/8-14
2015 Roy Award
Gulf Guardian Awards
Free Pins From AGI
ES Classroom Lessons
Air Quality School
Spot Space Station
EPA Climate Resource
Information about Opportunities with Stipends, Honorariums, or Awards for Teachers/students
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.