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March 2011

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Hope to See You at NSTA!

As you will see below, Windows to the Universe and NESTA have a very busy schedule at NSTA, with a total of 23 events! I hope to see those of you that can make it to one or more of our workshops or other events. Speaking of events, I'd like to draw your attention to the following:

  • NESTA Field Trip, March 9, San Francisco - With the help of Dr. Dave Schwartz (USGS), an exciting pre-NSTA Field Trip is planned for Wednesday, March 9. The field trip, "A Tour of Subsidence, Jurassic Cherts, Active Faults, and an Antiform!", will be lead by Dr. Schwartz. Please get your registration in as soon as possible so we can get an accurate count. You can register on the NESTA website as well as find out more information about the trip. Save an extra $5 by registering online before March 8. Tickets are $65 per person online before March 8 and $70 per person onsite.
  • NESTA Breakfast, Saturday, March 12, San Francisco - Join us for the NESTA Earth and Space Science Resource Day Breakfast. We will have a nice, sit-down breakfast, and will have a breakfast speaker. Dr. Jesse Lawrence, from the Stanford University Department of Geophysics, will speak about the Quake-Catcher Network. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN – http://qcn.stanford.edu) is the largest and fastest-growing seismic network in the world. QCN connects inexpensive seismic sensors to internet-connected computers hosted by individuals and schools. These inexpensive sensors are ideal for teaching concepts related to earthquake seismology. In addition, QCN provides software to help understand how earthquake records relate to earthquake motion. Come learn how you and your students can become Quake Catchers. Tickets to this breakfast are available only through the NESTA website at http://www.nestanet.org/cms/content/conferences/register. Tickets are $48 per person before March 8 and $53 per person onsite (where we will probably have a limited number of seats still available).

400 Years of Sunspot Observation

Sunspots are dark, planet-sized regions that appear on the "surface" of the Sun. Sunspots are "dark" because they are cooler than their surroundings. It is thought that Chinese astronomers might have been writing about sunspots in records as early as 800 B.C. The first clear mention of a sunspot in Western literature was on 17 March 807 A.D. by the Benedictine monk Adelmus who thought it was a transit of Mercury. John of Worcester, and Averroes described sunspots in the 12th century, but also mistook them for planetary transits.

Shortly after the invention of the telescope, on March 9, 1611, German astronomers, father and son David and Johannes Fabricius used it to observe sunspots. They tracked the spots as they moved along the Sun's face and made a conclusion that the Sun rotates on its axis. It is possible that sunspots were observed with a telescope in 1610 by Galileo and English astronomer Thomas Harriot, but Johannes Fabricius was the first to publish his observations. This publication, however, passed unnoticed and in 1612, Galileo and German astronomer, Christoph Scheiner, also studied sunspots and had a bitter dispute over who should get credit for the original discovery of sunspots.

Read more about sunspots, the sunspot cycle and the history of sunspot observations on Windows to the Universe. Read more about David and Johannes Fabricius on The Galileo Project.

Changing Planet Classroom Activities: Indicators of Climate Change

When we look around us, we can see that our planet's climate is changing rapidly. The National Earth Science Teachers Association and Windows to the Universe are working together with NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation to explore the impact that climate change is having on our planet. The resources developed highlight twelve key indicators of climate change, as well as lesson plans for teachers to use to explore the science behind these indicators with their students at the secondary level. Thus far, the topics of Fading Corals, Rising Ocean Temperatures - Rising Sea Levels, Withering Plants - Stressing Over Lost Water, The Warming of Our Large Lakes - Reasons for Concern, and Fresh Water in the Arctic - The Case of the Leaky Gyre have been covered. Check back every Friday through April 15, 2011 for a new video and classroom activity!

New Zealand Earthquake

Shortly after noon local time on February 22, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand, causing major damage to the city of Christchurch and its surrounding communities. When this newsletter was published, there were nearly 150 people confirmed dead, more than 200 still missing, and estimates have suggested that the earthquake's damage will cost more than $10 billion USD, making it a major disaster in terms of lives lost and economic costs.

The February earthquake followed on the heels of a larger earthquake that occurred in the same area in September 2010, and some scientists believe that the February quake is an aftershock of the earlier one. Either way, the more recent quake was more deadly because its epicenter was both closer to Christchurch and shallower than the September quake.

Many countries from around the world have already responded by sending search and rescue personnel, medical assistance teams, and rescue equipment, as well as monetary aid to New Zealand. Rescue and cleanup efforts are continuing, and the New Zealand Red Cross is coordinating aid for the victims of this catastrophe.

Simulations & Interactives

I thought I'd post some of my favorite simulations and interactives on Windows to the Universe for your enjoyment!

Participate in Earth Hour on March 26th!

During Earth Hour hundreds of millions of people, organizations, corporations and governments around the world will come together to make a bold statement about their concern for climate change by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for one hour. The movement shows that by working together, individuals can make a positive impact. To participate, turn off your lights on March 26th at 8:30 p.m. local time. After participating in Earth Hour 2011, think about the next steps you can take to help make the world we live in a better place. Together our actions add up!

For more information about the science of Earth's climate system, visit the Climate and Global Change section of Windows to the Universe. There you will find information about the science of climate, the impact of climate change on the Earth system, climates of the past, climate modeling, short summaries of the reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, and a blog about the happenings at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009. Also, visit our suite of classroom activities that allow students to explore aspects of climate science.

NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers Its First Earth-size Planet Candidates

NASA's Kepler mission has discovered its first Earth-size planet candidates and its first candidates in the habitable zone, a region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface. The Kepler mission has identified 1,235 planet candidates to date. Of these, 68 are approximately Earth-size, 54 are in the habitable zone, and only five are both.

Kepler's field of view covers approximately 1/400 of the sky. "The fact that we've found so many planet candidates in such a tiny fraction of the sky suggests there are countless planets orbiting sun-like stars in our galaxy," said William Borucki of NASA's Ames Research Center. Kepler, a space telescope launched in March 2009, looks for planet signatures by measuring tiny decreases in the brightness of stars caused by planets crossing in front of them. For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

2011 Has Been Declared the International Year of Forests

The United Nations has proclaimed 2011 as the International Year of Forests (Forests 2011). Forests play a critical role in food security and provide a livelihood for more than 1.6 billion people. Forests cover 31% of our total land area and are home to many species of plants and animals. When asked for remarks about Forests 2011, Ambassador Betty E. King, Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the UN said, "In fact, healthy forests hold about 46% of the world’s terrestrial carbon stores. Yet, when forests suffer from drought, disease, and deforestation, their ability to absorb carbon is diminished and they actually emit greenhouse gases. Up to 20% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and forest degradation. If we are to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees centigrade, we must turn our collective energy to reducing deforestation, managing existing forests, and establishing new forests."

Use the Calendar of Events to find a Forests 2011 event near you. Or plant a tree on or around March 21st, World Forestry Day.

Welcome Spring! Let's Celebrate!

As spring approaches in the northern hemisphere, it's a great time to discuss the reason for the seasons. The official first day of spring this year in the northern hemisphere will be March 20, 2011. Celebrate the end of a long winter by going outside and enjoying the great outdoors!

The tilt of Earth's rotational axis and the Earth's orbit work together to create the seasons. As the Earth travels around the Sun, it remains tipped in the same direction, towards the star Polaris.

At the equinoxes, 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 spring and autumn and are a transition between the two more extreme seasons, summer and winter.

While the vernal equinox corresponds to the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of fall in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a great thing to note with your students. As you know, seasons are an area where many misconceptions lie (especially concerning the reason for the seasons!).

Women in Science History

March is Women's History Month. Read about notable women scientists on Windows to the Universe:

  • En Hedu' Anna - the first female name to be recorded in technical history. She was a priestess in Babylon and along with other priests contributed to early astronomy and mathematics.
  • Hypatia (370-415) - an Egyptian mathematician and philosopher. She was killed due to her teachings, which were considered pagan.
  • Maria Winkelmann Kirch (1670-1720) - a German astronomer.
  • Nicole-Reine Lepaute (1723-1788) - a French astronomer.
  • Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) - a German astronomer who worked alongside her brother, astronomer William Herschel. Her birthday is on March 16.
  • Ada Byron (1815-1852) - a British mathematician and one of the pioneers in computer programming.
  • Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) - an American astronomer and the first female professor of astronomy in the United States.
  • Williamina Fleming (1857-1911) - an American astronomer.
  • Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921) - an American astronomer who discovered cepheid variables.
  • Florence Bascom (1862-1945) - an American geologist.
  • Marie Curie (1867-1934) - a Polish physicist and chemist who received two Nobel prizes for her studies in radioactivity.
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell (born in 1943) - a British astronomer who discovered pulsars.
  • Wangari Maathai (born in 1943) - a Kenyan scientist who has worked for many years to stop deforestation in Africa.
  • Evelyn Granville (born in 1924) - an American mathematician who contributed to NASA's Space Shuttle program.

NSTA National Conference in San Francisco - March 10-13, 2011

Will you be at the NSTA National Conference (March 10-13, 2011)? We will!

Please note that a pre-NSTA Field Trip will be offered by NESTA on March 9 in San Francisco. The trip, "A Tour of Subsidence, Jurassic Cherts, Active Faults, and an Antiform!", will be lead by Dr. Schwartz of USGS. Register on the NESTA website as soon as possible to reserve your spot!

We invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.

NSTA National Conference - San Francisco

Date Title Time Location
Thursday, March 10 Activities from Across the Earth System 8:00-9:00am Moscone Center, 220 & 222
Tackling the Global Warming Challenge 9:30-10:30am Marriott San Francisco Marquis, Yerba Buena Salon 11
Playing with Ecosystem Science: Informal Modeling Games 12:30-1:30pm Marriott San Francisco Marquis, Yerba Buena Salon 11
Friday, March 11 NESTA Geology Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30 am Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D
NESTA Oceans and Atmosphere Share-a-Thon 11:00-12:00pm Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D
NESTA Space Science Share-Thon 12:30-1:30pm Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D
Point, Game, Set, Match: Science Wins with Tennis Ball Containers 12:30-1:30pm Hilton San Fran Union Square, Continental 3
Radiation Storm vs. the Magnetic Shield: Superheroes of Magnetism and Space Weather Education 2:00-3:00pm Moscone Center, 220 & 222
NESTA Friends of Earth Science Reception 6:30-8:00pm Marriott San Francisco Marquis, Club Room
Saturday, March 12 NESTA Resource Day Breakfast - Bringing earthquake seismology into your classroom with the Quake- Catcher Network 7:00-8:30am Marriott San Francisco Marquis, Nob Hill A
NESTA Earthquake Hazards and Seismology Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30 am Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D
Virtual Labs in the Earth Sciences: Melting Ice, Warming Climate, and Ballooning Through the Stratosphere 9:30-10:30am Moscone Center, 232 & 234
NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lecture 1 - Earthquake Forecasting in California 11:30-12:30pm Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D
NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lecture 2 - Imaging the Earth Beneath our Feet – Pictures of the Earthquake-Producing Machinery in the Western US and Alaska 12:30-1:30pm Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D
NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lecture 3 - The Tortoise and the Hare: A Tale of Faults that Creep 1:30-2:30pm Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D
NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-5:00pm Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D
NESTA Annual Membership Meeting 5:00-6:30pm Moscone Center, Meeting Room, Hall D

Table of Contents

CP Class Activities
NZ Earthquake
Earth Hour
Kepler Mission
Year of Forests
Celebrate Spring!
Women Scientists
NSTA San Fran 2011


Ground Water Aware
Sun-Earth Day
World Water Day
Earth Hour 3/26
EE Week in April
Free Equipment!
Global Science Fair
R. Carson Contest
Educators Defy Grav
ING Awards
Friends for Change
AAAS Prize
Sea Turtles
Urban Env Challenge
Env Research Contest
Leave No Trace
AMNH Awards
Env Ed Award
ES Week 2011














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Announcements from Partners

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National Ground Water Awareness Week, March 6-12, 2011

Ground Water Awareness Week (March 6-12, 2011) will shed light on one of the world’s most important resources - ground water. Ground water is essential to the health and well being of humanity and the environment, according to the National Ground Water Association.

To learn more about Ground Water Awareness Week, see http://www.ngwa.org/public/awarenessweek/index.aspx. Visit the Virtual Museum of Ground Water History or watch a “water well show”. To find information on ground water and well stewardship, visit NGWA’s web site for well owners.

Celebrate Sun-Earth Day on March 19

Celebrate Sun-Earth Day on March 19th! NASA has collected many resources to help you and your students celebrate this day. This year's theme, 'Ancient Mysteries-Future Discoveries', opens the door to a much deeper understanding of our Sun and its impact across the ages.

World Water Day 2011 is March 22

International World Water Day is held annually on March 22nd as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Each year, World Water Day highlights a different aspect of freshwater. The objective of World Water Day 2011 is to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization, climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems. This year's theme, Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge, aims to encourage governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the challenges of urban water management.

Turn Your Lights Off for Earth Hour! (March 26, 2011)

During Earth Hour hundreds of millions of people, organizations, corporations and governments around the world will come together to make a bold statement about their concern for climate change by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for one hour. The movement shows that by working together, individuals can make a positive impact. To participate, turn off your lights on March 26th at 8:30 p.m. local time. After participating in Earth Hour 2011, think about the next steps you can take to help make the world we live in a better place. Together our actions add up!

Environmental Education Week is April 10-16th

National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), the nation’s largest environmental education event, held April 10-16, 2011, inspires environmental learning and stewardship. Focusing this year on the theme “Ocean Connections,” EE Week connects educators with environmental resources to promote K-12 students’ understanding of the environment.

The ocean covers nearly 3/4 of our planet's surface, provides 70% of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and houses about 20% of the known species on Earth, according to the event organizer, the National Environmental Education Foundation. The ocean also regulates climate and weather and provides food and energy resources for humans worldwide.

EE Week provides lesson plans and classroom resources on ocean science - with a special focus on the Gulf oil spill - at http://eeweek.org/ocean_connections.htm. Register for EE Week at http://eeweek.org/register.htm to receive certificates of participation, free online resources, information on professional development and funding opportunities, access to discounts on educational materials, and facts and quizzes that tie into this year's theme.

Energy Lab Program Open to Schools

American middle and high schools are now eligible to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy-Related Laboratory Equipment (ERLE) program. For over 30 years, this program has enabled colleges and universities to acquire hundreds of millions of dollars in high-quality surplus laboratory equipment from the department’s National Laboratories.

The listing of free equipment available through ERLE is updated periodically, as new equipment is identified. Equipment is awarded on a first-received application, first-qualified basis. The Department of Energy, an active Earth Science Week partner, invites schools to acquire equipment by reviewing the list at the ERLE web site and completing an electronic application form.

New Global Science Fair

Google has partnered with NASA, CERN, National Geographic, Scientific American, and the LEGO Group to create the Global Science Fair competition, open to students ages 13-18. The science fair will culminate in an event in July 2011 at Google headquarters in California, where finalists will compete for internships, scholarships, and prizes.

Submissions are due by April 4, 2011. To find out more information and to sign up for free resource kits for your classroom or school, visit the Global Science fair website at http://www.google.com/sciencefair.

Rachel Carson "Sense of Wonder" Contest

Enter the Rachel Carson "Sense of Wonder" contest. Show how the beauty of nature inspires you through poetry, essays, photos or dance. Entries must be from a team of two or more persons, and must include a young person and an older person. The deadline for team entries is June 10, 2011.

NASA Seeks K-12 Educators To Defy Gravity, Conduct Research

For the first time, NASA is offering K-12 teachers from across the country an opportunity usually reserved for researchers -- the chance to design a science experiment and then test it aboard a microgravity research plane. Proposals should be submitted to NASA's Teaching From Space office by March 14.

On March 30, NASA will select 14 teams, composed of four or more teachers. This summer, teachers and their experiments will fly aboard a modified Boeing 727 jetliner.

To achieve weightlessness, the aircraft makes roller-coaster-like climbs and dips to produce periods of micro- and hyper-gravity, ranging from 0 g's to 2 g's. It takes about 30 climbs to be able to complete an experiment.

ING Unsung Heroes Celebrates Innovation and Creativity Among Nation's Teachers

Are you an educator with a class project that is short on funding but long on potential? Do you know a teacher looking for grant dollars? ING Unsung Heroes® could help you turn great ideas into reality for students.

For more than 10 years, and with $3.0 million in awarded grants, ING Unsung Heroes has proven to be an A+ program with educators. The program’s “alumni” have inspired success in the classroom and have impacted countless numbers of students. Each year, 100 educators are selected to receive $2,000 to help fund their innovative class projects. Three of those are chosen to receive the top awards of an additional $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000. The application deadline is April 30, 2011.

Disney Friends for Change Grants

YSA (Youth Service America), together with Disney, is now accepting applications from youth around the world for the Disney Friends for Change-YSA Grants. The grants fund youth-led service projects that focus on making environmentally beneficial changes and engage youth on Global Youth Service Days, April 15-17.

The Disney Friends for Change program will award fifty $500 grants to youth-led service projects that demonstrate youth leadership, creativity, and the commitment to making a positive impact on the environment. Applicants must be between the ages of 5-25 and must be associated with a school or organization. Disney's Friends for Change initiative encourages projects that address issues of waste, habitat, climate, and water. Apply By: 04/17/2011

AAAS Leadership in Science Education Prize for High School Teachers

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Leadership in Science Education Prize for High School Teachers recognizes high school science teachers for the development and implementation of innovative methods for teaching and encouraging the next generation of scientists. Teachers must be currently employed as a science instructor in a public or private school for grades 9-12 in the U.S. or its territories. Teachers must be nominated by an administrator within their school, district or state. The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize to support the development and continuation of the strategy, activity or program. Additionally, an announcement will be published on the AAAS website and in Science magazine and the winner will receive a one-year institutional subscription to Science magazine. Applications for the 2011 AAAS Leadership in Science Education Prize must be received no later than 27 May 2011.

Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest

Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest, a game developed by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Ocean Service, is designed to help students understand how they can help protect turtles and their habitat. The game takes place in the southeastern United States. Students are introduced to all of the people and animals that play a role in the life of loggerhead turtles.

For more educational games created by NOAA, see http://games.noaa.gov/.

National Earth Science Teachers Association at National NSTA!

Did you know that the National Earth Science Teachers Association will be very involved at the National NSTA conference in San Francisco? Join this supportive teachers' network and you can meet other NESTA members at the NSTA National conference. These NESTA members have great ideas for teaching Earth science, and their enthusiasm for the geosciences is contagious! Other membership benefits 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.

Here's a complete listing of NESTA events at the National NSTA meeting.

Staples Urban Environment Challenge

Together, Earth Force and Staples will develop the next generation of environmental problem solvers by inviting urban youth to address issues related to climate change. THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT CHALLENGE encourages young people in grades 5-9 in urban communities to take action on pressing local issues created by global climate change. One winning entry will be chosen from each of five regions and that winning team will receive a $1,000 package of prizes.

Young people doing service learning in groups of 10 to 30 could address issues such as energy consumption, food security, transportation, use of resources, recycling or clean land and water. Students in the San Diego, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, Boston, New York City, Charlotte, Atlanta and Dallas metro areas are eligible to compete. Final projects are due by Earth Day on April 22, 2011.

2011 Thacher Environmental Research Contest

From the massive Gulf oil spill to the continued decline of Arctic sea ice, satellites and other observing instruments have proved crucial this year in monitoring the many environmental changes -- both natural and human-induced -- occurring on global, regional and local scales.

The 2011 Thacher Environmental Research Contest, sponsored by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, challenges high school students (grades 9-12) to conduct innovative research on our changing planet using the latest geospatial tools and data, which in recent years have become increasingly accessible to the public. Eligible geospatial tools and data include satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, geographic information systems (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS).

The best projects will receive cash awards in the amount of $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. Entries can be submitted by individuals or teams. In the case of team entries, the cash award will be split equally among the winning team members. Winners will also be featured in an Encyclopedia of Earth article.

Entries must be received by April 11, 2011, and will be judged by IGES staff. For more information on the 2011 Thacher Environmental Research Contest, including a list of resources for geospatial data, please visit www.strategies.org/ThacherContest.

Leave No Trace Grants

Leave No Trace is an educational, nonprofit organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors. Leave No Trace offers a variety of grants and scholarships for individuals and organizations seeking Leave No Trace educational materials and/or training. There are multiple grants offered, with varying deadlines throughout the year.

AMNH Young Naturalist Awards

The Young Naturalist Awards from the American Museum of Natural History is an inquiry-based science competition for students (grades 7-12) that promotes participation and communication in science. Students plan a research project and submit a final report, including an essay and artwork. Awards include cash prizes and certificates of recognition. Deadline has been extended to March 8, 2011!

Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award - For Middle School Teachers

The Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award is given annually by the National Environmental Education Foundation to an outstanding educator who has successfully integrated environmental education into his or her daily education programs. The 2011 award will be given to a middle school educator (grades 5-8) who can serve as an inspiration and model for others. The winner will receive a $5,000 award. Do you know a teacher who stands out among the rest? If so, please nominate him/her for the 2011 Richard C. Bartlett Award. Nominations will be accepted through March 14, 2011. To learn more or to submit your nomination visit http://www.neefusa.org/bartlettaward.

Earth Science Week 2011

AGI (American Geological Institute) is pleased to announce the theme of Earth Science Week 2011: “Our Ever-Changing Earth.” Being held October 9-15, 2011, the event will engage young people and the public in learning about the natural processes that shape our planet over time.

Earth Science Week 2011 materials and activities will show how evidence of change can be found everywhere, from the earth beneath our feet to the oceans and atmosphere around us. Fossil records of changes in plant and animal life likewise can be found around the globe. These changes touch our lives in many ways, as we see in headlines about topics such as resource availability, evolution, and climate change.

Write these dates on your calendar now and look for updates about Earth Science Week 2011 in upcoming newsletters!

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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.