July 2009

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Tornado Chasing!

Ok, I know I should have something more important to share with you, but - face it - we're all geoscience geeks. On June 7, while driving with my husband to the Denver airport, we were amazed to see a slim finger reach down from a cloud, and yes, form a tornado in front of our eyes! This was exciting in many ways, since neither of us had ever observed a tornado before, not to mention the fact that we were driving TOWARD it!

Happily, just about everyone pulled over to the side of the road to observe this amazing phenomenon, waiting for it to cross the highway. As we watched it, it was clear that material was being swept up in what looked like an oscillating fashion along the outside of the tornado. This particular tornado did no apparent damage, being small and moving across open fields. However, less than a half hour later, we observed a second tornado just south of the airport, over Aurora. This was the storm that did considerable damage to several houses and a mall. I have uploaded our images (taken by my husband on his phone) to the Windows to the Universe website for you all to view and utilize - go to our tornado gallery to see five more photos from the event.

I hope you enjoy this month's newsletter. It includes a highlight from our new Poles in Space section, a bit of reminiscing about the Apollo moon landing, links to some great image resources, a reminder about severe weather preparation, and a news story about the impact warmer temperatures in Antarctica have on the ocean's smallest organisms. Don't forget there's a total solar eclipse this month! Also included is a cultural piece on the world axis and information about upcoming Fall regionals. Then there is a teacher's plea for standardized science curriculum across the U.S. If this prompts thoughts you would like to share, please do so using this newsletter or start a discussion point on our Facebook page. As always, view our announcements from Partners to see great (often free!) opportunities for you and your students.

The Poles of Venus

Our new "Poles in Space" section continues to grow. This month we take a look at the poles of Venus. You won't find any polar ice caps on Earth's scorching hot "twin sister", where the surface temperature (even at the poles) hovers around 464° C (867° F)! Highlands dominate the far northern latitudes on Venus. Ishtar Terra, one of two "continents" (elevated regions) on Venus, is near the North Pole. Maxwell Montes, which rises to a height of 11 km (6.8 miles) and is the tallest peak on Venus, is near the center of Ishtar Terra.

The Venusian polar atmosphere is an oddity. Swirling atmospheric vortices can be found near the poles of other planets, including Earth (during winter) and Saturn. Venus has S-shaped double vortices... at both its North and South Poles!

Apollo 11's 40th Anniversary

Do you remember where you were when Neil Armstrong took his "one small step?" For those of us over 40 years old, this question reminds us of a defining moment in our lives. Did you know that about 2/3 of the 6.8 billion people alive today were born after the moon landing-- including most teachers and all of your students?

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969. At 8:17 pm (GMT/UTC), Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, nicknamed “Eagle,” on the Sea of Tranquility.

When the Eagle was safely on the surface of the moon, Neil radioed mission control in Houston, Texas, saying, “Tranquility base here—the Eagle has landed.” It’s been estimated that over half a billion people around the world watched when Neil stepped onto the lunar surface over 6 hours later. After Neil said his famous line—"That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” - he was joined by Buzz Aldrin, and they spent the next 2 1/2 hours taking photographs, collecting samples, and setting up experimental instruments.

Out of almost 400 people who have flown in outer space in the 48 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the Earth, only 12 people have walked on the moon. All six missions were flown between July 1969 and December 1972--just 3 1/2 years!

A Picture is Worth – A Lot!

A good photo or illustration can make teaching a difficult topic so much easier – especially for younger learners and for visual learners of all ages. Check out our newly formatted image galleries to access many great images. Use them freely in your classroom! We update these image galleries frequently, so check back often. Recent updates include Earth-Living Things and Earth-Atmosphere.

NESTA also hosts a great geoscience image collection and you are encouraged to submit photos of your own for relevant topics.

Finally, NASA has combined all of its past image archives into one impressive site which you can easily search. You won’t be disappointed looking through the New NASA Images web site. Enjoy!

Be Prepared for Severe Weather!

Across the United States, June was a busy month for storms, including thunderstorms and tornadoes. During this time of year, thunderstorms can form, producing thunder and lightning, hail, tornadoes, and flash flooding.

June 1 also marked the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, and while there haven't been any named storms yet, forecasters are predicting slightly below average to slightly above average activity this season. The latest forecast predicts there will be 9-14 named storms, 4-7 hurricanes, and 1-3 hurricanes that are Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Hurricanes form in the tropics over warm ocean water. These storms can produce high winds, strong waves, and storm surge, all of which can damage coastal areas.

The National Weather Service puts out daily advisories, watches, and warnings for severe weather. Learn more about these severe weather alerts with our guide to weather advisories, watches, and warnings and read about examples of the types of weather that can call for a severe weather alert.

Also, take a look at Windows to the Universe's Tornado Image Gallery and Hurricane Image Gallery to see images of these storms to use in your teaching.

News from NSF: Climate Warming Changes Life in Antarctica

While summer is bringing warm weather to the Northern Hemisphere, it's winter in the Southern Hemisphere. The cold temperatures of the Antarctic winter allow sea ice to freeze at the top of the Southern Ocean. Sea ice is frozen seawater. It grows during winter and melts during summer. Some of it stays around all year long. Today, less sea ice is forming in the Southern Ocean near the Antarctic Peninsula because of global warming. Winter temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula have risen five times faster than the global average. This is having an impact on Antarctic marine life.

Scientists are studying how dwindling sea ice is affecting the ocean's smallest inhabitants - a type of phytoplankton called diatoms - by looking at the tiny organisms with satellites. They have found that in some areas less sea ice has led to more diatoms, and in other areas it has caused populations to shrink.

For more information, check out the story on Windows to the Universe, Warmer Temperatures are Changing Antarctic Phytoplankton. This article and many other news stories on the site are made possible through a collaboration with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Stay on top of science news by checking out all of the News from the National Science Foundation on Windows to the Universe. And browse the NSF podcasts, videos, and interactives too.

Total Solar Eclipse in July

On Wednesday, July 22, 2009, a total solar eclipse will be visible from within a narrow corridor that begins in India and crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China and Japan to the Pacific Ocean. Most of eastern Asia and the Pacific will see a partial eclipse.

An eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Earth passes through the Moon's shadow. A total eclipse of the Sun takes place only during a new moon, when the Moon is directly between the Sun and the Earth and is positioned just right to cast a shadow on the Earth. When a total eclipse does occur, the Moon's shadow covers only a small portion of the Earth, where the eclipse is visible, so a total eclipse is rare in any particular place, although they occur somewhere on Earth every 18 months on average.

In ancient times, solar eclipses were feared and were attributed to supernatural causes or believed to be a sign that something horrible was about to happen. Eclipses that were recorded in ancient times are valuable for dating historical events.

Check out our solar eclipse image archive and our table of solar eclipses. If you get an opportunity to see an eclipse, don't forget to take safety precautions.

Axis Mundi

The Latin term, axis-mundi literally means the axis of the world. Other terms like cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar and center of the world mean the same thing, and they represent the point of connection between sky and earth. We find this theme of connecting earth and its people to the sky and universe in many cultures. A number of ancient civilizations had natural sacred sites that allowed people to connect to the universe, and these sites had great importance to their civilizations. Sacred sites were sometimes called Sacred Land, Pure Land, or Land of Immortality, and they were often built around specific features like mountains, springs, rocks or even trees. The most common feature was probably springs, as many ancient cultures could see how essential water was for life.

Sacred sites also played major roles in the mythology of ancient civilizations. In ancient Greece, round stones in the temple of Apollo at Delphi were believed to mark the middle of the earth. Aztec mythology tells us that the ancestors of the Aztec people, guided by Huitzilopochtli, searched many years for axis mundi in order to use it as the foundation site of Mexico.

Many sacred sites have similar features. A point often marks the center of the site, and radiating out from this point are arrows or marks showing the four cardinal directions. These markings were usually thought to be situated such that the axis mundi, the Axis of the World, passed through the center of the site.

To understand the concept of Axis Mundi better, try learning more about basic map elements such as scale, key, cardinal directions, and latitude and longitude in our Introduction to Maps classroom activity.

Join Us at a NSTA Fall Regional!

Will you be attending one of the NSTA regional conferences in Fall 2009? We will! We would love to see you at one of the following events. Our presentations and workshops cover timely science topics like climate change, space weather and Earth system science. We try to show as many hands-on activities as we can and we always provide handouts. Please join us!

Minneapolis, MN

Time Location
Thursday, October 29 Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 12:30–1:30 PM Minneapolis Convention Center, 200E
Thursday, October 29 Igniting Curiosity 12:30–1:30 PM Minneapolis Convention Center, L100G
Thursday, October 29 Activities from Across the Earth System 2:00–3:00 PM Minneapolis Convention Center, L100D
Thursday, October 29 Tackling the Global Warming Challenge in a Rapidly Changing World 3:30–4:30 PM Minneapolis Convention Center, 200I
Friday, October 30 Magnetism Activities, Earth's Magnetism, and Space Weather from Windows to the Universe 8:00–9:00 AM Minneapolis Convention Center, 200D

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Time Location
Thursday, November 12 Igniting Curiosity 12:30-1:30 PM Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Grande Ballroom Salon D
Thursday, November 12 Tackling the Global Warming Challenge in a Rapidly Changing World 2:00–3:00 PM Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Grande Ballroom Salon B
Friday, November 13 "Aha!" Is Just a Stone's Throw Away 9:30–10:30 AM Fort Lauderdale Conv. Center, Grand Floridian Ballroom B
Friday, November 13 Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 9:30–10:30 AM Fort Lauderdale Conv. Center, Floridian Ballroom A
Saturday, November 14 Activities from Across the Earth System 9:30–10:30 AM Fort Lauderdale Conv. Center, Teleconfonference Room
Saturday, November 14 Magnetism Activities, Earth's Magnetism, and Space Weather from Windows to the Universe 11:00 AM–12:00 PM Fort Lauderdale Conv. Center, Teleconfonference Room

Phoenix, AZ

Time Location
Thursday, December 3 Activities from Across the Earth System 8:00–9:00 AM Phoenix Convention Center, 229A
Friday, December 4 Magnetism Activities, Earth's Magnetism, and Space Weather from Windows to the Universe 11:00 AM–12:00 PM Phoenix Convention Center, 224B
Friday, December 4 Math Activities in the Earth Sciences Using Interactive Multimedia from Windows to the Universe 2:00–3:00 PM Phoenix Convention Center, 221A
Saturday, December 5 Tackling the Global Warming Challenge in a Rapidly Changing World 8:00–9:00 AM Phoenix Convention Center, 222C
Saturday, December 5 Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 11:00 AM–12:00 PM Phoenix Convention Center, 229A

Table of Contents

The Poles of Venus
Apollo 11
A Picture is Worth
Severe Weather
Antarctic Life
Solar Eclipse
Axis of the world
NSTA Fall Regionals

IYA Media in US

JOIDES Research
IYA in Texas
Hydrograf(x) 2009
Top Stars: Hubble
Field Test Teachers











Teacher Submissions

Click here to submit your ideas to the newsletter

Media Interaction Nationally

Five months have passed, and there is little daily media response to The International Year of Astronomy! My state, Delaware, has done little to encourage our schools and citizens. Astronomy is not part of its curriculum. Our entire country's educational system is fractionalized. The mother of all sciences was dropped from the American curriculum with these words - "we know all about it". States' rights keep us from competing globally even when NASA's science curriculum can be adapted for k-12. This would save this nation billions of dollars! That would level the ball field for every student in every state. I have visited many countries that are ahead of us, and one thing stands out, their educational system is the same for their entire country.

For the price of a football uniform, one radio telescope could be on the roof of a junior/senior high school. Two scopes, two uniforms per school. Every 1st grade student should be introduced to a hand magnet, and a compass, and then taught how to hunt for meteorites - this can become a life long skill. Get the media to print a weekly sky column on their weather page - meteor showers, current celestial events, and so on. Also, let's get some of this on TV!

Announcements from Partners

Click here to submit information about your program to the newsletter

The JOIDES Resolution Research Vessel and You!

If you teach Earth science, ocean science, the sedimentary record, tectonics, extreme science, climate change, biology, chemistry, physics, or the nature and process of science, then YOU need the JR.

The 470-foot JOIDES Resolution (JR) is one of the most important and largest earth and ocean science research vessels in the world. The JR is run by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and the core samples and data that its scientists and crew bring up from the seafloor hold exciting and significant clues to Earth's history, climatic changes, geologic events, and much more.

NOW you and your students can get involved in this dynamic research through www.joidesresolution.org. On this interactive new site, you can ask real scientists questions, track the ship's location, explore daily ship blogs, watch up-to-the-minute real time videos (be sure to check out PNN News on the home page!) and take advantage of other real time resources. Become a friend of the JR on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, and explore teaching activities for young children through college - including suggestions for how to use the website and real data from the ship. We also offer free posters, inflatable JR tracking globes, and other classroom materials. Check it out and pass it along!

Celebrating the IYA in South Texas

The Brownsville Public Library is the hosting site for second Tuesday of the month International Year of Astronomy programs. Alternating even numbered months with hands-on astronomy activities such as phases of the Moon and life cycles of stars with odd numbered months in a portable planetarium to learn about the constellations, the program has been ongoing since 1996. Telescopes are available for viewing when the skies are clear. Everyone is welcome!

Hydrograf(x) 2009 Short Film Competition

CUAHSI's Hydrograf(x) is a competition for short films in hydrology open to undergraduate and graduate students. This includes both pre- service and in-service K-12 educators doing continuing education coursework to meet professional certification requirements.

The goal of this competition is to foster greater understanding and appreciation of hydrologic science. This competition also provides you with an opportunity to present principles of hydrology in a non- traditional format as well as a means to interact with audiences that would not regularly be reached through more formal means.

A simple definition of hydrology is the science focused on understanding the terrestrial components of the global water cycle. This would include the movement of water, and materials contained in the water, into and within/on the surface and subsurface of the earth as well as the "storage" on the surface (e.g., lakes) and subsurface (groundwater).

You may use any (or all) of three general types of formats in the development of your project:

* documentary - live action
* animation – such a cell, stop action or computer generated
* visualization - graphical images generated from data sets

Entries will be reviewed in one of two categories – based upon your intended audience: professional/technical and general audiences.

Entries will be posted to the Hydrograf(x)-2009 Community at SciVee.tv (a "YouTube for science" hosted at San Diego Supercomputer Center).

Cash prizes will be awarded in each category for First ($100.00) and Second ($50.00) places. Additionally there will be a Producers Award for the entry with the highest viewer rating on SciVee.

The deadline for submission is 15 November 2009. More information is available at: www.cuahsi.org/hydrografx

The winning entry from the 2008 competition "Visualization in Hydrology using Google Earth" can be viewed at www.scivee.tv/node/9481

Top Stars: Educators Invited to Submit Examples of Inspiring Uses of Hubble in Education

For almost 20 years, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has inspired and engaged educators and students of all ages. U.S. formal (K-12, college) and informal educators -- both individuals and teams of up to four members -- are invited to submit their best examples of using Hubble in science, technology, engineering or mathematics education.

Entries will be accepted through January 2010, and may include any combination of text, graphics, video and photos. Selected entries will be recognized as "Top Stars."

Educators selected as Top Stars will have their entry featured on the Top Stars Web site and will receive the following recognition and awards:
-A high-quality photo print (48" x 24") of a Hubble image;
-Invitation to attend via teleconference a special briefing by a Hubble scientist or engineer; and
-Recognition as Top Stars on NASA Web sites.

The Top Stars Web site is accepting applications now! For more information, please visit: http://topstars.strategies.org

BSCS Seeks Field Test Teachers!

I am pleased to announce a field-test opportunity for an important research project funded by the US Department of Education!

BSCS is seeking eighth grade middle school science teachers to field test a standards- and inquiry-based unit between November 2009 and March 2010. The overall goal of the project is to improve learning in science for all students. Teacher-collaborators will choose one major content area from an eighth grade multidisciplinary science program currently under development (Life Science, Earth/Space Science, Physical Science, or Science and Society) and will teach a unit on that content area to their students. Teacher and student feedback will play a key role in influencing the revision of the materials.

As a former classroom teacher, I can assure you that BSCS is developing this program with the best approaches to student learning in mind. These approaches are based on current research in learning and teaching for conceptual understanding and include literacy strategies, sense-making strategies, and a constructivist approach to teaching/learning science. Each unit addresses standards that closely align with state and national standards for eighth grade science.

The final application deadline is 25 September 2009.

Sue Kowalski
Science Educator, Field Test Coordinator

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