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July 2010

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An Opportunity for Teachers!

At Windows to the Universe, we are happy to announce a special opportunity for teachers! The Windows to the Universe team will be offering memberships for all educators by 1 September 2010 which will provide access to new website capabilities and services, as well as access to an ad-free version of the website. We have set the minimum regular Educator Membership rate at $20/year. However, we now have a special discount for members of the National Earth Science Teachers Association to join as Windows to the Universe Educator Members at a discounted rate of $10 for one year ($18 for two years, or $24 for three years) to gain access to an ad-free version of the website as well as the new services and capabilities we will be offering in the fall!

If you're not already a member of NESTA now, but would like to take advantage of this discount, you can join NESTA for only $10 (and gain access to even more benefits of membership from NESTA including receipt of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist), and then join Windows to the Universe as an Educator Member and get access to this special rate.

What's in a Name? Hurricanes!

As we move into summer, we’re also beginning the 2010 hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin. The hurricane season traditionally begins on June 1st of every year, lasting until the end of November, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a very active season this year.

Did you ever wonder how hurricanes get their names? All tropical storms with winds reaching 39 mph or higher are given names to make it easier to refer to them and track them. For many years, storms were named based on the saint’s holiday they occurred on, but in the mid-1950’s the U.S. Weather Service began using female first names for storms. In 1979, male first names were added, and as storms occurred, they were given a name based on an alphabetical list that has one name for every letter in the alphabet except for Q, X, and Z. The first storm of the season has a name that starts with A, the second storm has a name that starts with B, and so on. In the Atlantic, all names are English, Spanish, or French, since those are the dominant languages spoken by the countries affected by the storms.

The World Meteorological Organization has 6 lists of names that rotate, each one being used once every six years. The names alternate from male to female, and a name is replaced on a list only if it represents a storm that was particularly costly or deadly. The names for 2010 are mostly the same ones used for 2004 (though 4 of 2004’s names were retired). So the 2010 list of names starts with Alex, Bonnie, Colin, and Danielle. Read more about hurricanes and weather on Windows to the Universe.

Oil Spill Update

On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the BP Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers, and the well has been spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico since. There were safety concerns with the oil rig at least 10 months prior to the explosion.

Attempts to stop the flow of oil have not yet been successful. On June 3rd BP was able to place a cap over one of the leaks in order to start capturing some of the oil, and that seems to have slightly reduced the rate at which oil is continuing to leak into the ocean. Even so, the leak continues to spew more than a million gallons of oil each day. Ultimately, a pair of relief wells (that won’t be done until August) is the best bet to stop the massive spill.

Wildlife rehabilitation efforts are in full swing already, and many people and groups are helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in their effort to clean up wildlife and areas affected by the spill.

Recently, BP has agreed to pay 20 Billion dollars into a fund to meet mounting oil spill claims, and the company has repeatedly stated that they are committed to compensating everyone hurt by the spill.

To see where the oil spill is located and track its spread, check the NY Times interactive spill tracker.

To read about the official Environmental Protection Agency response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, visit the EPA's page on the spill.

Resources for Teaching About Oil Spills

To say that two things (or two people) are "like oil and water" means that those two things (or two people) do not mix well. In the case of an oil spill, like the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we can say that the oil leaking from a well south of the Mississippi River Delta is not mixing well with the region's marine and coastal ecosystems.

I have collected educational resources that are available online on a new page for educators - Resources for Teaching About Oil Spills. From this page, you can access web-based content and classroom activities that address the science of oil spills and their effects on ecosystems. I hope you find these resources useful in your teaching.

Total Solar Eclipse in July

On Sunday, July 11, 2010, a total solar eclipse will be visible from within a narrow corridor that crosses the South Pacific Ocean and ends in southern Chile and Argentina. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much larger region covering the South Pacific and southern South America. More details are available on the NASA website.

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.

Thunderstorms and Other Severe Weather

This is a good time of year to explore the atmospheric conditions that cause thunderstorms to form. These storms can include lightning, thunder, rain, hail, and tornadoes. Knowing and sharing information about thunderstorm safety is very important.

Ordinary thunderstorms last about one hour. Severe thunderstorms can last several hours and are much more dramatic. One type of supercell thunderstorm produces large amounts of precipitation and potentially creates downbursts, flash floods, and large hail. The other type doesn't produce much precipitation, but develops tornadoes and large hail.

A squall line consists of several thunderstorms banded together in a line. One type of squall line is a line of cumulonimbus clouds that grow and decay. The other type is a line of steady supercells. A squall line can produce heavy precipitation and strong winds, and can extend over 600 miles (1000 km).

This summer, take some time to learn more about these weather conditions! The weather section of Windows to the Universe provides information about many types of severe weather, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

Last Flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis

The space shuttle Atlantis completed its final scheduled flight in May. NASA plans to retire the entire fleet of space shuttle orbiters by the end of 2010.

Atlantis first flew into space in October 1985. It completed 32 space missions, including flights to the Hubble Space Telescope, numerous trips to two different space stations, and the launches of two major interplanetary probes.

Ultraviolet "Light"

Summer is here (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere at least!), and with it comes trips to the beach or pool. When you go outside this summer (or on sunny days in the winter!), make sure to wear your sunglasses and to slather on sunscreen. Ultraviolet "light" can cause sunburn or even skin cancer, and can also damage your eyes. Fortunately, our atmosphere's ozone layer absorbs most ultraviolet radiation before it reaches us on the ground. Thanks to our protective atmosphere, a few simple precautions can help keep us safe from the remainder of this potentially dangerous type of radiation!

Travel the Ecosystems of the World Without Leaving your Computer!

Are you on summer vacation? If so, what a great time to visit another ecosystem! Can't take a trip right now? Then take yourself on a virtual trip by visiting the ecosystems section of Windows to the Universe. There you can travel from a tropical rainforest to the Arctic tundra with just a click of your mouse. Explore the desert, temperate forests, or grasslands. Or perhaps you'd rather head to the ocean. Whether you are taking a virtual trip or an actual trip this summer, travel safely and have fun!

Workshops at the NSTA Regional Conferences this Fall!

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

Date Title Time Location
Thursday, October 28 Activities from Across the Earth System 12:30-1:30 pm Kansas City Convention Center, Room 2502B
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 2:00-3:00 pm Kansas City Convention Center, Room 2505B
Tackling the Global Warming Challenge in a Rapidly Changing World 3:30-4:30 pm Kansas City Convention Center, Room 2505B
Point, Game, Set, Match: Science Wins with Tennis Ball Containers 5:00-6:00 pm Marriott Kansas City Downtown, Count Basie A
Friday, October 29 NESTA Earth Science Share-a-Thon 2:00-3:00 pm Kansas City Convention Center, Room 1501B
NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-4:30 pm Kansas City Convention Center, Room 1501B
Saturday, October 30 Radiation Storm vs. Magnetic Shield: Superheroes of Magnetism and Space Weather Education 8:00-9:00 am Kansas City Convention Center, Room 2503A
Cloudy Day: Activities Bridging Cloud Science, Literacy, and Art 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Kansas City Convention Center, Room 2502B

Baltimore NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Thursday, November 11 Simulations and Interactive Multimedia Across the Earth Sciences 8:00-9:00 am Hilton Baltimore, Key Ballroom 9
Activities from Across the Earth System 2:00-3:00 pm Hilton Baltimore, Holiday 3
Radiation Storm vs. Magnetic Shield: Superheroes of Magnetism and Space Weather Education 3:30-4:30 pm Hilton Baltimore, Key Ballroom 9
Friday, November 12 Tackling the Global Warming Challenge in a Rapidly Changing World 8:00-9:00 am The Baltimore Convention Center, 327
NESTA Earth Science Share-a-Thon 2:00-3:00 pm Hilton Baltimore, Holiday 6
NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-4:30 pm Hilton Baltimore, Holiday 6
Saturday, November 13 Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 8:00-9:00 am Hilton Baltimore, Key Ballroom 2
Project BudBurst: Listening to the Stories Plants Are Telling 9:30-10:30 am The Baltimore Convention Center, 327
Igniting Curiosity Through Discrepant Events 11:00 am -12:00 pm The Baltimore Convention Center, 331

Nashville NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Thursday, December 2 NESTA Earth Science Share-a-Thon 12:30-1:30 pm Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conv. Center, Tennessee D/E
NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 2:00-3:00 pm Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conv. Center, Tennessee D/E
Just Add Humans! Helping Students Understand How Design and Development Choices Affect the Planet 3:30-4:30 pm Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conv. Center, Lincoln D
Friday, December 3 Activities from Across the Earth System 9:30-10:30 am Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conv. Center, Ryman Studio A/B/C
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 3:30-4:30 pm Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conv. Center, Lincoln C
Saturday, December 4 Radiation Storm vs. Magnetic Shield: Superheroes of Magnetism and Space Weather Education 9:30-10:30 am Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conv. Center, Hermitage E
Igniting Curiosity Through Discrepant Events 11:00 am -12:00 pm Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conv. Center, Hermitage C

Table of Contents

Hurricane Names
Oil Spill Update
TR - Oil Spills
Solar Eclipse
Atlantis Last Flight
UV Light
NSTA Workshops


NWF - Oil Spill
Paid Consultants
Virtual U Program
Face in Space!
Thacher Winners
Rock On!
Plant an Orchard
Summer of Innovation
Online with NOAA
Virtual Shuttle
Astronomy Workshop












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Special Report: Oil Spill - National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation has compiled a number of resources pertaining to the BP Oil Spill. There is some really good information about the spill, about wetland ecosystems and FAQ's geared toward children.

Also highlighted are oil spill and wetland classroom activities and a guide to talking to kids about the oil spill in the Gulf.

Try this link to gain an amazing perspective on the size of the spill - by looking at it as if it were in your own hometown (just enter your zip code).

National Earth Science Teachers Association - Join Today!

The National Earth Science Teachers Association is working to not only provide quality resources and programs to teachers, but also to represent our discipline and profession at the highest levels nationally and internationally. NESTA is engaged with numerous professional societies, agencies, and programs, working to promote the importance of quality Earth and space science education. A particular emphasis for NESTA is the need for a challenging capstone course at the high school level that is accepted for credit as a lab course at the university level. We are working with partners to advance this effort, and will keep you posted on opportunities to get involved. In the meantime, please join NESTA today if you're not already a member. NESTA offers numerous benefits of membership, including a monthly newsletter and quarterly journal, as well as programs offered across the country. Find out more about NESTA on the NESTA website!

Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) Pathway Sets up Paid Consultant Network

The Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) Pathway, through funding from the NSF, would like to identify the needs of educators related to climate science and energy topics. In order to do so, Inverness Research is establishing a paid consultant network. The study will take approximately 3 years, and about an hour a year for an individual to participate. Complete a brief survey to see if you're selected as part of the network. Teachers and faculty who are selected to be in the network will receive a total of $225 for their participation. The survey is located at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GWZYGQ3

NASA Kicks Off Virtual Education Program For College Students

Did you know NASA is sponsoring a virtual education program for college students? The agency's new Minority Innovation Challenges Institute, or MICI, is open for business!

The sessions will teach students how to apply and participate in various competitions, such as the agency's Centennial Challenges Program, the NASA University Student Launch Initiative and the Great Moonbuggy Race. The online program is free, and a schedule of events can be found on the NASA MICI website.

NASA Invites the Public to Picture Their "Face in Space"

NASA is inviting members of the public to send electronic images of their faces into orbit aboard one of the final remaining space shuttle missions.

Visitors to the "Face in Space" website can upload their portrait to fly with the astronauts aboard shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission and/or shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission. Participants will receive special certificates from the Internet site once the missions are completed.

To submit your image, visit: http://faceinspace.nasa.gov. Those without a picture can skip the image upload section, and NASA will fly their name.

Discovery and Endeavour's missions are the final two flights remaining until the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. They are targeted to launch in September and November, respectively. For more information about the STS-133 and STS-134 missions, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

High School Students Show Power of Geospatial Data in Thacher Environmental Research Contest

Tanya Petach, from Boulder, CO, earned the Thacher Environmental Research Contest's first place prize of $2,000 with a study that used water measurements, the Global Positioning System and geographic information systems to track salinity levels along the Colorado River and to identify the most important sources of salt into the river. The contest, an activity of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), awards cash prizes to grades 9-12 students whose projects show the best use of satellites and other geospatial technologies or data to study Earth.

The second-place award of $1,000 went to Eric Keen, who used satellite imagery and precipitation data to investigate whether the altering of topography by mountaintop coal mining affects precipitation patterns. Keen is home-schooled and will enter the 11th-grade this fall. Akshar Wunnava earned third place and $500 with a study that evaluated the relative strength of existing climate models, and created a new model that combined these strengths in an effort to better predict precipitation extremes, which are expected to increase in frequency as a result of climate change.

University Students and Professors Ready to "Rock On" with NASA

University students and professors from across the country and Puerto Rico converged on NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in June and learned how to build small experiments that were launched on sounding rockets. This was part of a week-long workshop, known as RockOn!, that began on June 19.

The 80 workshop participants built standardized experiments that flew on a NASA Terrier-Orion suborbital sounding rocket launched on June 24. The 35-foot-tall rocket flew to an altitude of 75 miles. After launch and payload recovery, the participants conducted preliminary data analysis and discussed their results.

The workshop is funded by NASA's National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia. This was the third year for the workshop.

For more information on RockOn! and RockSat, visit:


Communities Take Root

Voting is currently taking place for the Communities Take Root Program. Communities from around the U.S. have applied to win an orchard that will be planted to benefit their community -- courtesy of Edy's Fruit Bars. Cast your vote and make a difference! Five winners are chosen the first of each month - now through September. You can check out the leading communities at any time. Your vote could make a difference and show a corporation that you care about trees, communities and benefiting the environment!

NASA Kicks Off New Summer Of Innovation Initiative

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden kicked off the agency's new Summer of Innovation initiative on June 10 while at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. The Summer of Innovation program will engage thousands of middle 
school students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) during the summer months when many students experience what's known as the "summer slide," a loss of skills acquired during the school year. The program is a cornerstone of the Educate to Innovate campaign announced by President Obama last November.

About 250 middle school students from the Los Angeles area participated in the kickoff festivities, which included an opportunity to interact with astronauts, NASA scientists, and engineers, participate in several hands-on educational activities, and visit the facility where the next Mars rover is being built. The students also were treated to musical entertainment provided by actor/rapper Daniel Curtis Lee.

NASA's Summer of Innovation program is a broad, nationwide effort that will leverage partnerships with academia, industry and government. This program and the agency's other education programs support NASA's commitment to excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which will play a key role in preparing, inspiring, encouraging and nurturing the nation's future work force. To learn more about this program and the opportunities available, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/soi

Online Course Available from NOAA

“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 Enables Students to Launch Virtual Space Shuttle

The final voyage of space shuttle Atlantis, which occurred on May 14, has prompted NASA to offer the ABC's of 3,2,1 Liftoff to students and educators throughout the nation.

This new computer simulation program will allow them to take on the roles of NASA engineers and launch the shuttle from their own classrooms. The program is based on software used for training at the shuttle Launch Control Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Kennedy Launch Academy Simulation System, or KLASS, gives students the chance to monitor important shuttle systems during a launch countdown and decide whether they are "go" for liftoff. They will work together as a team and learn about the different activities that take place behind the scenes of a shuttle launch.

KLASS was designed for sixth through 10th grade students to develop their science, technology, engineering and math skills. In addition to the launch simulation software, KLASS is offering 40 hours of lesson plans and interactive resources for teachers. These materials can be used for one-day lessons or one-year curriculums.

Visit the KLASS website to learn more, and to download educational materials.

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GALILEO: A Hands-on Workshop on Astronomy

Sat, July 31-Sun, August 1, 2010 (9 am-5 pm)
Summers-Bausch Observatory, University of Colorado, Boulder
Part of the 122nd Annual Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

One unit of Continuing Education Credit available. Space is limited; early reservations are strongly recommended!

In this hands-on workshop for everyone teaching astronomy or space/earth science in grades 3 - 12, participants will explore Galileo's life, work, and legacy, and learn to do a wide range of hands-on, classroom-ready activities. They will each receive a Galileoscope, a new small telescope especially prepared for last year's Galileo anniversary celebrations, that lets you make some of the same observations that Galileo did 400 years ago, plus a packet of resource guides and background information on astronomy and astronomy teaching and a memory stick with some wonderful short videos from the Fiske Planetarium. There will be special emphasis on understanding the Moon and its recent exploration, and a segment on preserving the dark night sky against the "pollution" of city lights. Participants will break up into elementary and secondary groups for parts of the workshop to make sure all teachers receive age-appropriate materials for their students.

No background in astronomy will be assumed; both new and veteran teachers should gain new information and effective teaching techniques from the workshop.

Cost: $70 for the weekend
Fifteen Colorado teachers who register will have their registration fee reimbursed thanks to NLSI

For more information and to register, please see the meeting web site.

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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.