November 2007

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

Workshop Season

The past several weeks we've been very busy preparing for workshops at the Detroit and Denver NSTA conferences. In October, we were delighted to have a really good turnout for all our workshops, and we're sorry that we ended up running out of materials! We came equipped for the planned room capacity, but in some cases that was exceeded 50% by actual attendees. In any case, welcome to those of you that signed up for the newsletter in Detroit, and I hope you enjoy our newsletter communication about resources on Windows to the Universe and activities of our colleagues.

In this month's newsletter, we highlight our new line of postcards from a scientific research team in the Antarctic, the recent Nobel Peace Prize which honors, in part, the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, events on our science calendar, our recently updated snow pages, an overview of the history of the exploration of Saturn, and a schedule of our events in Denver at the upcoming NSTA Regional Conference November 8-10. Our partners at Polar Palooza, through the NASA International Polar Year program, have events coming up in several locations around the country. Don't forget to check them out.

Postcards from ANDRILL Teachers in Antarctica

We have a new set of "Postcards from the Field" coming in from Antarctica! The ANDRILL Program is a scientific research project involving more than a hundred scientists from several nations. ANDRILL (ANtarctic geological DRILLing) is recovering seafloor sediment cores from beneath the Ross Ice Shelf near McMurdo Station in Antarctica. These cores provide information about past climates in the region, which will help us better understand possible future climate change. An educational effort associated with ANDRILL called ARISE (ANDRILL Research Immersion for Science Educators) takes teachers "to the ice" along with the scientists to help bring the science back to an educational audience. ARISE teachers are now in Antarctica and have submitted several "Postcards from the Field" to Windows to the Universe. They'll be sending us more in the coming weeks. So if you want to learn about the dreaded "boomerang flights" from New Zealand or find out what "Skua Boots" are, check out the ANDRILL postcards!

Nobel Peace Prize goes to the IPCC and Al Gore!

For their efforts to build up and share knowledge about climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (known as the IPCC) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month jointly with Former US Vice President Al Gore.

The IPCC, a group of hundreds of climate scientists and other experts from around the world, was formed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988 in an effort to help people understand how the Earth’s climate system works so that people could make informed decisions about how they would live on the planet. Since our understanding of the Earth’s climate is growing broader each year, there is an ongoing need to keep people informed about the current state of knowledge about Earth’s climate. The IPCC issues reports about the state of current knowledge about Earth's climate system every few years. The reports of the IPCC are used by government officials in countries around the world as they make decisions about how their countries will tackle problems like greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

According to their reports issued earlier this year, it is unequivocal that Earth’s climate is warming. Plus, the reports indicated that the warming is almost certainly caused by human activities that contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and diminish greenhouse sinks such as forests. Summaries of this year's IPCC reports are available at the links below.

For more information about the science of Earth's climate system, please visit the Climate and Global Change section of Windows to the Universe.

Science Calendar: Birthdays in November

November 7th is a 140th anniversary of Marie Curie (1867-1934). She was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, the first scientist to receive two Nobel prizes and the first female professor at the University of Paris. She was born in Poland and lived in France since she was 24. Together with her husband Pierre Curie, another Nobel prize laureat, she discovered two new elements, Radium and Polonium, and studied the x-rays they emitted. Their daughter Irčne Joliot-Curie won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935. What an exceptional family!

Other notable birthdays in November include:

  • November 8, 1656 - Edmond Halley, an English astronomer, mathematician and physicist. He is most famous for predicting the return of the comet that now bears his name. Not everyone knows, though, that Halley also studied weather, winds and tides, magnetism, built a diving bell and even contributed to the development of actuarial science!
  • November 15, 1738 - William Hershel, a German-born British astronomer who became famous for discovering Uranus. He also discovered several moons of Saturn and Uranus, studied nebulae and other astronomical objects, and discovered infrared radiation. He was also a prolific composer.
  • November 29, 1803 - Christian Doppler, an Austrian mathematician and physicist who discovered the Doppler effect
  • November 20, 1889 - Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer who studied galaxies and contributed to the idea of an expanding universe. The Hubble Space Telescope was named after him.
  • November 9, 1934 - Carl Sagan, an American astronomer who researched the origins of life and astrobiology. He is also famous for writing many popular science books and articles.

Let it Snow!

Autumn is well under way in many parts of the country, which means that winter is right around the corner! Since many students get excited about winter weather, share some information with them on snow and other types of dramatic weather. 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.

Snow is part of the cryosphere, which also includes sea ice, ice shelves, and glaciers. While you're looking into this part of the Earth system, you might want to take the opportunity to learn more about the International Polar Year (IPY). IPY is going on now and runs through March 2009. There are some great resources available for your students to learn more about our planet and the poles.

The Study of Saturn Over Centuries

The history of the study of Saturn is a good example of how scientists have persevered through time to learn more, building on the work of others. Although Saturn can be seen through the naked eye, Galileo was the first to observe Saturn with a telescope in 1610. Because of the rudimentary nature of his telescope, he couldn't determine what Saturn's rings were. James Maxwell deduced that Saturn rings could not be solid and must be made of "an indefinite number of unconnected particles. Many years earlier, a Dutch astronomer named Huygens solved the mystery of Saturn's "arms". Due to improved telescope optics, he correctly deduced that the "arms" were actually a ring system. Huygens also discovered Saturn's moon Titan. The space probe, named after Huygens, gave us a good look at Titan’s surface. 20 years after Huygens' discoveries, astronomer Cassini discovered 4 other major moons of Saturn: Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys, and Dione. Cassini discovered a narrow gap that splits Saturn's ring system into two parts, and the gap has since been known as the Cassini Division. In 1789, William Herschel discovered two further moons, Mimas and Enceladus. The irregularly shaped satellite Hyperion, which has a resonance with Titan, was discovered in 1848. In 1899 William Henry Pickering discovered Phoebe, an irregular moon that does not rotate synchronously with Saturn as the larger moons do.

Saturn was first visited by Pioneer 11 on September 1979. In November 1980, the Voyager 1 probe visited the Saturn system. Almost a year later, in August 1981, Voyager 2 continued the study of the Saturn system. In January 2005, the Huygens Probe, which had previously been released from the Cassini spacecraft, descended onto the surface of Titan. As of 2006, the Cassini spacecraft has discovered and confirmed 5 new satellites. Its primary mission will end in 2008 when the spacecraft will be expected to have completed 74 orbits around the planet!

Did You Find Out about Us at a Conference?

The Windows to the Universe group just attended the NSTA regional conference in Detroit. What a wonderful opportunity that was! Please visit our workshop page to access the powerpoint presentations we gave as well as links to all of the activities we presented. Presenter contact information is also there.

We are also planning to attend the National Science Teacher's Association regional conference in Denver (8-10 November).

If you'll make it as well, please join us at one of the following events:
Denver NSTA Regional Conference

Date/Time Location
Cool Science About Cold Places: International Polar Year
8 November,

CCC Room 709

Short Course- Climate and Global Change: A Toolkit for Teachers (This is a ticketed event - register through NSTA before the conference to save money!)
8 November,
Hyatt, Capitol 2
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future
9 November,
CCC Room 403
National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) Share-a-Thon
9 November,
Hyatt, Capitol 4
WALLS! Water, Air, Land, Life and Space!
9 November,
CCC Room 709
Magnetism Activities, Earth's Magnetism, and Space Weather
10 November,
CCC Room 407

The Great World Wide Star Count Update

The newest Windows to the Universe citizen science project, The Great World Wide Star Count ( ended very successfully! Over 6,500 observations were recorded from around the world. Initial estimates suggest that almost 20,000 participants from over 60 countries (representing all 7 continents!) took part in this pilot project. A full data analysis with maps and classroom activities will be available in the coming weeks. Mark your calendars for the 2008 Star Count (October 20th thru November 3rd 2008). Help us double the number of observations in 2008!

Cloud Sneak Preview!

Just a sneak preview that we will soon be releasing an updated section on clouds, including some beautiful cloud art images and an associated classroom activity. We're translating the art interactive and activity now, but the new cloud section itself is available in both English and Spanish. Keep your eyes posted here, and enjoy!

Table of Contents

ANDRILL Postcards
Nobel Winners
Starcount Update
Cloud Sneak Preview!
Polar Palooza


Teacher Submissions

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Announcements from Partners

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Polar Palooza Events

Polar Palooza is a public outreach project sponsored by the National Science Foundation and NASA to bring the poles to you through a national science center and museum tour, vodcasts, and more. Events are scheduled across the country this fall. Check out the list of events and locations to find out about opportunities to attend for yourself, your family, and your students!

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The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). © 1995-1999, 2000 The Regents of the University of Michigan; © 2000-07 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. All Rights Reserved.