May 2014

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Come On Spring!
by Roberta

Up here in the U.S. northeast, we are eagerly celebrating spring, given the really cold and intense winter we experienced.  While our local temperatures were considerably below normal, it's clear that globally it was still a winter that was warmer than average during January through March.  According to the NOAA State of the Climate Report, "The first quarter of 2014 (January–March) was the seventh highest on record for this period, with a combined global land and ocean average surface temperature of 1.08°F (0.60°C) above the 20th century average of 54.1°F (12.3°C)."

Although it's been cold in the northeast, the NESTA/Windows to the Universe sessions at the Boston National Science Teachers Association Conference were really hot!  We were delighted to have over 1,200 attendees at our events!  Our Share-a-Thons had record participation, with a total of 95 presenters in our four Share-a-Thons and over 650 attendees!  Workshops were also well attended, and we had a great evening at the Boston Museum of Science, where we held our Friends of Earth Science Reception.  Again, the community came together and made it happen, helping to support Earth and space science educators at the conference, and we really appreciate the support of the volunteers and sponsors who made it possible to offer our program.  A special thanks to our administrator and logistics expert, Marlene DiMarco, who provided the essential glue to make the program come off so well! 

We're really excited about the new web seminar series we launched last month on space and astronomy topics.  The web seminar was very well received, and we are continuing with these offerings through the end of September.  We will soon be announcing expanded web seminar opportunities on a number of different topics, so this will provide a good opportunity for you to stay up-to-date on a variety of Earth and space science topics during the summer in a convenient way. 

Best wishes as you finish up the school year!  Spring is here and summer is coming!

Table of Contents


W2U Web Seminars
Support Newsletter
Chilean Earthquake
Earth-Size Exoplanet
LADEE Completed
HST Measure x10
News Saturn Moons
Spitzer - Galaxy
Weather Maps
Fewer Trees,Disease!
Writing-Field Trips
Great Planet Debate!
Biogeochem Cycles
May Meteor Shower
Ads or No Ads

ES Resources HHMI
Am Geophysical Union

Wetlands Month
Prevent Skin Cancer
FMA Live!
RockOn! Workshop
Drinking Water Week
Appreciate Teachers!
Thacher Env Contest
Asthma Day
Intel ISEF
Water Challenge
Bike to Work Day
Endangered Sp Day
Kids to Parks
Hurricane Prepare
Send Name-Asteroid
ES Week 2014 Connect
Space Tech Grants

Take a Second
PLT Blog
Faking Quakes
Flying Wild
Soil Sci Education
Disk Detective
Asteroid Hunters!













  Site and Science News

NESTA/Windows to the Universe Web Seminars

We are happy to announce a series of nine free web seminars offered by NESTA and Windows to the Universe on topics in space science, planetary science, and astronomy.  The series will feature 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).  All seminars will be at 7 pm Eastern and will continue approximately every three weeks through the end of September 2014.  Our next web seminar on May 21 will focus on The Universe.  Register and find out more on the Windows to the Universe Web Seminar page.  

Help Support the Windows to the Universe Earth and Space Science Education Newsletter

If this newsletter is useful to you, please consider a charitable contribution to the Windows to the Universe project at the National Earth Science Teachers Association Producing this free newsletter alone costs about $1500 each month! 

Thanks to donations by dozens of individuals, we have received over $700 in support of this newsletter.  If everyone that subscribes to this newsletter donated just $5, our newsletter production costs would be covered for the entire year!  Better yet, become an Educator Member, and get access to all the resources and services available through Windows to the Universe - without advertising, too! 

Thunderstorms and Tornadoes Becoming More Prevalent as Weather Warms

This is a good time of year to explore the atmospheric conditions that create severe weather and the way yearly variations in winter weather can affect spring and summer storms. 

Thunderstorms and tornadoes occur when masses of warm, moist air rise, and persistent squall lines often form over the U.S. central plains when cool, dry Canadian air masses collide with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.  So far this year, we've seen a spring that has had significantly fewer storms across the U.S. because of the very cold winter the country is emerging from.  Colder ground temperatures, an ice-covered Great Lakes system, and a colder Gulf of Mexico made rising warm air masses less frequent, and that meant fewer tornadoes and thunderstorms across the country. 

However, in the last week, the U.S. has experienced a surge of severe weather as surface temperatures rise and warm air masses occur more often.  Thunderstorms and tornadoes have ripped across the central United States - destroying homes and businesses in 8 states and causing fatalities in at least 6 states.  The deadly weather pattern put up to 75 million people at risk of severe weather (in one day!) with severe weather warnings creeping to over 30 per day!   Storms and flooding have been reported from the Great Lakes to the Gulf coast, and from the Midwest to the East coast.  The Deep South has been especially hard hit by this severe weather and our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the storms and for those helping with recovery.  Keep up-to-date and donate funds for relief at the American Red Cross Newsroom.

With storms becoming more prevalent, stay abreast of all weather warning and watches with NOAA's National Weather Service web page.  They list detailed and up-to-date weather warnings for all 50 states.

The weather section of Windows to the Universe provides information about thunderstorms and tornadoes, explains how tornadoes form, and tells how meteorologists forecast when and where tornadoes will occur.  In addition, our Tornado in a Bottle activity provides a great way to illustrate tornadoes for your students.

Powerful Chilean Earthquake Triggers Tsunami

Early in April, a very strong earthquake struck the Pacific Ocean just offshore of Iquique, Chile.  The 8.2-magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that measured as high as 7 feet, and caused a number of landslides in the nearby coastal communities.  Several people were killed by the quake and its destructive effects, and several hundred prisoners escaped from a prison in Iquique when a wall collapsed.  The photo to the left shows a restaurant fire that was started because of the earthquake.  Even so, the effects of the earthquake were much less than if it had occurred inland, especially near a major city—many scientists agree that an earthquake of this strength could have been catastrophic.

Communities affected by the quake are on their way to recovery, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were injured or displaced by this earthquake. 

As always, teachers can find many resources to support talking to their students about recent earthquake teachable moments from IRIS, the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.

Kepler Telescope Discovers First Earth-Size Planet in 'Habitable Zone'

Using the Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone" -- the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.  While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they are all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth.  The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.

Although the size of Kepler-186f is known, its mass and composition are not.  Previous research, however, suggests that a planet the size of Kepler-186f is likely to be rocky.  It resides in the Kepler-186 system, about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.  The system is also home to four companion planets, which orbit a star half the size and mass of our sun.

LADEE Mission Completed with Planned Impact on Moon's Surface

NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft impacted the surface of the moon, as planned, on April 17.

In early April, the spacecraft was commanded to carry out maneuvers that would lower its approach to the lunar surface.  The new orbit brought LADEE to altitudes below one mile (two kilometers) above the lunar surface.  This is lower than most commercial airliners fly above Earth, enabling scientists to gather unprecedented science measurements.

On April 11, LADEE performed a final maneuver to ensure a trajectory that caused the spacecraft to impact the far side of the moon, which is not in view of Earth or near any previous lunar mission landings.  In the coming months, mission controllers will determine the exact time and location of LADEE's impact and will work with the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) team to possibly capture an image of the impact site.  In coming years, scientists will continue to work through data provided by LADEE that give detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface of the moon and environmental influences on lunar dust.

Hubble Extends Stellar Tape Measure 10 Times Farther Into Space

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers now can precisely measure the distance of stars up to 10,000 light-years away -- 10 times farther than previously possible.

Astronomers have developed yet another novel way to use the 24-year-old space telescope by employing a technique called spatial scanning, which dramatically improves Hubble's accuracy for making angular measurements.  The technique, when applied to the age-old method for gauging distances called astronomical parallax, extends Hubble's tape measure 10 times farther into space.

This new long-range precision was proven when scientists successfully used Hubble to measure the distance of a special class of bright stars called Cepheid variables, approximately 7,500 light-years away in the northern constellation Auriga.  The technique worked so well, they are now using Hubble to measure the distances of other far-flung Cepheids.

News about Saturn's Moons

In two recent studies, NASA's Cassini spacecraft contributed to new discoveries about Saturn’s moons

In the first study, the Cassini spacecraft documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon.  Images taken with Cassini's narrow angle camera on April 15, 2013, show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn's A ring -- the outermost of the planet's large, bright rings.  Scientists believe the gravitational effects of a nearby object caused these disturbances.

In the second study, the Cassini spacecraft uncovered evidence that Saturn's moon Enceladus harbors a large underground ocean of liquid water.  Scientists hypothesized several years ago that there was a large reservoir of water on this moon, and the new Cassini data are the first evidence that the theory is correct.  This is an exciting discovery, because it raises the possibility that Enceladus could contain a favorable environment for microbial life.

Spitzer Telescope Brings 360-Degree View of Galaxy to Our Fingertips

Touring the Milky Way is now as easy as clicking a button with NASA's new zoomable, 360-degree mosaic.  The star-studded panorama of our galaxy is constructed from more than 2 million infrared snapshots taken over the past 10 years by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The 20-gigapixel mosaic uses Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope visualization platform.  It captures about three percent of our sky, but because it focuses on a band around Earth where the plane of the Milky Way lies, it shows more than half of all the galaxy's stars.

The image, derived primarily from the Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire project, or GLIMPSE360, is online.  The GLIMPSE data are also part of a citizen science project, where users can help catalog bubbles and other objects in our Milky Way galaxy.  To participate, visit

The Highs and Lows of Weather Maps

As I write this, there is a tremendous low pressure system working itself across North America.  It stretches from Canada to Texas!  The area around it on the weather map is various shades of green dotted with yellow, white, grey and pink.  The low pressure system is marked with a red L.  Behind that system is one blue "H".  No green around that H!

Weather maps can be fascinating to study!  They certainly are ever changing.  By studying weather maps, you can be better prepared for what weather is coming your way.  Here's a very basic pressure system briefing for those of you who aren't atmospheric scientists.  If you see a red L on a weather map, that represents a low pressure system.  In general, a low pressure system will bring clouds and possibly precipitation.  Heavy rain around a Low is marked with dark green on most weather maps, light rain is marked green, fog is marked in yellow, flurries are marked in grey, ice/snow are marked in pink.  Finally, white means moderate-heavy snow!

If you see a blue H on a weather map, that represents a high pressure system.  This High will bring with it good weather, i.e., clear skies.

Follow the links above to find out more about the connection between these pressure systems and the weather they bring!

Fewer Trees, More Disease!

Many of us have heard about how deforestation is contributing to climate change, and that it's causing irreparable damage to local environments around the world.  Did you know that it's also a major factor in the rise of new infectious diseases?  As forest environments are transformed into farms, roads, fields, and cities, people are brought into contact with plants, animals, and other species that they have never seen before.  Many of these new species, like bats, apes, and some rodents, carry diseases that can also affect people, and when people enter their environment they are exposed to those diseases.  Unfortunately, many of these diseases are extremely dangerous, and we often have a very limited ability to treat them, so they become public health problems.

There are many examples of diseases that have arisen and spread at least in part because of deforestation and the urbanization of rural areas.  Some of the most prominent ones in recent years include malaria, HIV, monkeypox, and various viral hemorrhagic fevers including Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa fevers.  None of these can be cured easily, and all are potentially fatal.

Emerging infectious diseases are a potent reminder that as humans move into new areas and change the ways land is used, there are often unforeseen consequences.  You can learn more about deforestation and climate change by following links from this page.

Use these links for more detail:

Factors in the Emergence of Infectious Diseases
Forests and Emerging Infectious Diseases of Humans

Taking a Field Trip Soon?

Use our Snapshot Exercise to have your students write about a select moment of the trip.  We have a simple page for elementary school students where they can write down as many words as they can think of that have to do with what they see, hear, smell and touch.  For middle-high school students, we have a large list of sensory adjectives that would be helpful in writing their snapshot!

This activity makes your field trip or outing more meaningful and addresses Standards of being able to communicate effectively about science.

Classroom Activity about the Solar System

Are you going to end your year by teaching about space, the solar system, stars and galaxies?  If so, check out the Great Planetary Debate Activity.  It has students work in groups of two to research a given planetary body in the solar system.  The students will then "defend their planet/moon" while competing against other teams in a Great Planetary Debate.  This is a great alternative to the solar system report, poster board or travel brochure you may have used before.

I used this activity in my high school Earth science classes, and I have to say that students were more excited about this Debate than about any other activity we did during the year!

Resources for Teaching about Biogeochemical Cycles

What does a frog in a swamp have in common with a limestone rock?  It's the same thing that they have in common with a blade of grass and the air in a balloon.  They all contain atoms of carbon!

Certain elements, such as carbon and nitrogen, move through the living and nonliving parts of the Earth system.  The movement of these elements is known as the biogeochemical cycles.  They are a great way to emphasize to students that the Earth is an interconnected system because these elements travel through the biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and the geosphere.

Windows to the Universe includes many resources for teaching about biogeochemical cycles - from classroom activities to online content and interactives.  These resources are highlighted for educators on the page:  Resources for Teaching about Biogeochemical Cycles.

Meteor Showers and Halley's Comet

This year, the Eta Aquarids meteor shower will peak during the early morning hours of May 5-6.  The moon will set after midnight, which will leave dark skies for optimal viewing that will occur in the hour or two before dawn.  Some Eta Aquarid meteors may be visible for a few days before and after May 6, due to this shower's broad peak.

The Eta Aquarids and the Orionid meteor shower in October are the results of Earth passing through the debris left behind by Halley's comet.  This famous comet is named after English astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Edmond Halley, who had suggested in 1705 that the comet observed in 1531, 1607, and 1682 was the same one, and predicted its return every 76 years.

Halley's comet has actually been observed since 240 BC and is next scheduled to return in 2062.  During its last appearance in 1986, the Giotto mission and several other spacecraft flew past the comet and collected a wealth of data on its different regions.

Advertising and Membership

Those of you that use the Windows to the Universe website regularly, and are not members, notice that advertising appears on the website.  You might wonder why we need to include advertising on this website. 

The reality is that the effort required to maintain this website needs to be supported somehow.  One of the ways we do this is through advertising - which we try to ensure is filtered so that inappropriate advertising does not appear.  Advertising does help support our efforts, but in no way is sufficient to cover the costs of maintaining the website and offering the professional development programs we offer. 

In addition to advertising, we raise support for the website and our programs through donations, memberships, and sales.  We also partner with organizations that share our commitment to improving K-12 Earth, space, and environmental science education and literacy. 

If you are a regular user of Windows to the Universe, and would rather not have to deal with the advertising on the website, please consider becoming an Educator Member.  This provides critical support we need for our ongoing programs, and also provides you access to an advertising-free version of the website.

  Partner Announcements

Earth Science Education Resources from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

How has Earth’s environment changed over time?  What has happened to CO2 levels and temperatures?  Find out the answers to these questions and much more with the Free EarthViewer app, an interactive tool to visualize geological and biological events throughout Earth’s history.  Visit our webpage for download links and related resources.

The American Geophysical Union

The American Geophysical Union, a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing more than 62,000 members in 142 countries, is dedicated to the furtherance of the Earth and space sciencesand to communicating our science’s ability to benefit humanity.  We achieve these goals through publishing scientific journals and other technical publications, sponsoring scientific meetings, supporting education and outreach programs designed to increase public understanding of and support for our science, and a variety of other activities.

  Calendar of Events

May is American Wetlands Month: Learn! Explore! Take Action!

May is American Wetlands Month, a time when the EPA and its partners in federal, state, tribal, local, non-profit, and private sector organizations celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to the Nation's ecological, economic, and social health.  It is also a great opportunity to discover and teach others about the important role that wetlands play in our environment and the significant benefits they provide - improved water quality, increased water storage and supply, reduced flood and storm surge risk, and critical habitats for plants, fish, and other wildlife.

EPA encourages all Americans to consider doing the following to help celebrate the month, wherever they reside:  learn about wetlands, explore a wetland near you, and take action to protect and restore wetlands.

May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.  Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer.  UV radiation can also come from tanning booths or sunlamps.  The most dangerous kind of skin cancer is called melanoma.

The good news?  Skin cancer can almost always be cured when it’s found and treated early.  Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to prevent skin cancer or detect it early on.

Use the month of May to spread the word about strategies for preventing skin cancer and to raise awareness about skin cancer.  How can you help?

FMA Live! Forces in Motion

This year marks the 10th anniversary of FMA Live! Forces in Motion, an innovative collaboration designed to ignite students' interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

FMA Live! is a high-energy live show that features actors, hip-hop dance, music videos, interactive scientific demonstrations, and video interviews with NASA scientists to teach Sir Isaac Newton's three laws of motion and universal laws of gravity.  The name of the show comes from Newton’s second law of motion:  force = mass x acceleration. 

"Each student needs to understand that a solid foundation in STEM can open doors they may not have known existed," said Dr. Roosevelt Y. Johnson, NASA's acting associate administrator for education.  "Getting them excited is the first step – from there, the career possibilities are endless.  This has been a great collaboration between NASA and Honeywell, and I'm proud of how many students we've engaged through FMA Live! during the past 10 years."

The show is currently touring central and southeast U.S. locations (Houston; Baton Rouge, LA; Hattiesburg, MS; Atlanta; Huntsville, AL; Nashville; Pulaski, VA; Columbia, SC; and Jacksonville, Miami, and West Palm Beach, FL).  A similar schedule is slated for the western part of the United States this fall.

RockOn! Workshop

Registration is open for NASA's seventh annual RockOn! workshop to be held June 14-19 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, VA.  This workshop, offered in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia, engages university and community college students and faculty interested in learning how to develop science payloads for spaceflight.

During the workshop, participants work in teams to build experimental payloads to fly on a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket expected to fly to an altitude of 73 miles.  The flight will take place the final day of the workshop, weather permitting.  Since 2008, 240 people have participated in RockOn! workshops and have successfully built and launched 79 payloads into space.

Registration closes May 2.  Workshop participants must be U.S. citizens or have a valid, government-issued green card.  For more information and to register online, visit:

National Drinking Water Week 2014

National Drinking Water Week (run by the EPA) is May 4-10th!  We all need to do our part to make sure all of Earth's inhabitants have clean, readily available drinking water.  

Each American uses about 100 gallons of water per water, save energy, save the environment!  Choose WaterSense labeled products in your home, yard, and business and take simple steps to save water!  Learn about WaterSense and what you can do today!

Use these links to find out more and to do your part to be informed, observant, involved, and protective!

Teacher Appreciation Day (May 6) and Week (May 5-9)

Teacher Appreciation Day is coming soon - May 6, 2014.  Use the whole week of May 5-9th to thank the teachers in your life.  We are so grateful for all of the teachers we serve, work with and interact with each year!  

Educators truly make a difference in our lives and the lives of our children!  Visit the Teacher Appreciation web site for creative ideas that honor educators.

2014 Thacher Environmental Research Contest Focuses on Refuges, Parks, and Other Protected Areas

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies is pleased to invite U.S. high school students to participate in the 2014 Thacher Environmental Research Contest.  This annual contest allows students the opportunity to show off their science and technology skills by submitting research projects focused on the use of remote sensing and analysis tools.  This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Wilderness Act, students are asked to identify a U.S. protected area of interest, and design a research project that identifies why the area is unique, why it significantly contributes to our society, how this area has changed over time, and ways remote sensing and geospatial tools can be used to monitor these environmental treasures.

Participation is open to all U.S. students in grades 9-12.  Entries may be submitted by individuals or student teams.  Three cash prizes will be presented, with the first place student or team receiving $2,000, along with a feature in the magazine Apogeo Spatial.  In addition to prizes for the winning students, the teacher/coach of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants will receive a $200 gift card.  Entries must be postmarked or emailed by May 5, 2014.

For full contest rules and to enter, please visit

World Asthma Day

May 6 is World Asthma Day, an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve awareness of asthma around the world.  Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs, in which airways become repeatedly inflamed and swollen, leading to difficulty in breathing.  It is quite common, affecting nearly 10% of the developed world’s population.  Although there are effective treatments available for asthma, its cause is not known and there is no cure.  Asthma is typically made worse by poor air quality, and those who suffer from the disease are often very sensitive to pollution in the atmosphere.

You can read more about World Asthma Day on the GINA website, and use the resources there to find activities in your community that you can participate in.  Check it out, and show your support for the large community of people who are affected by this disease!

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF)

Intel ISEF is the world's largest international pre-college science competition (grades 9-12).  It will be held May 11-16, 2014, in Los Angeles, CA.  Each year more than 1,500 high school students from about 70 countries, regions, and territories display their independent research and compete for more than $3 million in awards.  We encourage you to visit the Intel ISEF homepage to learn more, view the Recent Results page for information about past Intel ISEF award winners, and check out all the latest pictures from the event on Facebook.

Water Research Challenge

The National Aquatic Resource Survey Campus Research Challenge invites college and graduate students to develop innovative ways to protect water resources using EPA’s data.  Prizes total $50,000.  Read more about this challenge and how to apply.  Applications are due by May 15.

Bike to Work Day - May 16, 2014

May 16, 2014, is National Bike to Work Day.  The League of American Bicyclists, who also promotes Bike Week and Bike Month during the month of May, started national Bike to Work Day.  Since its origin, this day has grown and developed into a nationwide event.  Local, regional, and national bicycle advocacy groups participate to encourage people to commute to work using a bicycle.  There are even pit stops along some bicycle routes that provide cyclists with snacks and drinks!

Join thousands of other Americans for Annual Bike to Work Day.  Whether you are environmentally conscious or just love the exercise, biking to work is a great way to avoid the commuter traffic and stay in shape!

Endangered Species Day (May 16)

President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law on December 28, 1973.  Our legislators understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation's living resources would become extinct.

What are some ways that you can help protect endangered species?  Celebrate Endangered Species Day on May 16, 2014, gain the public's attention by tweeting what the ESA has meant to you (#myESA), and preserve wildlife habitats and clean up the outdoors where you live.

4th Annual National Kids to Parks Day Event – May 17, 2014

The 4th Annual National Kids to Parks Day is on May 17, 2014.  The National Park Trust created National Kids to Parks Day to empower kids to discover and enjoy parks in their community.  The Day's goal is to inspire healthy outdoor recreation and to cultivate future park stewards.  Over 14,000 people have pledged to go to a park that day - will you?

National Kids to Parks Day is officially in support of the First Lady's Let's Move Outside! initiative.

Please visit the Kids to Parks Day website where you can find resources on how to plan your outing!

Hurricane Preparedness Week 2014 (May 25-31)

National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2014 runs from May 25th through May 31st.

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters.  By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.  Each day will focus on a different topic like hurricane basics, storm surge, winds, flooding, forecasting hurricanes, planning and taking action after the storm.  Are you ready?

NASA Invites Public to Send Names on an Asteroid Mission

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip that will be on a spacecraft headed to the asteroid Bennu in 2016.

The "Messages to Bennu!" microchip will travel to the asteroid aboard the agency's Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft.  The robotic mission will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid.  The spacecraft will collect a sample of Bennu's surface and return it to Earth in a sample return capsule.

"We're thrilled to be able to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth, to Bennu and back," said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission from the University of Arizona in Tucson.  "It's a great opportunity for people to get engaged with the mission early and join us as we prepare for launch."

Those wishing to participate in "Messages to Bennu!" should submit their name online no later than Sept. 30 at:

After a person submits their name, they will be able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission.  "You'll be part of humankind's exploration of the solar system - How cool is that?" said Bill Nye, chief executive officer of The Planetary Society, the organization collecting and processing the entries.

Earth Science Week 2014: ‘Earth’s Connected Systems’

AGI is pleased to announce that the theme of Earth Science Week 2014 (October 12-18) will be “Earth’s Connected Systems.”  This year’s event will promote awareness of the dynamic interactions of the planet’s natural systems.

Earth Science Week 2014 learning resources and activities will engage young people and others in exploring the ways that geoscience illuminates natural change processes.  By deepening our understanding of interactions of Earth systems - geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere - Earth science helps us manage our greatest challenges and make the most of vital opportunities.

“With this theme, Earth Science Week cuts to the core of Earth science and what it means to society,” says Geoff Camphire, AGI’s Manager of Outreach.  “The interactions of Earth systems are at the heart of our most critical issues, from energy and the environment to climate change and emerging economic realities.  No matter where we come from or where we’re going, we all need to understand Earth’s connected systems.”

Reaching over 50 million people a year, Earth Science Week offers opportunities to discover the Earth sciences and engage in responsible stewardship of the Earth.  The program is supported by the U.S. Geological Survey; the AAPG Foundation; the National Park Service; NASA; Esri; National Geographic; the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration; the Geological Society of America; and the American Geophysical Union.  To learn more, go to

NASA Offers Space Tech Grants to Early Career University Faculty

NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate is seeking proposals from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of outstanding faculty members who are beginning their independent careers.  The grants will sponsor research in high priority areas of interest to America's space program.

NASA expects to award about five grants this fall, funded up to $200,000 each per year for as many as three years, based on the merit of proposals and availability of funds.  Funded research will investigate unique space technologies in areas such as soft machines for robotic mobility and manipulation, science-based digital materials and manufacturing, and low size, weight, and power lasers.

For information on the solicitation, including specific technology areas of interest and how to submit notices of intent and proposals, click here.   Deadline to submit proposals is Thursday, December 18, 2014.

  Other Announcements

Are You Weather-Ready? Be a Force of Nature with NEEF

From floods and drought to heat waves and tornado outbreaks, the United States experienced seven weather and climate disasters in 2013, each with losses in excess of one billion dollars.  Severe weather can strike at any time, anywhere, and it affects all of us.

Be a Force of Nature:  NEEF (National Environmental Education Foundation) is proud to be recognized as a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador and recommends taking a few minutes to know your risk, prepare for severe weather, and share your knowledge and actions with friends, family, and your community.

For more information, graphics, and resources, visit

Take a Second for the Environment!

Did you know there are over 80,000 seconds in a day?  Individual environmental actions only take a few seconds.  Together, we can make a huge impact with simple everyday actions.  NEEF invites you to learn about the environment and see how just a few seconds add up to a huge impact.

Watch NEEF's Take a Second video and be inspired, learn from the EPA how simple everyday environmental actions add up to a huge impact, and share how you are taking a few seconds for the environment to help inspire others at

Until May 8, share how you are taking a few seconds to conserve water in a Vine or Instagram video for a chance to win an Apple MacBook, an Apple iPad, or a $300 REI gift card!

Project Learning Tree Blog

If you’re like most educators, you want your students to have a deep understanding of the environmental issues in our country – but if you’re like most educators, you probably also have difficulty incorporating environmental education into a classroom schedule that’s already packed. And with the proliferation of new standards, your job isn’t getting any easier.

Project Learning Tree works to support teachers like you by creating environmental education materials and curriculum resources that link with existing educational mandates, such as the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, National Social Studies Standards, as well as state-specific learning standards.

With Project Learning Tree, you can help your students develop the knowledge, critical thinking skills, and leadership they will need to tackle the environmental problems of the future – all while enhancing student achievement.  Please visit our blog to see what PLT curriculum resources and activities might fit your needs and teaching standards.

Faking Quakes at Full Scale: Giant Shake Tables

On a muggy day in mid-July 2009, a lone seven-story condominium complex northwest of Kobe, Japan, was violently shaken by an earthquake.  Onlookers watched the 23-unit, wood-frame tower sway and bounce while, inside the building, furniture toppled and plates clattered to the floor.  No one was hurt during the highly localized event and there was only minimal damage, in part because the building's wooden skeleton had been augmented to better resist earthquake shaking, but also because the whole event — from the seismicity to the partially furnished building — was just a test.

It was the largest seismic experiment ever conducted on a full-size building, and it was carried out on the world's biggest earthquake-simulating shake table.  Several other research facilities also have their own large shake tables, on which engineers are constructing and shaking full-size buildings to learn how to make them safer during earthquakes.

Learn more about the massive shake tables that make full-scale seismic testing a reality in the May issue of EARTH Magazine:

Flying Wild: An Educator's Guide to Celebrating Birds

Flying WILD's focus on migratory birds is designed to inspire young people to discover more about the natural world.  It encourages students to get involved in activities that promote environmental learning and stewardship.  The Flying WILD program places special emphasis on reaching urban schools with student populations that traditionally receive few opportunities to participate in environmental education initiatives.

The Curriculum Guide's many activities can be used to teach classroom lessons or to initiate service-learning projects that help birds and improve natural habitats.

SSSA Offers Riches Of Soil Science Education

Six thousand members strong, the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a scientific organization that aims to support geoscience teaching and learning about soils.  This AGI member society provides an educational resources web page that includes lessons, activities, fun facts, information about soil disciplines, and soil definitions for the novice soil scientist.

You can also visit the online version of “Dig It,” an SSSA-sponsored exhibition on soil that ran in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History through January 2010.  Explore Dig It online and you'll find interactives, videos, educational materials, and more.

'Disk Detective' Lets Public Search for New Planetary Nurseries

NASA is inviting the public to help astronomers discover embryonic planetary systems hidden among data from the agency's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission through a new website,  Disk Detective is NASA's largest crowdsourcing project whose primary goal is to produce publishable scientific results.  

The WISE mission was designed to survey the entire sky at infrared wavelengths.  It took detailed measurements on more than 745 million objects, representing the most comprehensive survey of the sky at mid-infrared wavelengths currently available.  Astronomers have used computers to search this haystack of data for planet-forming environments and narrowed the field to about a half-million sources that shine brightly in the infrared, indicating they may be "needles":  dust-rich disks that are absorbing their star's light and reradiating it as heat.  But galaxies, interstellar dust clouds, and asteroids also glow in the infrared, which stymies automated efforts to identify planetary habitats.  There may be thousands of nascent solar systems in the WISE data, but the only way to know for sure is to inspect each source by eye, which poses a monumental challenge.

Disk Detective incorporates images from WISE and other sky surveys in brief animations the website calls flip books.  Volunteers view a flip book and classify the object based on simple criteria, such as whether the image is round or includes multiple objects.  By collecting this information, astronomers will be able to assess which sources should be explored in greater detail, for example, to search for planets outside our solar system.

Be an Asteroid Hunter in NASA's First Asteroid Grand Challenge Contest Series

NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter contest series will offer $35,000 in awards over the next six months to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids.

Managed by the NASA Tournament Lab, the entire contest series runs through August and is the first contest series contributing to the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.  This contest series is being conducted in partnership with Planetary Resources Inc. of Bellevue, WA.

“Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are,” said Jenn Gustetic, Prizes and Challenges Program executive.  “By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge.”

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The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at 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.