July 2007

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

A Busy Summer!

The past couple of months have been very busy at Windows to the Universe. In late May, we had the pleasure of working with the American Geophysical Union, the AGU Education Program Manager, Ines Cifuentes, and scientist/educator colleagues to offer the Geophysical Information for Teachers Workshop in Acapulco, Mexico. It was a wonderful experience, and we had the chance to meet and work with 72 teachers, most of whom are now receiving this newsletter. In this photo, Sandra Henderson is sharing our Weather and Climate Activity with workshop participants, and Marina LaGrave is about to translate into Spanish.

Shortly thereafter, Marina and I had the honor to present at the IV Iberoamericano Congress of Educared in Santiago, Chile. This impressive conference, organized by Telefonica Foundation, hosted 1,000 teachers from across Chile to learn about web-based educational resources. Marina continued on to a UNESCO conference in Argentina, where she presented another workshop on our resources. Through these outreach activities, we anticipate over 1,000 new educational colleagues from Latin America will be receiving this newsletter!

This month's newsletter highlights important weather information, mysteries of the sky and moons in the solar system, as well as a new product available in our store - the incredible Windows to the Universe polo shirt! Check it out!

Don't forget the opportunity to present your favorite classroom activities at the National Earth Science Teachers Association Share-a-Thons this fall at the regional National Science Teachers Association conferences - see the partner announcement, below.

Thunderstorm Wonders and Safety

Summer months in the northern hemisphere can portend thunderstorms and associated dangerous weather. This is a good time to explore the atmospheric conditions that create persistent squall lines that form over the U.S. central plains where cool, dry air Canadian air masses collide with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. Near the ocean, the Great Lakes, and mountains, uneven heating of land surfaces can produce spectacular afternoon storms announced by crackling thunder, life-threatening lightning, hail, tornadoes and flash flooding. Knowing and sharing information about thunderstorm safety is very important.

Windows to the Universe apparel in our store!

New in the Windows to the Universe store - black polo shirts with embroidered Windows to the Universe logo. They come in women's and men's styles and look really cool!
You can also order a high quality black lab coat with our logo that will protect your clothing during science demonstrations. Look sharp and elegant while supporting your favorite site. Inventory is limited - order now!

Don't forget we have other logo items for sale, as well as beautiful Climate and Climate Change posters. What else would you like to see in our store? Log in to members' comments form and let us know!

The Mysteries of the Sky

People have been wondering about what they see in the sky for a long time. Because of our curiosity about the sky, we tell stories and myths about what we see there. The desire to explain what we see around us in the simplest way using science has driven astronomers for centuries.

By carefully watching the sky, astronomers learn about how the universe works. By studying eclipses and the motions of the planets, astronomers eventually realized that gravity controls the way things move, and that gravity was responsible for the motion of the Sun, the Moon, and the stars in our sky as well. We now know that the Earth's motion is responsible for seasons.

Ever more powerful telescopes allow us to "see" further away and thus farther into the history of our Universe. With them, we can study stars and galaxies, as well as many of the more mysterious objects in our Universe. Someday, we may even be able to predict the ultimate fate of the Universe.

Moons in our Solar System

We have recently updated our table of Moons in our Solar System. There are now 165 known moons orbiting the eight "official" planets, plus four more in orbit around the three "dwarf planets" (Pluto, Eris, and Ceres). We now have a grand total of 169 known moons in orbit around planets of some sort in our Solar System! Jupiter still leads the pack with 63 moons, but Saturn is now running a close second at 59. The other two giant planets account for most of the rest; Uranus has 27 moons and Neptune 13. Fifteen of the known moons have been discovered since the beginning of 2005, mostly around Saturn. Continued improvements to telescopes and ongoing space missions are likely to add to this count in the years ahead.

Go on an Exploratour

Windows to the Universe has dozens of guided tours through content on many different topics in our Tours section. Ranging from Evidence of Evolution to the Lives of the Stars, electromagnetic radiation, to Spectacular Crashes in the Universe, there's lots of content to use here in your classrooms. We are still working on translating most of this material in the Tours section into Spanish - in the meantime, the Evidence of Evolution Exploratour is available in both languages. Enjoy!

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!

Table of Contents

Store update
Super Sun
NESTA in Detroit


Teacher Submissions

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Super Sun

Submitted by Bikramjit, India

NASA scientists have discovered two massive stars that are relatively young. Astronomers have pinpointed two young stars orbiting close to each other that could merge to create a huge super sun, 100 times bigger than our own. The stars are around 165,000 light years from the Earth and are labeled LH54-425 by astronomers. One star contains about 62 times the mass of our sun and the other 37 times more. As they age and swell in size, scientists believe they will begin to transfer huge amounts of mass to each other. They are likely to merge, producing a single huge star to rival one of the largest found in the Milky Way; the Eta Carinae binary system.

NASA speculated that Eta Carinae may be about to explode. It devised the theory after deciding that the brightest stellar explosion ever recorded could be a new type of supernova. Violent explosions of extremely massive stars now seem to have been relatively common in the early universe and a similar explosion might be ready to go off in the Milky Way. Eta Carinae explosion could be the best star-show in the history of modern civilization.

For more information about this discovery, check out FUSE Satellite Catches Collision of Titans.

Announcements from Partners

Click here to submit information about your program to the newsletter

National Earth Science Teachers Association in Detroit this October

The National Earth Science Teachers Association announces its schedule of events at the NSTA Regional conference in Detroit, Michigan this fall:

October 19, 2007, Cobo Center, W1-55
  • 14:00-15:00 - NESTA Share-a-Thon,
  • 15:30-16:30 - NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle

The NSTA schedules for the meetings in Denver, Colorado and Birmingham, Alabama, have not been announced yet, and so we will share information about these events through the newsletter in coming months.

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The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at http://www.windows.ucar.edu/ 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.