July 2008

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

Happy Summer

We hope you're all having a great break from school responsibilities, either during the summer months in the northern hemisphere, or a winter break in the southern hemisphere. This month's newsletter highlights recurring phenomena important at this time of year as well as new resources we have developed recently. These include the return of the Atlantic hurricane season, new resources on the theory of relativity from NSF sponsored research, and dwarf planets and other celestial bodies. We are looking forward to sharing an exciting new line of Postcards from the Field from a team of divers off the Bahamas. We have also recently developed a new opportunity for site users to share their own poems associated with cloud art on the website. We plan to expand this capability to new art collections in the future. Also, a heads up that we plan to share a line of Postcards from the Field from a team of climbers going up Annapurna in September, as well as submissions from a large team of scientists participating in a major research campaign off of Chile in October-November. Our next newsletter will highlight our workshop plans for NSTA Regional Conferences this fall, and we look forward to seeing you at one or more of these workshops.

The 2008 Hurricane Season Is Underway

Storm surge, high winds, and heavy rain - it's that time of year again! Atlantic hurricane season officially began on the first day of June, although Tropical Storm Arthur got an early start - it formed in the Caribbean near Belize on the last day of May. Check Windows to the Universe to learn more about how hurricanes form.

Forecasters are predicting a normal or above normal amount of storm activity for this hurricane season. A normal, or average, hurricane season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes. As climate change warms ocean waters long-term, hurricanes may become stronger or more frequent.

Check in at the NOAA National Hurricane Center web site for safety and preparedness information, the list of storm names that will be used this year, and hurricane tracking maps. Print out a map and plot the paths of the eye of each storm as it travels across the Atlantic this summer.

New Videos on Relativity Theory from NSF

We've added a couple new videos from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to our web site. Both illustrate aspects of Albert Einstein's famous theory of relativity. The "time dilation" video shows how time passes more slowly for objects moving at very high speeds (near the speed of light). The second video, about the concept of "simultaneity", explains how two observers could disagree as to whether two events did or did not occur at the same time... and both be correct! Both videos are in the QuickTime format, so make sure you have the necessary plugin installed to view them. Also, the video files are a bit large (20 & 36 Mbytes), so you may need to be patient while they download... depending on the speed of your network connection.

Expand Your Horizons with Postcards from the Field

Check out our new Postcards from the Field: Shark Watching! A family is embarking on an underwater adventure, seeking out sharks while scuba diving in the Bahamas. Their postcards highlight their observations and photographs of shark behavior, as well as other exciting adventures they have while out in the ocean. These postcards provide something exciting to read about from the comfort of your own home!

If you like science postcards, also take a look at Postcards from the Field sent in from other researchers and science educators. Coming this fall, we'll have new postcards from a climbing expedition on Annapurna in the Himalayas and from scientists studying fog off the coast of Chile.

Sneak Preview! Weather Poetry and Pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But just what words are they?

A new feature of Windows to the Universe - Weather Poetry and Pictures - lets you consider just that.

We'd like to offer a special preview of the new Weather Poetry and Pictures feature for our teacher members. We invite you and your students to submit original poems about the weather image of the month. And check back next month to write a poem about another weather image. We'd like to hear what you think of Poetry and Pictures as we make edits over the summer. Please send us a note through the comments system if you have feedback you'd like to share with us.

More information about the fine art images that are featured in Weather Poetry and Pictures can be found in the Clouds in Art interactive, which allows you to match the correct cloud type to each painting.

Dwarf planets and other Celestial Bodies!

On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) gave the word "planet" its first-ever scientific definition and a new class of objects were defined as dwarf planets. Dwarf planets were defined as celestial bodies that look like a planet, but are in fact bodies in the solar system which are large enough to become round due to their own gravitational attraction. As of April 1, 2007, IAU recognized that there are 3 Dwarf Planets. These are:

  • Pluto: Pluto was demoted from full-fledged planet to "dwarf planet" and no longer considered a planet, and is now recognized as a prototype of a new class of Trans-Neptunian object.
  • Ceres: Ceres is one dwarf planet in the Main Asteroid Belt.
  • Eris: Eris, which was originally called 2003 UB313 and is sometimes called Xena or the "10th planet," became the largest known dwarf planet. Like Pluto, it is in the area called the Kuiper Belt.

Now that we know the difference between planets and dwarf planets, let's look at the other smaller solar system bodies referred to as celestial bodies orbiting our Sun, such as: planetoids, asteroids, comets, meteoroids and satellites. Planetoids are very large asteroids, so far we know about Sedna (which is too far out to be part of the Kuiper Belt and too close in to be part of the Oort Cloud) and Quaoar (found in the Kuiper Belt).

Register Now for Fall Climate Discovery Online Courses!

Registration now open for NCAR Climate Discovery Online Courses for educators.

Are you seeking a K-12 professional development opportunity that will enhance your qualifications, competency, and self-confidence in integrating Earth system science, climate, and global change into your science classroom? This fall, NCAR offers a series of seven-week online courses for middle and high school teachers that combine geoscience content, information about current climate research, easy to implement hands-on activities, and group discussion. The courses run concurrently beginning September 18 and run through November 8.

* CD 501 Introduction to Earth's Climate is designed to guide participants through the basics of climate science, integrating content, classroom activities, and community-building discussions to help middle and high school educators understand the answers to common questions about climate.
* CD 502 Earth System Science: A Climate Change Perspective explores Earth as a system from the perspective of climate and global change, describing the interactions between the various parts of the Earth system, including human activities, and how they all affect our climate.
* CD 503 Understanding Climate Change Today presents some of the current and predicted impacts of global warming on our planet and human societies. This course explores how climate models are developed and used to understand likely scenarios of future climate and how current scientific research is improving the quality of climate predictions.

There is a $225 fee per course. For complete course schedule and registration information, visit ecourses.ncar.ucar.edu.

Table of Contents

Hurricane Season
Relativity Videos
Poetry and Pictures
So many!
Online Courses












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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.