Monthly Archives: December 2010

NASA Now: EPOXI Flyby Spacecraft: Close Encounters of the Comet Kind

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NASA Now program logoIn this installment of NASA Now, you’ll meet spacecraft pilot and engineer Steven Wissler, who talks about the challenges of flying a spacecraft remotely from Earth and the excitement of being part of a team that discovers something new about comets.
 
The program focus is on the EPOXI flyby spacecraft. EPOXI is a recycling of the Deep Impact spacecraft, whose probe intentionally collided with comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005, revealing, for the first time, the inner material of a comet. Deep Impact returned to an Earth orbit where it was reprogrammed to rendezvous with a second comet, Hartley 2. After reprogramming, the spacecraft received a gravity assist from Earth and began its second life, dubbed EPOXI. The spacecraft incorporated the same trio of instruments used during the Deep Impact mission: two telescopes with digital imagers to record the encounter, and an infrared spectrometer.



Link to this NASA Now episode (must be logged into the NES Virtual Campus)


Link to other NASA Now events (must be logged into the NES Virtual Campus)




Youngest Ever Nearby Black Hole Discovered

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Composite image shows a supernova within galaxy M100Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found evidence of the youngest black hole known to exist in our cosmic neighborhood. The 30-year-old object provides a unique opportunity to watch a black hole develop from infancy.

The black hole is a remnant of SN 1979C, a supernova in the galaxy M100 approximately 50 million light years from Earth. Data from Chandra, NASA’s Swift satellite, the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton and the German ROSAT observatory revealed a bright source of X-rays that has remained steady during observation from 1995 to 2007. This suggests the object is a black hole being fed either by material falling into it from the supernova or a binary companion.

Excerpt from NASA Science News

For more information and images, visit the Chandra page.

Link to the Dec 14, 2010 NES chat with Black Holes expert, Dr. Sten Odenwald, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Link to NES module, Black Holes Math. (Must be logged into the NES Virtual Campus as a participant of the NES project)

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Now: Microbes@NASA: Early Earth Ecosystems

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What may look like green slime growing on a pond is what scientists call a microbial mat. Microbial mats are living examples of the most ancient biological communities on Earth. As Earth’s earliest ecosystems, they are important to understanding the history of life on our planet and are useful models for the search for life elsewhere.

During this episode of NASA Now students will learn about microbial mats and see how research into these mats is helping NASA scientists understand how microbes impact Earth, and how this information is used in the search for life elsewhere.

Link to this NASA Now episode (must be logged into the NES Virtual Campus)


Link to other NASA Now events (must be logged into the NES Virtual Campus)



Class Science Fair Projects on Rockets

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Idea contributed by Carrie Lamb, NES teacher at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School

Cover of NASA Rockets GuideCarrie’s, four inclusion classes must complete a class science fair project. This allows her to guide the students through the scientific method. This year their science fair project dealt with rockets, with the NASA Rockets Guide on the NES Virtual Campus as a resource. Students watched NASA videos as part of their research and then conducted an investigation to see how the amount of thrust affects the distance a rocket travels.

Students were engaged in meaningful application of science concepts, and the relationship between mathematics and science was stressed. Carrie’s students also participated in a NASA Digital Learning Network, or DLN, activity on Lunar Impact Craters, which provided additional instruction on the scientific method.

Read Carrie’s post in the NES forum, ~Other NASA-Related Activities I’ve Done, in NEON for details and additional information.



NASA Now: Operation IceBridge

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During this week’s NASA Now program, you’ll meet Michael Studinger, Project Scientist for Operation IceBridge. He’ll describe the purpose of the IceBridge campaign and how the campaign objectives will be met. He also explains why studying Earth’s ice is important for understanding climate changes and how they related to humans.


IceBridge uses airborne instruments to map Arctic and Antarctic areas once a year. The first IceBridge flights were conducted in March/May 2009 over Greenland and in October/November 2009 over Antarctica. Other smaller airborne surveys around the world are also part of the IceBridge campaign.

Link to this NASA Now episode (must be logged into the NES Virtual Campus)


Link to other NASA Now events (must be logged into the NES Virtual Campus)

NASA Now: A-Train: Monitoring the Earth System

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Check out part 2 of the NASA Now: A-Train series and learn how NASA uses a constellation of satellites called the A-Train to monitor the Earth system. Five NASA satellites comprise the A-Train. They fly over the same location on Earth within 15 minutes of each other collecting data about the current state of the components of the Earth system.


Link to this NASA Now episode (must be logged into the NES Virtual Campus)




Discovery of Arsenic Microbe Announced at News Conference

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NASA-supported researchers have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism, which lives in California’s Mono Lake, substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in the backbone of its DNA and other cellular components.


“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s A microscopic image of GFAJ-1 grown on arsenicHeadquarters in Washington. “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”

The results of this study will inform ongoing research in many areas, including the study of Earth’s evolution, organic chemistry, biogeochemical cycles, disease mitigation and Earth system research. These findings also will open up new frontiers in microbiology and other areas of research.

“The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake.”

Excerpt from Science @ NASA

Link to a large image.

NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery

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NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. 

The news conference will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at https://www.nasa.gov/ntv

Participants are: 
–     Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington 
–     Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif. 
–     Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. 
–     Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla. 


Participants are: 
–     Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington 
–     Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif. 
–     Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. 
–     Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla. 
–     James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe 


For more information about NASA astrobiology activities, visit: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov