NASA Mission Suggests Sun and Planets Formed Differently

Artist rendition of GENESIS satellite in orbit around Earth.Analysis from NASA’s Genesis mission indicates our sun and its inner planets may have formed differently than previously believed.

Slight differences exist in the types of oxygen and nitrogen present on the sun and planets. Although the differences are slight, they could help determine how our solar system evolved.

“The implication is that we did not form out of the same solar nebula materials that created the sun — just how and why remains to be discovered,” said Kevin McKeegan, a Genesis co-investigator from the University of California, Los Angeles and the lead author of one of two science papers published recently.

For current updates, go to the GENESIS mission website when you’re teaching either of the NES lessons Chemical Elements: GENESIS — What Are We Made Of? (Grades 5-8) or Graph Analysis: GENESIS — Exploring Data (Grades 10-12).

Expedition 31 and 32 In-flight Education Downlink Opportunity

NASA is seeking formal and informal educational organizations, individually or working together, to host a live, in-flight education downlink during Expeditions 31 and 32 (approximately from March 2012 to September 2012). To maximize these downlink opportunities, NASA is looking for organizations that will draw large numbers of participants and integrate the downlink into a well-developed education plan. 

The deadline to submit a proposal is Dec. 21, 2011.

A high school student interviews crew members on the International Space StationDuring Expeditions 31 and 32, crew members aboard the International Space Station will participate in downlinks. Downlinks are approximately 20 minutes in length and allow students and educators to interact with astronauts through a question and answer session. Downlinks afford education audiences the opportunity to learn firsthand from astronauts what it is like to live and work in space. Downlinks are broadcast live on NASA TV and are streamed on the NASA website. Because of the nature of human spaceflight, organizations must demonstrate the flexibility to accommodate changes in downlink dates and times.

Interested organizations should contact Teaching From Space, a NASA Education office, to obtain information related to expectations, format, audience, guidelines and forms by sending an email to or calling 281-244-7608.

NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project Applications Due Oct 31

Endeavour Science TEaching Certificate project logo
NASA’s Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project awards 12-18-month fellowships each year to 50 formal educators. Cohort 4 begins in January 2012.  NASA Endeavor Fellows take five online graduate courses in an innovative, live format from the comfort of their homes or schools. In these courses, participants gain science, technology, engineering and mathematics professional development and mastery of STEM pedagogical strategies. They learn to apply these strategies and cutting-edge STEM content to their classroom contexts while becoming part of a network of like-minded educators across the nation. 

Endeavor Fellows earn and are awarded a NASA Endeavor Certificate in STEM Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Fifteen graduate credits are awarded from regionally accredited higher education partners.
Collaborating with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Endeavor has arranged for an option whereby fellows may put their work from the STEM certificate toward becoming nationally board certified in mathematics or science.

Applications for Cohort 4 will be accepted through Oct. 31, 2011.

NASA Now: States of Matter: Finding and Using Water on the Moon

NASA Now logoIn this NASA Now episode, Dr. Ed Ethridge, a ceramics engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.,explains his research on extracting water from lunar soil, or lunar regolith.


Learn how future explorers could use microwaves to extract water from soil on the moon, Mars or an asteroid.

NASA Now Preview

Unprecedented Orbital Observations of Mercury Reveal Surface Details

Mercury from orbitAfter only six months in orbit around Mercury, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft is sending back information revolutionizing the way scientists think about the innermost planet. Analysis of data from the spacecraft shows, among other things, evidence of widespread flood volcanism; the first close-up views of Mercury’s “hollows”; the first direct measurements of the chemical composition of Mercury’s surface; and the first global inventory of plasma ions within Mercury’s space environment.

This update provides current information for the Heat, Temperature and Energy: MESSENGER — Cooling With Sunshades lesson on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

To read more about this amazing mission and discovery, visit either Facebook or NEON.

Solar Flares: What Does It Take to Be X-Class?

Solar flares are giant explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high-speed particles into space. These flares often are associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. The number of solar flares increases approximately every 11 years. The sun currently is moving toward another solar maximum, likely in 2013. That means more flares will be coming — some small and some big enough to send their radiation all the way to Earth.

Find out more. Visit the X-Class solar flares website to read an article and watch a video.

The article and video are related directly to NASA Now: Solar Storms with Dr. Holly Gilbert from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. This program may be viewed or downloaded by logging into the NES Virtual Campus.

NASA Now Minute: Preview of the Solar Storms program

Weekend Meteor Shower

Sky diagram showing origin of meteors.Earth is about to pass through a stream of debris from Halley’s comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower.  Forecasters expect more than 15 meteors per hour to fly across the sky on Saturday morning, Oct. 22, when the shower peaks.

For more information visit

Arizona Students Relate Home to Mars

ArizonaNASA Explorer Schools educator Kaci Heins and students from Arizona participated in a lesson based on the Mars Student Imaging Project. Her students studied geographic features on Earth and then used NASA photos to learn more about geographic features on Mars. Students applied skills such as measurement and how to document observations as well as reinforcing their understanding of latitude and longitude.

A highlight of the lesson was students’ comparing many geographic features they saw on Mars to those in Arizona where there is a volcanic field with cinder cone, lava tubes, canyons, lava flows, a meteor crater impact site and composite volcanoes. This comparison provided a real-world connection between Mars and their own community.  

To find out more about the lesson, go to the Remote Sensing Ices on Mars forum in NEON.

Giant-sized Webb Space Telescope Model to 'Land' in Baltimore

James Webb Space Telescope in GermanyBaltimore’s Maryland Science Center is going to be the “landing site” for the full-scale model of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, and it’s free for all to see. 

The life-sized model of the Webb telescope is as big as a tennis court, and it’s coming to the Maryland Science Center at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor from Oct. 14-26, 2011. It’s a chance for young and old to get a close-up look at the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope in the same size it will be launched into space.

On May 17, NASA Explorer Schools hosted a live interactive video webchat with Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather. Mather, Senior Project Scientist for James Webb Space Telescope, answered questions from students across the country. To watch a video archive of the chat, visit

To read more about this amazing opportunity to see a full-scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope, visit