Monthly Archives: March 2012

Live Video Chat: One Giant Charge for a Robot

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Sandeep Yayathi poses beside Robonaut 2Sandeep Yayathi works on Robonaut, a dexterous humanoid robot built and designed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. On April 4, 2012, from noon – 1 p.m. EDT, Yayathi will answer student questions about his work with Robonaut, his career path and what the future holds for robotics. Robonaut 2, or R2, launched to the International Space Station on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission. It is the first dexterous humanoid robot in space and the first U.S.-built robot at the space station.

Yayathi is developing a new power system including a battery backpack to allow Robonaut 2 to move about freely without having to be plugged into the space station’s power grid. Eventually, the new power system will allow an upgraded version of the robot to work outside the station.

Submit questions during the chat through a chat window, or email them to

NES Professional Development Next Week

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Pythagorean Theorem: Exploring Space Through Math — Lunar Rover Web Seminar

This 60-minute live professional development Web seminar for educators will be on April 2, 2012, at 8 p.m. EDT. Learn to use the distance formula and the Pythagorean theorem to determine the minimal path and minimal time for a lunar rover to perform tasks on the surface of the moon. Participants should have a basic knowledge of scale factor and application of the Pythagorean theorem. Having access to a calculator is helpful but not necessary for session.For more information and to register online, visit

Professional DevelopmentElectromagnetic Spectrum: Remote Sensing Ices on Mars Web Seminar

This 90-minute Web seminar will be held on April 3, 2012, at 8:15 p.m. EDT. Learn how to use authentic NASA mission data to investigate the composition and distribution of ices in the high latitude regions of Mars through analysis of visible light, infrared light and gamma rays. The seminar includes information about a unique student extension activity, where students access a free computer simulation illustrating how gamma rays are used to determine the chemical composition of Mars.For more information and to register online, visit

Professional DevelopmentProperties of Living Things: Searching for Life on Mars Web Seminar

This 90-minute Web seminar for educators will be on April 5, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. EDT. Review criteria for determining if something is alive and learn how students can apply the criteria in a hands-on activity. A video will be shown that connects the activity to a NASA mission. Collaborate with other participants about ways of using and adapting the activity. Extension activities for students interested in the topic will be provided.For more information and to register online, visit

Teachers Speak Out!

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Teachers Speak Out! – Middle and high school science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers nationwide comment on NASA Explorer Schools’ Virtual Campus, and on the value it adds to their teaching techniques, as well as to their students’ interest and performance.

NES at the 2012 NSTA Conference

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NSTA Conference: At the Corssroads for Science EducationMake NASA a part of your National Science Teachers Association, or NSTA, experience this year! The 2012 NSTA’s national conference is being held March 29 – April 1, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. Dozens of NASA presentations, workshops and short courses are scheduled during the conference. To find NASA sessions that fit into your schedule, visit

Also, stop by the NASA exhibit booth (#2159) to learn about exciting new NASA programs and products. NASA Explorer Schools, or NES, representatives will be there to share information and answer your questions.

If you are not yet a participant in the NES project, you can obtain detailed information about NES by visiting the NASA exhibit booth or attending a NES presentation. The session, “Teach STEM? NASA Explorer Schools Can Help!”, takes place on Fri., March 30, from 11 a.m. – noon in the Cabinet Room of the Westin Indianapolis.

Everyone is invited to attend any of the additional NES lesson-related sessions:
   • Virtual Lab and NASA Explorer Schools on Friday, March 30 from 4 – 4 45 p.m. in room 142 of the Convention Center.
   • The “NASA Engineering Design Challenge: Spacecraft Structures” session takes place on Sat., March 31, from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m., in room 111/112 of the Convention Center.

Attend these presentations and see how NES helps teachers by packaging everything needed to deliver an exciting NASA-related lesson to students!

Mathematical Models: Black Holes Professional Development Web Seminar

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Front cover of the Black Hole Math Educator GuideAs part of a series of electronic professional development experiences for educators, the NASA Explorer Schools and Learning Environments and Research Network, or LE&RN, projects are hosting a 60-minute live professional development Web seminar for educators on March 29, 2012, at 8 p.m. EDT. Misconceptions about black holes will be addressed, as participants learn background information about the structure and behavior of one of the universe’s most mysterious and spectacular bodies. Learn how to derive the equations used in the Black Hole Math problem set for students to better understand the physics of black holes.

Video Chat TODAY: Starry, Starry Night

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Michelle ThallerToday, Dr. Michelle Thaller from Goddard Space Flight Center will answer student questions from 1 – 2 p.m. EDT. Dr. Thaller’s research interests are hot stars, colliding stellar winds, binary star evolution and evolved stellar companions. Don’t miss this opportunity to have your students ask Dr. Thaller about her research and the path that led her to NASA.

Big Sunspot Remains Active

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This is the sunspot region AR 1429 that has generated several major solar storms recently. The video covers nine days (Mar. 4 – 12, 2011). Notice how the spot continually changes as its magnetic fields realign themselves. The images are white light images called intensitygrams captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

Teach About the Sun During Solar Week – March 19-23, 2012

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Solar Week  March 19-23, 2012Solar Week Spring 2012, March 19-23 is a lively week of online activities and curriculum for students about the sun, including games and lesson plans for the whole week. In addition, there’s a message board where your classroom can submit a question to leading solar scientists.

Every fall and spring since 2000, Solar Week has provided a week-long series of Web-based educational classroom activities and games geared for upper elementary, middle and early high school students with a focus on our dynamic sun and its effects on Earth. Students learn about solar eclipses, sunspots, solar flares and solar storms through a series of activities, games, and lessons. 

Solar Week is ideal for students studying the solar system, the stars, or astronomy in general, and now we feature a day on solar energy. It’s also for kids wondering what it’s like being a scientist, and pondering possible career choices. Participation makes for a fun computer lab activity as well. After doing the activities, students can interact on the bulletin board with leading scientists at the forefront of Sun-Earth research. It’s a great place for any student interested in our nearest star, the sun!

Solar Week is a collaboration between University of California, Berkeley and Rice University.

Note: Teachers, please read the FAQs before your class submits a question to the bulletin board. There you will find information and answers on how to ask a good question and other useful tips.

NES Related Resources (requires sign in to the Virtual Campus website):

Space Math Problems — Solar Storms

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How do NASA scientists use geometry and measurement to predict the behavior of dangerous solar storms?

Use the problems in the NES featured lesson, Geometry: Space Math Problems — Solar Storms, to bring relevance to your classroom by connecting your lesson to recent solar activity. In these problems, students analyze images of a solar tsunami and use geometry and measurement skills to find the speed of the wave. They step into the shoes of a NASA scientist and use geometry to find the speed of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, also known as a solar storm. CMEs can have hazardous effects on the International Space Station and astronauts.

To see how you can use Space Math Problems with your students, take a look at the NES video collection for teachers.

The solar flare (upper-left) on 7 March 2012 seen by the SWAP
instrument on ESA’s Proba-2 satellite.

Sunspot 1429 Releases Two More M-Class Flares

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Sunspot 1429 continues to grow and may yet produce more flares. It is now more than seven times wider than Earth Credit: NASA/SDO/HMIEvery day our Earth experiences storms of all kinds including one type of storm that we often don’t realize we are experiencing — a solar storm. Thanks to our protective atmosphere and magnetic field called the magnetosphere, we’re safe from the dangers of solar storms.

On March 10, 2012, the sun released another two M-class flares. One, rated as an M5.4, peaked at 12:27 a.m. EST. The second, rated as an M 8.4, peaked at 12:44 p.m. EST.These two flares came from the same active region on the sun, designated number 1429, that has already produced three X-class and numerous M-class flares over the past week.

On March 8, 2012 at 10:53 p.m. EST the sun erupted with an M6.3 class flare, and about an hour later released a coronal mass ejection or CME. These eruptions came from active region 1429 that has so far produced two X class flares, and numerous M-class flares.

NASA’s Space Weather Center models measure the CME traveling at speeds of over 700 miles per second.

For more information about Solar Storms, take a look at NASA Now: Solar Storms.

Preview of NASA Now: Solar Storms

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