Monthly Archives: May 2013

Approaching Asteroid Has Its Own Moon

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NASA is tracking a large near-Earth asteroid as it passes by the Earth-Moon system on May 31st. Amateur astronomers in the northern hemisphere may be able to see the space rock for themselves during the 1st week of June. The closest approach of the asteroid occurs on May 31 at 4:59 p.m. EDT, when the asteroid will get no closer than about 5.8 million kilometers, or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

Approaching asteroid 1998 QE2 has a moon. Researchers found it in a sequence of radar images obtained by the 70-meter Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., on the evening of May 29th (May 30th Universal Time) when the asteroid was about 6 million kilometers from Earth.

For more information about Asteroids and OSIRIS-REx, log into the NES Virtual Campus and check out these three NASA Now classroom videos:
Earth and Space Science: Asteroids
Exploring Asteroids: An Analog Mission
Primitive Asteroids: OSIRIS-REx

To read more and see a video about asteroid 1998 QE2 go to Science@NASA.

Link to the NASA Explorer Schools home page.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Mission Moves into Development Phase

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NASA’s first mission to sample an asteroid is moving ahead into development and testing in preparation for its launch in 2016.

The Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, passed a confirmation review Wednesday called Key Decision Point. NASA officials reviewed a series of detailed project assessments and authorized the spacecraft’s continuation into the development phase.OSIRIS-REx will rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023.

This is a great extension to NASA Now: Primitive Asteroids: OSIRIS-REx. NASA Now is an Emmy Award winning educational series provided by NASA Explorer Schools. To access this program, visit the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

To read more and watch a video overview of the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/osiris-rex/osiris-rex-development.html.

Activity Continues On the Sun

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Solar activity continued on May 14, as the sun emitted a fourth X-class flare from its upper left limb, peaking at 9:48 p.m. EDT. This flare is classified as an X1.2 flare and is the 18th X-class flare of the current solar cycle. The flare caused a radio blackout – categorized as an R3, or strong, on NOAA’s space weather scales from R1 to R5 — which has since subsided.

The flare was also associated with a non-Earth-directed Coronal Mass Ejection. CMEs and flares are separate but related solar phenomena: solar flares are powerful bursts that send light and radiation into space; CMEs erupt with billions of tons of solar material. They often, but do not always, occur together. Any time we can see a solar flare from Earth’s view, than at least some of its light and radiation must be directed at Earth. CMEs on the other hand may or may not be Earth directed. NASA observes CMEs even when they are not traveling toward Earth, because they may impact spacecraft.

To read more and see some incredible imagery on this solar activity, visit https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News051513-ar1748.html.

This story is a great real-world connection to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Geometry: Space Math Problems—Solar Storms. To access this lesson, visit the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

NES Professional Development Web Seminars This Week

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Professional Development Web Seminar

As part of a series of electronic professional development experiences for educators, the NASA Explorer Schools project and the National Science Teachers Association are hosting two 90-minute live professional development Web seminars for educators this week.

Engineering Design Challenge: Water Filtration Web Seminar

On May 15, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. EDT, background information about water recycling on the International Space Station will be provided. Then, see how you can incorporate the information into an exciting hands-on, inquiry-based challenge requiring students to solve a problem. You will watch a video showing students engaged in the challenge and discuss possible modifications to the challenge to adapt it for different students and classroom situations.

For more information and to register online, visit the NSTA Learning Center.

Engineering Design Challenge: Thermal Protection System Web Seminar

On May 16, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. EDT, you can learn about the science of heat transfer and heat dissipation related to NASA vehicles, and receive an introduction to the associated engineering design challenge, Thermal Protection System. In this activity, students are challenged to design a thermal protection system and test it using a propane torch.

For more information and to register online, visit the NSTA Learning Center.

This is the last time these seminars will be offered during the current school year.

NASA Now: Engineering Careers at NASA

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NASA NowIn this NASA Now classroom video, you’ll hear from three career engineers at NASA Langley Research Center who work in very different fields. They discuss the unique projects they are working on and how science, technology, engineering and mathematics education played a role in their career path to NASA.

Engineering Careers at NASA is available on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus beginning May 15.

NASA Now Minute

Milky Way Black Hole Snacks on Hot Gas

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The Herschel space observatory has made detailed observations of surprisingly hot gas that may be orbiting or falling towards the supermassive black hole lurking at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA participation.

Our galaxy’s black hole is located in a region known as Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, which is a nearby source of radio waves. The black hole has a mass about four million times that of our sun and lies roughly 26,000 light-years away from our solar system.

This story is an extension to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Mathematical Models: Black Holes. To access this featured lesson, visit the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

To read more about the observations, visit NASA’s Herschel Space Observatory Web page.

Want to go to Mars? Here's a second chance.

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Artist concept of MAVEN spacecraft orbiting MarsIf you missed out on the opportunity to send your name to Mars as part of the Curiosity mission (see the NES Teachers Corner article, Want to go to Mar? Here’s Your Chance) here’s a second opportunity.

NASA is inviting members of the public to submit their names and a personal message online for a DVD to be carried aboard a spacecraft that will study the Martian upper atmosphere.

The DVD will be in NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, spacecraft, which is scheduled for launch in November, 2013. The DVD is part of the mission’s Going to Mars Campaign coordinated at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

The DVD will carry every name submitted. The public also is encouraged to submit a message in the form of a three-line poem, or haiku. However, only three haikus will be selected. The deadline for all submissions is July 1, 2013. An online public vote to determine the top three messages to be placed on the DVD will begin July 15, 2013.

To read more about this opportunity, visit https://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2013/may/HQ_13-125_MAVEN_Name_to_Mars.html.

This is a fantastic extension to NASA Explorer Schools’ Curiosity Month NASA Now programs. To check out these episodes, visit the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

Three Years of Solar Dynamics Observatory Images

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Solar Dynamics Observatory image of the sun based on a wavelength of 171 angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet rangeIn the three years since it first provided images of the sun, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has had virtually unbroken coverage of the sun’s rise toward solar maximum, the peak of solar activity in its regular 11-year cycle.

For more information and to see or download a time-lapse video showing those three years of the sun at a pace of two images per day, visit https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/news/first-light-3rd.html.

This video is a very cool addition to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Geometry: Space Math Problems—Solar Storms. To access this lesson, visit the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

NES Professional Development Web Seminars This Week

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Professional Development Web Seminar

As part of a series of electronic professional development experiences for educators, the NASA Explorer Schools project and the National Science Teachers Association are hosting two 90-minute live professional development Web seminars for educators this week.

Pythagorean Theorem: Exploring Space Through Math — Lunar Rover

On May 8, 2013 at 6:30 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. You 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 the NSTA Learning Center.

Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber

On May 9, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. EDT, learn how to incorporate exciting space exploration problems into your technology or life science classes. See how you can use the engineering design process to have students design, build and evaluate the effectiveness of a lunar plant growth chambers while engaging them in research and standards-based learning experiences. For more information and to register online, visit the NSTA Learning Center.

This is the last time these seminars will be offered during the current school year.

NASA's Kepler Discovers Its Smallest 'Habitable Zone' Planets to Date

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NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

The Kepler-62 system has five planets; 62b, 62c, 62d, 62e and 62f. The Kepler-69 system has two planets; 69b and 69c. Kepler-62e, 62f and 69c are the super-Earth-sized planets.

Two of the newly discovered planets orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making it the exoplanet closest to the size of our planet known in the habitable zone of another star. Kepler-62f is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e, orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth.

To read more about this discovery and see artists’ renditions of these planets, visit https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/news/kepler-62-kepler-69.html.

These discoveries are excellent extensions to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Algebraic Equations: Transit Tracks—Finding Habitable Planets, on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.