Spot the International Space Station from your own Backyard

Spot the StationDid you know you may be able see the International Space Station from your home? As the third brightest object in the sky, after the sun and moon, the space station is easy to see if you know where and when to look for it.

NASA’s Spot the Station service sends you an email or text message a few hours before the space station passes over your house. The space station looks like a fast-moving plane in the sky, though one with people living and working aboard it more than 200 miles above the ground. It is best viewed on clear nights.

For more information and to sign up for alerts, visit Spot The Station.

This opportunity is a great extension to NASA Now: The Mechanics of Solar Panels. To access this episode of the Emmy Award winning NASA Now series, log into the NES Virtual Campus.

Space Station Cameras Capture Views of Approaching Hurricane Sandy

From an altitude of 254 statute miles, external cameras on the International Space Station captured views of Hurricane Sandy at 11:16 a.m. Eastern time October 29, 2012 as it barreled toward a landfall along the New Jersey coastline. Significant impacts of storm surge and flooding are expected along the eastern seaboard from the Middle Atlantic states to New England. At the time of the flyover, Sandy was located 260 miles south-southeast of New York City, moving north-northwest at 18 miles an hour with winds measured at 90 miles an hour as a Category 1 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Apply Now for the 2013-14 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program is now accepting applications for the 2013-2014 Fellowship Year. The Einstein Fellowship Program is available to current K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators with a demonstrated excellence in teaching and leadership.

For more information about the program and to learn how to apply, visit Applications for the 2013-14 Fellowship program are due by 11 p.m. EST, Dec. 5, 2012.

2012 Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest

The Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest is open to all grade 5-12 students in the United States.

Students may work alone or in groups of up to four students. They write an essay of up to 500 words about one of three possible imaging targets (Saturn’s small moon, Pan; Saturn’s F Ring, or Saturn and its Rings) that the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn can take this fall. Students justify their choice as to which they think would potentially yield the best science.

Winners are invited to participate in a teleconference with Cassini scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Winning essays will be posted on the Cassini website.

The contest deadline is Oct. 24, 2012 at noon, PDT. Teachers must submit their students’ essays online.

Download a flyer about the contest at

The URL for the Cassini Scientist for a Day website is
Send inquiries about the contest to

NASA Friday at Skiatook High School

NES educator Michael Lewis says things are really “taking off” in his technology class at Skiatook High School in Oklahoma. Every Friday is “NASA Friday.” On those days, Lewis will be using a variety of student lessons and activities provided by NASA and NASA Explorer Schools. His students will study, research and create various technology experiments in the same way scientists at NASA do. Students will use critical thinking, analysis, observation, experimentation and communication to solve the same kinds of problems astronauts and those in the aerospace industry face every day.

This school year, Lewis’ students have already made remote-launching vehicles. This activity helped them better understand the challenges NASA faced in launching and landing the scientific rover Curiosity, which landed on the planet Mars in August. The class also has discussed the tensile strength of various metals and organic products when under pressure. The students then divided into different teams to see which group could build the tallest structure using a common set of construction materials, spaghetti and marshmallows. One team built a 106.7-cm tall structure based on the triangle shape!

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NES Educator and Students Embark on a High-Flying Adventure

Earth from high-altitude balloonNES educator Kaci Pilcher Heins has a great way to get students involved with STEM — high-altitude ballooning! She says, “Usually each state has a ballooning organization and is very willing to get students involved. We are heading to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott tomorrow (April 12, 2012) to launch our payload of temperature sensor, pressure sensor, camera, and sensitive film to try and capture gamma rays on board a high-altitude balloon. This is also a great opportunity for my sixth-graders to talk with university students as we tour the campus.” Pilcher Heins reports that they are also using amateur radio with the repeater on the balloon.

Here are pictures of Earth taken during the flight on April 12.

Directly related to this activity is the NES featured lesson, Engineering Design: Forces and Motion — Balloon Aerodynamics.

And be sure to take a look at the May 2 NASA Now program, Balloon Research.

Astronaut Don Pettit and the ISS Transit of Venus

In 1768, when James Cook sailed out of Plymouth harbor to observe the Transit of Venus in Tahiti, the trip was tantamount to a voyage through space. The remote island had just been “discovered” a year earlier, and by all accounts it was as strange and alien to Europeans as the stars themselves. Cook’s pinpoint navigation to Tahiti and his subsequent observations of Venus crossing the South Pacific sun in 1769 have inspired explorers for centuries.

One of those explorers is about to beat Cook at his own game. High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is preparing to photograph the June 5th Transit of Venus from space itself.

ISS Transit of Venus

Credit: Science@NASA

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

My American Landscape Contest: A Space Chronicle of Change

To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the United States’ Landsat Earth-observing program — which first rocketed into space on July 23, 1972 — NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey are giving something special to a few members of the American public. We will create customized Landsat chronicles of changing local landscapes for six U.S. citizens who enter the “American Landscape” contest.

To enter, all you have to do is send an e-mail and tell us about the local landscape changes you are interested in where you live and what you hope to learn about them from Landsat’s four-decades of observations from space.

Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, June 6. Contest winners will be announced live on NASA Television at a Landsat 40th anniversary press briefing in Washington on Monday, July 23. 

For more information visit

June 5 Transit of Venus

On June 5, 2012, Venus will transit the face of the sun in an event of both historical and observational importance. The best places to watch are in the south Pacific, but travel is not required. The event will also be visible around sunset from the USA. The next transit of Venus won’t happen again until December 2117, 105 years from now. (Note: The pattern is + 8 + 105.5 + 8 + 121.5 +…)

Credit: Science@NASA
ScienceCasts: The 2012 Transit of Venus