Sensing the Invisible

William HerschelThe MESSENGER mission to Mercury uses infrared light to study properties of the planet. However, too much infrared radiation is detrimental to the spacecraft and its instruments.

In the lesson Sensing the Invisible, students find out that radiation other than visible light is arriving from the sun. Students reproduce a version of William Herschel’s experiment of 1800, in which he discovered the existence of infrared radiation.

For more information, review the Sensing the Invisible article in NEON.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

5th Grade Students Become Astrobiologists

Joan Labay-Marquez Gifted and Talented Facilitator at Curington Elementary taught her 5th grade students about a proposed NASA mission that will send a satellite to explore Jupiter and its moons to search for signs of life. 

To deepen their understanding of what constitutes “life” in our universe, and NASA’s plans to find it on other planets, students viewed the NASA Now video called “The Search for Life”. Students also viewed the archived NASA Explorer Schools chat of Dr. Joel S. Levine about the proposed ARES mission to Mars and its search for the presence of life on Mars. 

Labay-Marquez commented, “This activity fit into our GT instruction because these students have been studying about finding life on Mars in preparation for a Mars Rover competition later this year.”

This activity also inspired her students to create projects using the theme: Finding Life on Mars. They continued their roles as astrobiologists and used Legos and art/craft supplies to design and construct models of exploration vehicles and instruments looking for signs of life on Mars. 

For more detail about how to integrate these NES resources into your classroom, log into NEON and find the full write-up here:

Family Night: Star and Reading Party

About three hundred people attended the annual Star and Reading Party held by NASA Explorer Schools educator Donna Rand and the staff at East Hartford-Glastonbury Elementary Magnet School.

Astronomical Society of New Haven logoStudents and their families explored a variety of science stations. They looked through large telescopes set up by members of the Greater New Haven Astronomical Society; viewed lunar craters and the moons of Jupiter; and learned about constellations by viewing a planetarium show inside a portable planetarium. 

Teachers set up reading centers in classrooms where families read together to find out more about a variety of space science topics including our solar system, spaceflight, beyond our galaxy, and ancient myths and legends about the sun and moon. Families used NASA websites to discover which space objects are “Near and Far” and how to locate the International Space Station for viewing in their backyards.

For additional information, read the Family Star and Reading Party article in NEON.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Live Video Chat: Women at NASA

NASA Explorer Schools invites students in grades K-12 from across the U.S. and Department of Defense schools to participate in a live video chat with three outstanding women at NASA. The event takes place on March 29, 2011, at 2 p.m. EDT. Students and teachers can submit questions to Erika Alvarez, Mallory M. Johnston and Monsi C. Roman during this hour-long chat. The women will answer students’ questions about careers in science and engineering. 

Go to the chat page on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus website to participate in the webchat. You do not need to be a participant of the NASA Explorer Schools project to join the chat. To learn more about NES, visit, watch the What Is NES? video and read About NES.

To learn more about the women participating in the webchat, visit the chat Web page.

NES Educators Participate in Annual STEM Conference

Forest Lake Elementary School logoNES Educators from Forest Lake Technology Magnet Elementary School and Forest Heights Elementary School participated in NASA Langley Research Center’s 3rd Annual STEM Conference in Charlotte, N.C. During the three-day conference. The educators attended breakout sessions where they learned about engineering design challenges, problem-based learning activities, distance-learning modules, inquiry-based lessons and other hands-on projects.

During the closing ceremony, astronaut Lee Morin, who has accumulated 259 hours in space, shared his experience as a flight surgeon, spacewalker and advocate of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Teacher Uses NES Resources to Stimulate Career Interest

Cindy Dwyer, NASA Explorer Schools teacher with Sayville Public Schools, used NASA educational materials to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers in her gifted student program. Cindy says, “I teach a gifted student enrichment program in the three elementary schools in my school district. We used the Field Trip to the Moon curriculum from NASA. We also used Google Earth’s moon interface to view photos of the landing sites mentioned in the Navigation team kit and photos from the LCROSS mission. My students find NASA missions fascinating and displayed active engagement throughout this project.”

The school received attention when the project was featured on a local news station. Students were interviewed on their specific roles in the lunar activity.

Read details of Cindy’s experience in NEON. Register, log in, join the NASA Explorer Schools group, and find the On the Moon Educator Guide: On Target forum. The complete story is available there, as well as other educators’ experiences with the On Target activity.

The featured lesson, On Target from On the Moon Educator Guide, may be found in the Teaching Materials section of the NES Virtual Campus.

Tomorrow: Live Video Chat – Aquarius Habitat — Analog to the International Space Station

NASA Explorer Schools invites students in grades K-12 from across the U.S. and Department of Defense schools to participate in a live video chat with NASA engineer aquanaut Tara Ruttley. The event will take place on March 15, 2011, at 1 p.m. EDT. Students and teachers can submit questions to Dr. Ruttley during this hour-long chat. Ruttley will answer questions about participating in the NEEMO 6 project and her career as an engineer aquanaut and Associate International Space Station Program Scientist.

Go to the chat page on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus website to participate in the webchat. You’ll find background information about Ruttley and links to NEEMO. You do not need to be a participant of the NASA Explorer Schools project to join the chat. To learn more about NES, visit the website and click on the What Is NES? video or the About NES link.

Sun-Earth Day 2011: Ancient Mysteries — Future Discoveries

Join NASA in celebrating Sun-Earth Day on March 19, 2011.

Sun-Earth day banner

Sun-Earth Day comprises a series of programs and events that occur throughout the year, culminating with a celebration on or near the spring equinox. This year’s theme, “Ancient Mysteries — Future Discoveries,” opens the door to a much deeper understanding of the sun and its impact across the ages.

Over the past 10 years, the NASA Sun-Earth Day team has sponsored and coordinated education and public outreach events to highlight NASA heliophysics research and discoveries. The SED team’s strategy involves using celestial events, such as total solar eclipses and the transit of Venus, as well as Sun-Earth Day during the March equinox, to engage K-12 schools and the public in space science activities, demonstrations and interactions with space scientists.

On March 19, 2011, join the Sun-Earth Day team for a live Sun-Earth Day webcast. For this webcast, the team will combine forces with the award-winning NASA EDGE team known for their offbeat, funny and informative look behind the NASA curtain. The webcast will focus on sites in the United States and Mexico that present unique opportunities to develop cultural connections to Native Americans, highlighting the importance of the sun across the ages.

You can participate in this year’s celebration through Twitter! Over 100 participants will be attending a tweetup at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Everyone talking about the webcast and tweetup will add #SED2011 or #NASATweetup to the end of their tweet. Don’t miss out on a variety of very lively conversations! To learn how to host your own tweetup, visit

For more information, educational resources and social media connections, visit the Sun-Earth Day website at 

Questions about Sun-Earth Day events should be e-mailed to

Puffy Heads and Bird Legs

cartoon drawing show student in position for this activity.NASA Explorer Schools educator Holley Sykes, a resource teacher from Briarwood Elementary, just finished an activity called Fluid Shift. Students are challenged to simulate the bodily fluid shift seen in astronauts while in space. After taking a baseline heart rate and baseline ankle measurement, students lie on the floor and point their legs upward against the wall. Every minute their lab partner takes an ankle measurement and every two minutes a new heart rate. After 10 minutes, students compare their ankle measurements and heart rates. 

See additional activities at Register, log in, join the NES group, and navigate to Other NASA-related Activities I’ve Done forum and look for the Astronauts in Space entry.

If you do this, or another NASA-related activity, with your students be sure to get credit toward NES recognition by adding it to your activities profile on the NES Virtual Campus.

Spacesuits Protect STS-133 Astronauts

STS-133 astronaut conducting a spacewalk outside the ISSAstronauts aboard STS-133 are wrapping up a series of scheduled spacewalks, or extravehicular activities. When astronauts venture outside of their spacecraft, they need spacesuits to protect them from the solar radiation, the cold temperatures of space and fast-moving particles called micrometeoroids.

Check out a great activity called Potato Astronaut: Spacesuit. Students investigate the effects of high-speed simulated micrometeoroid impacts and penetration depth. They also learn how layered materials protect astronauts. You will find the activity in the Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon Educator Guide on Page 133.

See additional activities in NEON. Register, log in, join the NASA Explorer Schools group, and find Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon. The activity is available in that forum.