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

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

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.

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

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.

Gravity-Bending Find Leads to Kepler Meeting Einstein

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has witnessed the effects of a dead star bending the light of its companion star. The findings are among the first detections of this phenomenon — a result of Einstein’s theory of general relativity — in binary star systems.

The dead star, called a white dwarf, is the burnt-out core of what used to be a star like our sun. It is locked in an orbiting dance with its partner, a small “red dwarf” star. While the tiny white dwarf is physically smaller than the red dwarf, it is more massive.

To read more about this discovery and see an animation of the phenomenon, visit https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/news/kepler20130404.html.

This animation is an excellent extension to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Algebraic Equations: Transit Tracks—Finding Habitable Planets. To access this lesson, visit the NES Virtual Campus.

Kepler Supernova Remnant Observed By NASA

A remnant of Kepler’s supernova was recently observed with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The supernova is the famous explosion that was discovered by Johannes Kepler in 1604. The red, green and blue colors in the image show low, intermediate and high energy X-rays observed with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

As reported in a NASA press release, a new study has used Chandra to identify what triggered the explosion. It had already been shown that the type of explosion was a so-called Type Ia supernova, the thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf star. These supernovas are important cosmic distance markers for tracking the accelerated expansion of the Universe.

This study is an excellent extension to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Algebraic Equations: Transit Tracks—Finding Habitable Planets. To access this lesson, visit the NES Virtual Campus.

To see the spectacular image of the Kepler supernova remnant and read more about this discovery, visit Chandra’s Exploring the Invisible Universe website.

NASA's Webb Telescope Gets Its Wings

A massive backplane that will hold the primary mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope nearly motionless while it peers into space is another step closer to completion with the recent assembly of the support structure’s wings.

The wings enable the mirror, made of 18 pieces of beryllium, to fold up and fit inside a 5 meter, or 16.4 feet, fairing on a rocket, and then unfold to 6.4 meters, or 21 feet, in diameter after the telescope is delivered to space. All that is left to build is the support fixture that will house an integrated science instrument module, and technicians will connect the wings and the backplane’s center section to the rest of the observatory. The center section was completed in April 2012.

On May 17, 2012 NASA Explorer Schools held a live interactive Web chat with Nobel Laureate, Dr. John Mather. Dr. Mather, Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, joined NES to answer questions from students across the country. To watch his presentation and chat with NASA Explorer Schools students, visit the chat page titled, The Big Bang and The Milky Way .

To see pictures and read more about the James Webb Space Telescope, check out the article, NASA’s Webb Telescope Gets Its Wings.

NASA's NuSTAR Helps Solve Riddle of Black Hole Spin

Two X-ray space observatories, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton, have teamed up to measure definitively, for the first time, the spin rate of a black hole with a mass 2 million times that of our sun.

The supermassive black hole lies at the dust- and gas-filled heart of a galaxy called NGC 1365, and it is spinning almost as fast as Einstein’s theory of gravity will allow. The findings, which appear in a new study in the journal Nature, resolve a long-standing debate about similar measurements in other black holes and will lead to a better understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve.

To read more about NuSTAR’s discovery, visit https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/nustar/news/nustar20130227.html.

This article is a great extension to NASA Now: Electromagnetic Spectrum: NuSTAR. To access this program, visit the NASA Now page on the NES Virtual Campus.

NASA On Course to Launch Orion Flight Test

The first spacecraft NASA has designed to fly astronauts beyond Earth orbit since the Apollo era is well on its way to making a flight test next year. The mission is planned for launch in September 2014, and will see an Orion capsule orbit Earth without a crew and return through the atmosphere at speeds unseen since astronauts last returned from the moon in 1972.

To read more about this exciting development, visit https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/Triprogrambriefing.html.

As Orion continues preparation to take astronauts further into space, take a look back at the recently ended shuttle program and have your students track the linear regression of a space shuttle launch. Check out the launch video of Shuttle mission STS-121 then have them create a scatter plot from real launch data. Linear Regression: Exploring Space Through Math—Space Shuttle Ascent is a NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson and is available in the NES Virtual Campus Lesson Library.

NASA'S Orion Lands Safely on Two of Three Parachutes in Test

NASA engineers have demonstrated the agency’s Orion spacecraft can land safely if one of its three main parachutes fails to inflate during deployment.

The test was conducted Feb. 12 in Yuma, Ariz., when the test capsule was dropped from an airplane 7.62 kilometers, or 25,000 feet, above the Arizona desert. Engineers rigged the parachutes so only two would inflate, leaving the third to flag behind.

To watch a video of the parachute testing, visit https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/chutetest_041812.html.

As NASA prepares Orion to take astronauts farther into space, take a look back at the recently ended shuttle program, and have your students track the linear regression of a space shuttle launch! Check out the launch video of shuttle mission STS-121, and then have them create a scatter plot from real launch data. “Linear Regression: Exploring Space Through Math — Space Shuttle Ascent” is a featured lesson on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.