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

NASA Space Telescope Sees the Light from an Alien Super-Earth

artist's concept of 55 Cancri e, a toasty "super-Earth" that rushes around its star every 18 hours.NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has detected light emanating from a “super-Earth” beyond our solar system for the first time. While the planet is not habitable, the detection is a historic step toward the eventual search for signs of life on other planets.

The planet, called 55 Cancri e, falls into a class of planets termed super Earths, which are more massive than our home world but lighter than giant planets like Neptune. The planet is about twice as big and eight times as massive as Earth. It orbits a bright star, called 55 Cancri, in a mere 18 hours.

For more information about this discovery, visit http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/08may_superearth/

NASA Measures Impact of Huge Solar Flare on Earth's Atmosphere

TIMED satellite, artist's conceptA key NASA instrument that can directly measure the impact of solar events on Earth’s upper atmosphere has “weighed in” on the huge flare that impacted Earth recently.

The flare was considered one of the largest solar events in years, even though its impact on the power grid and communications was minimal due to the angle it hit Earth.

To read more and watch a video about this huge solar flare, visit https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/saber-solarstorm.html.This feature story acts as an excellent extension to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson Geometry: Space Math Problems — Solar Storms. In this lesson, students use geometry and measurement to track solar activity.

This lesson can be found in the lesson library on the NES Virtual Campus.

Evolution of the Moon

Evolution of the Moon: From year to year, the moon never seems to change. Craters and other formations appear to be permanent now, but the moon didn’t always look like this. Thanks to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we now have a better look at some of the moon’s history.

Learn more in this video!

Arctic Runoff Not Affecting Ocean Conveyor Belt

A new study by NASA and University of Washington allays concerns that melting Arctic sea ice could be increasing the amount of fresh water in the Arctic enough to have an impact on the global “ocean conveyor belt” that redistributes heat around our planet.

Lead author and oceanographer Jamie Morison of the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Seattle and his team detected a previously unknown redistribution of fresh water during the past decade from the Eurasian half of the Arctic Ocean to the Canadian half. Yet despite the redistribution, they found no change in the net amount of fresh water in the Arctic that might signal a change in the conveyor belt.

This study ties into the NASA Now: Aquarius program (preview below) on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus. View this episode before discussing the article with your students.

Share your students’ thoughts on this episode and article on our NASA Now Facebook page.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Preview of NASA Now: Aquarius

Big Sunspot Remains Active

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).

Space Math Problems — Solar Storms

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

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

The Sun — Impact of Solar Activity on Earth

Knowing when a solar flare, or CME, is going to occur is important for our satellites in orbit, for astronauts in space, and even for power companies on the ground. Instruments on board satellites now improve these predictions.

Should we be concerned about recent solar storms?

Preview of NASA Now: The Sun — Impact of Solar Activity on Earth

For more information about solar storms in 2012 you can also watch The Truth About 2012: Solar Storms.