Tornado Tracks in Mississippi and Alabama

Artist Concept: Aqua satellite above EarthFor current events in your class, use the Earth Observatory website for NASA satellite images showing the path of exposed ground left in the wake of recent tornadoes. You will find images taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite on April 28, 2011.

To find more information about tornado images on the Earth Observatory website, refer to the Earth Observatory article in NEON

NASA's Terra and Aqua Satellites Capture Disaster in Japan

Satellite image showing JapanThe Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, on NASA’s Aqua satellite and the MODIS sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite took photos of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. Images were made with infrared and visible light to highlight the presence of water and other features on the ground.
To find out more about the images, read the article in NEON.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Japan Quake May Have Shortened Earth Days, Moved Axis

Satellite image of Sendai, JapanThe March 11, magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan may have shortened the length of each Earth day and shifted its axis. But don’t worry—you won’t notice the difference.

Using a United States Geological Survey estimate for how the fault responsible for the earthquake slipped, research scientist Richard Gross of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., applied a complex model to perform a preliminary theoretical calculation of how the Japan earthquake—the fifth largest since 1900—affected Earth’s rotation. His calculations indicate that by changing the distribution of Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second).

The calculations also show the Japan quake should have shifted the position of Earth’s figure axis (the axis about which Earth’s mass is balanced) by about 17 centimeters (6.5 inches), towards 133 degrees east longitude. Earth’s figure axis should not be confused with its north-south axis; they are offset by about 10 meters (about 33 feet). This shift in Earth’s figure axis will cause Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but it will not cause a shift of Earth’s axis in space—only external forces such as the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon and planets can do that.

Click here to read the full article.

View NASA images of the earthquake area at

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Now-Glory Launch

NASA Now logo

In this episode of NASA Now, Dr. Hal Maring joins us to explain why the upcoming launch of the Glory satellite is so important to further our understanding of climate change. He also will speak on the dual purposes of the Glory mission and dispel some misconceptions about climate change and global warming.

Over the past several decades, environmental awareness has become one of our most prevalent issues. As Earth’s climate change becomes more rapid, the need to understand the causes and implications of this change becomes more urgent. Many theories exist connecting solar irradiation, aerosols and greenhouse gases to global climate change. While we know a lot about atmospheric greenhouse gases, there is still much to understand about their long-term effect on climate and other factors that may affect change.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Now Preview Video

Twin STEREO Probes Provide View of Entire Sun!

On Feb. 6, NASA’s twin STEREO probes moved into position on opposite sides of the sun, and they now are beaming back uninterrupted images of the entire star — front and back.

”For the first time ever, we can watch solar activity in its full three-dimensional glory,” says Angelos Vourlidas, a member of the STEREO science team at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

”This is a big moment in solar physics,” says Vourlidas. “STEREO has revealed the sun as it really is — a sphere of hot plasma and intricately woven magnetic fields.”

Read more about this story by logging into NEON, join the NASA Explorer Schools group, and find the “GENESIS: What Are We Made of? The Sun, Earth and You” forum. The complete write-up on this exciting new development is available in that forum.

STEREO VideoThis movie shows a spherical map of the Sun, formed from a combination of STEREO Ahead and Behind beacon images, along with an SDO/AIA image in between. The movie starts with the view of the Sun as seen from Earth, with the 0 degree meridian line in the middle. The map then rotates through 360 degrees to show the part of the Sun not visible from Earth. The black wedge shows the part of the Sun not yet visible to the STEREO spacecraft.

For more information about the STEREO spacecraft, visit the mission website.

A Valentine's Day Return to Comet Tempel 1

Stardust SpacecraftOn Feb. 14, 2011, NASA’s Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel 1) mission will encounter Comet Tempel 1, providing a unique opportunity to measure the dust properties of two separate comets (Wild 2 and Tempel 1) with the same instrument for accurate data comparison. The encounter also will provide a comparison between two observations of a single comet, Tempel 1, taken before and after a single orbital pass around the sun.

NASA’s Stardust spacecraft will fly within 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) of Comet Tempel 1 on Feb. 14, 2011, at about 8:36 p.m. PST.

Comet Tempel 1NASA’s Deep Impact mission observed Comet Tempel 1 in the summer of 2005, as the comet was inbound toward the sun on its approximately 5.5-year orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Deep Impact’s primary mission was to deliver a special impactor spacecraft into the path of Comet Tempel 1. The spacecraft — and many ground-based observers — observed the impact and the ejected material. Scientists were surprised the cloud was composed of a fine, powdery material, not the expected water, ice and dirt. The spacecraft did find the first evidence of surface ice on a comet instead of just inside a comet.

The Stardust-NExT mission is a low-cost use of an in-flight spacecraft redirected to a new target. Prior to its tasking for Tempel 1, the Stardust spacecraft successfully flew through the cloud of dust surrounding the nucleus of comet Wild 2 in January 2004. The particles of cometary material gathered during this flyby were then returned to Earth aboard a sample return capsule that landed in the Utah desert in January 2006.

New Robotic Lunar Lander Prototype Relates to NES Teaching Materials

Prototype lunar roverA new generation of small, smart, versatile robotic landers will aid in the exploration of airless bodies such as the moon and asteroids. The design is based on cutting-edge technology, which allows precision landing in high-risk but high-priority areas. This technology enables NASA to achieve scientific and exploration goals in previously unexplored locations.

These new landers are a great tie-in to two NES Virtual Campus teaching modules: 
   • Math and Science @ Work: Lunar Surface Instrumentation module. 
   • Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon. 
Connections like this will help your students see that the things they learn in school have a real-world connection to what is happening at NASA right now! 

Read more about this exciting new prototype in the NASA Explorer Schools NEON forums Math and Science @ Work: Lunar Surface Instrumentation module and Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon.

NASA Research Team Reveals Moon Has Earth-like Core

Artist concept showing lunar core. Solid inner core surrounded by a fluid outer core surrounded by a partial melt area.Are you looking for an extension for the Lunar Surface Instrumentation Content Module on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus? Bring current NASA discoveries into your classroom with this article!

State-of-the-art seismological techniques applied to Apollo-era data suggest our moon has a core similar to Earth’s. This new discovery tells us that the moon may have created and maintained its own strong magnetic field at one point. The study details how the seismological instruments used for lunar exploration have unveiled new information regarding the moon’s core.

Read more about this exciting new finding in the NES Math and Science @ Work – Lunar Surface Instrumentation forum in NEON. Register, log in, join the NASA Explorer Schools group and find the forum. The complete write-up on this discovery is available there.

Watch Out for Solar Sail Flares!

Artist concept of a solar sail in space.On Jan. 21st, NanoSail-D unfurled a 10 m2 sail 650 km above Earth’s surface, becoming the first solar sail to orbit our planet. For the next few months it will skim the top of the atmosphere, slowly descending in a test of ‘drag sails’ as a means of de-orbiting space junk. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will disintegrate like a meteor in April or May of 2011, dispersing harmlessly more than 1100 km high.

Meanwhile, sky watchers should be alert for flares lasting 5 to 10 seconds outshining the brightest stars in the sky, mimicking a supernova, perhaps even casting faint shadows at your feet.

For more information about NanoSail-D click here.

(Full article located at Science@NASA, by Dr. Tony Phillips)

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.