NASA Spacecraft Capture an Earth Directed Coronal Mass Ejection

On August 20, 2013 at 4:24 a.m. EDT, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection, or CME, a solar phenomenon which can send billions of tons of particles into space that can reach Earth one to three days later. These particles cannot travel through the atmosphere to harm humans on Earth, but they can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

Experimental NASA research models, based on observations from NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, show that the CME left the sun at speeds of around 570 miles per second, which is a fairly typical speed for CMEs.

To see images of this CME and read more, visit

This story is a great extension to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Geometry: Space Math Problems—Solar Storms. To access this lesson, visit the NES Virtual Campus at

NASA Statement On Alpha Centauri Planet Discovery

The following is a portion of a statement about the European Southern Observatory’s latest exoplanet discovery from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator, Dr. John Grunsfeld.

“We congratulate the European Southern Observatory team for making this exciting new exoplanet discovery. For astronomers, the search for exoplanets helps us understand our place in the universe and determine whether Earth is unique in supporting life or if it is just one member of a large community of habitable worlds. NASA has several current and future missions that will continue in this search.”

For information about the NASA Explorer Schools project, visit

Unprecedented Blooms of Ocean Plant Life

Scientists have made a biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters as unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. A NASA-sponsored expedition named ICESCAPE punched through three-feet of sea ice to find waters richer in microscopic marine plants, essential to all sea life, than any other ocean region on Earth.

The microscopic plants, called phytoplankton, are the base of the marine food chain. Phytoplankton were thought to grow in the Arctic Ocean only after sea ice had retreated for the summer. Scientists now think that the thinning Arctic ice is allowing sunlight to reach the waters under the sea ice, catalyzing the plant blooms where they had never been observed.

The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology.

The findings were published in the journal Science.


Credit: For more information read the article at Science at NASA.

Solar Eclipse in the USA

On Sunday, May 20th, the Moon will pass in front of the sun, transforming sunbeams across the Pacific side of Earth into fat crescents and thin rings of light.

In the United States, the eclipse begins around 5:30 pm PDT. For the next two hours, a moon-shaped portion of the sun will go into hiding. Greatest coverage occurs around 6:30 pm PDT.

Solar Eclipse this Weekend

Credit: Science@NASA

What Happened to all the Snow?

Winter seems to have been on hold this year in some parts of the United States. Snowfall has been scarce in places that were overwhelmed with the white stuff at the same time last year. In this ScienceCast, JPL climatologist Bill Patzert explains what’s going on.

Related NES Lessons:
   •  Weather and Climate: Satellite Meteorology
   •  Temperature and Earth Climate: Modeling Hot and Cold Planets

New Horizons Becomes Closest Spacecraft to Approach Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons mission reached a special milestone on Dec. 2, 2011, on its way to reconnoiter the Pluto system, coming closer to Pluto than any other spacecraft.

It’s taken New Horizons 2,143 days of high-speed flight – covering more than a million kilometers per day for nearly six years—to break the closest-approach mark of 1.58 billion kilometers set by NASA’s Voyager 1 in January 1986.

Read the full story at the Science@NASA website.

New Horizons Update

Dec. 10 — Total Eclipse of the Moon

The action begins around 4:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time when the red shadow of Earth first falls across the lunar disk.  By 6:05 a.m. Pacific Time, the moon will be fully engulfed in red light. This event—the last total lunar eclipse until 2014—is visible from the Pacific side of North America, across the entire Pacific Ocean to Asia and Eastern Europe.

Learn more about lunar eclipses by viewing the video below.

Weekend Meteor Shower

Sky diagram showing origin of meteors.Earth is about to pass through a stream of debris from Halley’s comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower.  Forecasters expect more than 15 meteors per hour to fly across the sky on Saturday morning, Oct. 22, when the shower peaks.

For more information visit

Get Ready for the Launch of the Curiosity Rover

Artist concept of Curiosity rover on surface of MarsThe Curiosity rover is scheduled for launch to Mars on Nov. 25, 2011. To prepare for the launch, a telecon has been scheduled so you can hear about the many resources available for you to share the excitement of launch with your students. Topics during the telecon are:

   • Launch details: NASA TV rundown, scheduled press briefings and the Tweetup
   • Visuals: images and video
   • Educator professional development: workshops, telecons and presentations
   • Spacecraft models and other items for loan

Date: Monday, Oct. 10, 2011
Time: Noon PDT (3 p.m. EDT)
Call-in: 888-323-4924
Passcode: Museum
Leader: Anita Sohus

RESOURCES: Presentation materials will be posted prior to the telecon on the Museum Alliance website at:
Username: informal
Passcode: lifelong

May 6: Meteors from Halley's Comet

Mark your calendar. On May 6th, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from Halley’s comet, producing a mild but beautiful meteor shower known as the “eta Aquarids.”