Trivia All About NASA’s Next Earth-Observing Satellite

A woman stands to the left of the image wearing a purple shirt and jeans. She has blonde curly hair and is raising her hands above her head in celebration. There is a man to her right wearing a pale blue tshirt and brown pants. Between them resting on the floor is a poster with the word "Phytoplankton" written on it and images of different species of phytoplankton showing. The man and woman are inside, but behind them the outdoors can be seen with palm trees outside.

I’ll take “All About PACE” for 300, please.

While not exactly like “Jeopardy!”, PACE trivia is just as fun – and often as challenging! To prepare for the upcoming launch of the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite, PACE team members, friends and family gathered on Feb. 4 for an afternoon of facts, food, and fun at the Tiny Turtle restaurant in Cocoa Beach.

Two children stand in the foreground of the image facing away from the camera. They are looking at a screen in front of them. To their right is a woman with blue and purple hair pointing to the screen. On the screen are several blurry blobs - phytoplankton - which are being displayed from the microscope, seen between the heads of the two children.
Ivona Cetinić, an oceanographer at the Ocean Ecology Lab at NASA Goddard, pointed out phytoplankton during the hands-on-experiment portion of the event. The phytoplankton, found in a lake earlier in the day, were projected onto the screen from under a microscope. Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Erica McNamee

The excitement in the atmosphere was palpable – everyone talking animatedly among themselves. The crowd quieted down, however, to see Bridget Seegers, oceanographer for PACE at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, start the hands-on activities scheduled for the event. She and other PACE team members peered into a microscope, showing live phytoplankton and zooplankton that are invisible to the human eye.

She demonstrated how chlorophyll, a molecule found in phytoplankton that gives them their green color, fluoresces in red light. This led into a discussion about satellite remote sensing and how people see light in comparison to how satellites measure it.

Seegers and co-trivia-host Andy Sayer, PACE’s project science lead for the atmosphere, explained how PACE is going to help scientists learn more about the ocean, aerosols, and clouds. They encouraged the crowd to listen carefully – they dropped helpful hints for the trivia questions to come.

This led into what the crowd had all been waiting for: a friendly competition of trivia. Split into teams, the crowd went through a series of 36 fun questions all related to PACE in some way. It ranged from questions familiar to the crowd of scientists and engineers, like “What color does chlorophyll fluoresce?” (answer: red) to some more obscure questions like “How big was the shark from ‘Jaws’?” (answer: 25 feet long).

Four woman are around a table - one standing and three sitting. They are all looking down at pieces of white paper with handwriting on them, pencils in hand for grading. There are other objects, glasses, cups, menus, on the table as well. In the background of the image is a window to the outside, which has a building and a brick road on it.
Seegers and her team of graders checked off correct trivia answers. Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Erica McNamee

It was a competitive crowd and a smart one too, answering some difficult questions about Earth, PACE, and even moons far out into the solar system. Points were tallied, but Seegers stressed that everyone walked away as a winner, having learned more about the mission and gathered together for a fun event.

Header Image Caption: Bridget Seegers and Andy Sayer presenting about phytoplankton and aerosols before the trivia questions began at the Tiny Turtle. Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Erica McNamee

By Erica McNamee, Science Writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center