August 10, 2005
WSGC Newsletter for Educators
The Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium's electronic newsletter for teachers provides curriculum ideas, Internet links and other resources to help you better meet the Washington EALRs and the National Science Education Standards.TABLE OF CONTENTS
-- MARS ORBITER TO LAUNCH
-- TODAY'S FORECAST CALLS FOR METEOR SHOWERS (K-12)
-- 10TH PLANET DISCOVERED
-- EXPLORE THE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARIES (K-12)
-- ANCIENT UNIVERSE GUIDE AVAILABLE (3-12)
On Thursday, Aug. 11, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is expected to launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The orbiter will search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars' history, it remains a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to provide a habitat for life. For the most current launch information, visit
To order an Earth/Mars poster or review other education programs, go to
Spaceweather.com, sponsored by NASA, provides accurate news and information about the Sun-Earth environment. The Perseid meteor shower, for example, peaks on Friday morning, Aug. 12. Rumors that Mars will come so close to Earth Aug. 27 that it looks as big as the full Moon? False! The site is also crammed with images and links to external resources. To sign up for regular e-reports, go to
10TH PLANET DISCOVERED
A planet larger than Pluto has been discovered in the outlying regions of our solar system. The planet is a typical member of the Kuiper belt, but its sheer size in relation to the nine known planets means that it can only be classified as a planet, said planetary scientist Dr. Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., whose research is partly funded by NASA.
Currently about 97 times further from the sun than the Earth, the planet is the farthest-known object in the solar system, and the third brightest of the Kuiper belt objects.
"It will be visible with a telescope over the next six months and is currently almost directly overhead in the early-morning eastern sky, in the constellation Cetus," said Brown, who made the discovery with colleagues Chad Trujillo, of the Gemini Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and David Rabinowitz, of Yale University, New Haven, Conn. A name for the new planet has been proposed by the discoverers to the International Astronomical Union, and they are awaiting the decision of this body before announcing the name.
For more information, go to
The new Office of National Marine Sanctuaries website offers information about our nation's marine sanctuaries including their history, scientific and educational programs, and efforts to conserve our nation's ocean and coastal treasures.
There is also an illustrated encyclopedia and information on a vast range of marine creatures, habitats, historical artifacts, and flourishing maritime cultures. In one area, you'll find the breeding and calving grounds of giant humpback whales, in another the remains of an 18th century shipwreck, and in yet another thriving coral reef colonies or kelp forests. For more information, visit
"An Ancient Universe: How Astronomers Know the Vast Scale of Cosmic Time," a teaching guide published by American Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, provides background on how scientists have been able to measure ages so vast that human history is a mere blink of an eye in comparison.
It also gives references to classroom activities you can do with your students, and resources for further exploration of some astronomical ideas about space and time. For a copy of the guide, go to
Ideas, comments and Web sites of interest to other teachers should be sent to Irene Svete, newsletter editor, at
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