Daily Archives: March 15, 2010

Vernal Equinox – March 20, 2010

(from our friends at OMSI)

Saturday, March 20 is the vernal equinox for Pacific Time Zone at 10:34 a.m. PDT, the day on which both the north and south pole of the earth are equal distances towards the sun (92.6 million miles). At that instant the sun stands directly over the Earths equator. The first day of spring, called ‘the vernal equinox’, vernal meaning ‘green’, and equinox meaning ‘equal night’, which simply means that on the equinox the hours of daylight are equal to the hours of night.

Fun Facts:

  • As seen from Portland on March 20, the noon sun (1:18 pm) will reach its mid-point in the sky near 45 degrees from the southern horizon.
  • On the first day of spring, the Sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. And each successive day thereafter it rises and sets just a little bit farther to the north until the summer solstice on June 20, the first day of summer, when the Sun reaches its northernmost point along the horizon and actually seems to ‘stand still’ and rise and set in the same place for a few days. In fact the word ‘solstice’ means ‘sun stands still’.
  • As the season changes from summer to winter and vice versa, the Sun and Moon are in perfect balance, as if they were on opposite ends of a celestial see-saw:
  • Summer: The Sun rises in the NE and sets in the NW; the Moon rises in the SE and sets in the SW. At transit, the Sun’s altitude is high; the Moon’s altitude is low. The Sun is visible ~15 hr.; the Moon is visible ~9 hr.
  • Winter: Sun rises in the SE and sets in the SW; Moon rises in the NE and sets in the NW. At transit, Sun’s altitude is low; Moon’s altitude is high. Sun visible ~9 hr.; Moon visible ~15 hr.  Note: The preceding statements are true only during (or near) Full Moon. During (or near) New Moon, the Moon appears to closely follow the path of the Sun across the sky.
  • The lengths of day and night are then equal over almost all Earth, except at the poles. At the North Pole and South Pole, Earth’s atmosphere bends the Sun’s rays enough to make the Sun visible throughout the day and night, even during the 12 hours the Sun is below the horizon.
  • From March 21 until September 24, the days are longer than the nights for the northern hemisphere. The 12 hours day and night actually occurs few days before the vernal equinox. This is due to the earth’s atmosphere causes the light from the sun to be refracted when the sun is near the horizon.
  • In A.D. 150, the annual path of the Sun against background stars was such that on the vernal equinox, the Sun “entered” the constellations Aries. This is how the first day of spring became endowed with the name “first point of Aries.” In 1930, the International Astronomical Union restructured constellation boundaries. And because of the ongoing precession (wobble) of the Earth on its axis the “first point of Aries” has shifted in the calendar and occurs one month earlier than the vernal equinox. On the first day of spring, the sun will be in the constellation Pisces, the “Fish.” In about 600 years, the “first point of Aries” will reach the constellation Aquarius and enter the “age of Aquarius.”

NASA Gives Teens Their “Space” With New Web Site

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has launched Mission:Science, a new Web site created specifically for teenagers. Through Mission:Science, teens can access current NASA spacecraft data for school science projects, conduct real experiments with NASA scientists and locate space-related summer internships.

Mission:Science showcases NASA’s educational science resources and encourages students to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. While NASA provides a vast amount of online STEM information for students of all ages, Mission:Science boosts the content available for this age group.

The site also features social networking tools, links to enter science contests or participate in a family science night, information about college research programs, and an array of NASA images, animation, videos and podcasts. Visit Mission:Science at http://missionscience.nasa.gov

New Robotics Module in NASA’s Do-It-Yourself Podcast

NASA uses robots in the form of aircraft, arms, space probes and telescopes. These robots do everything from explore the solar system to build new rockets. Your students can create a podcast about robots using NASA audio and video clips, images, and information. NASA Education’s newest DIY Podcast topic module is entitled “Robots.”

This module features NASA robotic systems engineer Fernando Zumbado discussing robots and how NASA uses them. The module’s 22 video clips include Mars rover animation and B-roll footage of several NASA robots. The Robots module also has 11 audio clips. Students download these NASA multimedia materials and edit them with their own recordings and narration to create a podcast.

Other DIY Podcast topic modules are:
• Fitness.
• Lab Safety.
• Newton’s Laws.
• Rocket Evolution.
• Solar Arrays.
• Spacesuits.
• Sports Demo.

Students can build multimedia projects, while teachers meet national education standards. A companion blog offers tips and suggestions for incorporating the DIY Podcast into the classroom. To learn more and to start making podcasts, visit http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/diypodcast/index.html


Apply Now for the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at Oregon State University – Deadline April 16, 2010

Oregon State University is taking applications for 54 Oregon middle school students to attend the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp this summer at OSU. Application deadline is Friday, April 16. The application includes a student essay and recommendations from science and math teachers.

The Oregon State University Department of 4-H Youth Development is pleased to be selected for a fourth year of funding in 2010 for the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Foundation Summer Science Camp. The program provides full scholarships for Oregon middle school (entering grades 6- 8 ) students to attend a Summer Science Camp on the OSU campus in Corvallis, Oregon. Camp this year will be held August 2nd through the 13th.

Students are invited to apply for this two-week residential camp, to be held in August. Selection will be based on academic commitment (not necessarily performance) teacher recommendations and a student essay. We particularly hope to receive applications from students who belong to populations who are traditionally underserved and underrepresented in the fields of science and math and students from rural areas.

The full cost of the camp’s education program, field trips, food and lodging will be covered by a scholarship for those students selected to participate. More information is available online at http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu/summer-science-camp

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