Category Archives: STEM

NASA Galileo Educator Network Seeks New Fellows – Application Deadline August 31, 2012

Become a NASA Galileo Educator Network Fellow!

The NASA Galileo Educator Network is accepting applications for a professional development institute in September 2012, at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Ill.

The 15-hour institute will focus on the integration of science content, science practices and the nature of science as outlined in the national Framework for K–12 Science Education. The goal of this program is to train participants to assist K-12 teachers with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, in the context of astronomy and space science.

Lodging support for out-of-town participants and stipends for all participants are available.

Applications are due Aug. 31, 2012.

For more information about the NASA Galileo Educator Network and to apply for the professional development institute online, visit

NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) Proposals Due August 31, 2012

2012-2013 NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative

NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative, or USLI, is a competition that challenges university-level students to design, build and launch a reusable rocket with a scientific or engineering payload to one mile above ground level. The project engages students in scientific research and real-world engineering processes with NASA engineers.

Once selected, teams design their rockets and payloads throughout the academic year. USLI requires a NASA review of the teams’ preliminary and critical designs. The project also requires flight and launch readiness reviews before the rockets and payloads are approved for launch. Teams complete a Post-Launch Assessment Review to include conclusions from their science or engineering experiment and the overall flight performance. The Preliminary Design Review, Critical Design Review and Flight Readiness Review are conducted by a panel of scientists and engineers from NASA, NASA contactors and external partners.

NASA’s Student Launch Projects are sponsored by ATK Aerospace Systems. The annual launch event is hosted at Bragg Farms in Toney, Ala., and launch services are provided by the National Association of Rocketry. The 2012-2013 launch will be on April 20, 2013. Proposals are due Aug. 31, 2012.

The Statement of Work and instructions for submitting a proposal can be found on the USLI website at


Radiation Belt Storm Probes Webcast from NASA DLN – August 16, 2012

Radiation Belt

Join NASA’s DLN for a live webcast on August 16, 2012

Join NASA’s Digital Learning Network (DLN) for a free live interactive webcast with hosts Joshua Santora and Rachel Power on Aug. 16, 2012, at 1 p.m. EDT!  The topic will be the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, or RBSP, project. Understanding the radiation belt environment and its variability has extremely important practical applications in the areas of spacecraft operations, spacecraft and spacecraft system design, mission planning and astronaut safety. Participants can interact with RBSP Deputy Project Scientist Nicky Fox during this live webcast.  It’s a great opportunity for educators and space enthusiasts to learn more about the radiation belt.

For more information and to take part in the webcast, visit the DLN website at

Curiosity’s Wild Ride! Color Stop Motion Video of Descent to Mars

This stop-motion video shows 297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover as it descended to the surface of Mars. These thumbnail images were received on Earth on Aug. 6, 2012, and cover the last two and a half minutes of descent.

Curiosity’s Descent

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Perseid Meteor Shower Expected to Peak August 12-13, 2012 – Star Party Portland, OR

(From our friends at OMSI)

August 12, 2012 – OMSI Star Parties: Perseid Meteor Shower Watch

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is getting ready for its largest star party of the year on Sunday, August 12, the Perseid Meteor Shower Watch! Hundreds of star lovers from across the Pacific Northwest will be meeting at both Rooster Rock State Park and Stub Stewart State Park at 8 p.m. to watch and enjoy the wonder of the Perseid Meteor Shower. The event, sponsored by OMSI, the Rose City Astronomers, the Vancouver Sidewalk Astronomers and Oregon Parks and Recreations will have telescopes set up for attendees to use. OMSI staff will be presenting informal talks about the meteor shower, constellations, and the summer sky.

The event is free, and there is a $5 per vehicle parking fee for public. On the scheduled day of each OMSI Star Party, it is suggested that interested visitors call the OMSI Star Parties Hotline, (503) 797-4610 #3 then #5, or check the OMSI Star Parties web site for possible weather-related cancellations.

photo of a meteor shower

Watch the Meteor Shower with OMSI!

The Perseid Meteor Shower occurs when the Earth enters the path of debris left by the comet Swift-Tuttle in its last trip past the Sun. Swift-Tuttle follows a highly eccentric orbit around the Sun with an orbital period of about 130 years. The comet last passed by the Earth in December 1992. Timing is not precise, but according to the American Meteor Society, the 2012 peak is expected on August 12th at around 9:00 p.m. PDT (0400 hours UT on August 13). There is some uncertainty, so it’s very worthwhile to observe on either side of this time. The OMSI Star Parties will be held on the night of August 12 and into the early morning of August 13. Estimate peak rates for this year’s Perseid is near 60 for those under transparent rural skies. Those under dark but hazy skies should still be able to see 30 to 40 Perseids per hour. Those under urban skies will be lucky to exceed 10 to 20 per hour. Fortunately, this year will have the waning crescent moon on August 12 and will be a nonfactor for viewing the fainter meteors of the Perseids. While viewing the Perseids, we will look at the close pairing of Saturn and Mars. As a bonus, the International Space Station will be visible on the same night.

An increase in the number of meteors at a particular time of year is called a meteor shower. Comets shed the debris that becomes most meteor showers. As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet’s orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Depending on where Earth and the stream meet, meteors appear to fall from a particular place in the sky, maybe within the neighborhood of a constellation.

Meteor showers are named by the constellation from which meteors appear to fall, a spot in the sky astronomers call the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is located in the constellation Leo. This meteor shower gets the name “Perseids” because it appears to radiate from the constellation Perseus. An observer in the Northern Hemisphere can start seeing Perseid meteors as early as July 23, when one meteor every hour or so could be visible. During the next three weeks, there is a slow build-up. It is possible to spot five Perseids per hour at the beginning of August and perhaps 15 per hour by August 10. The Perseids rapidly increase to a peak of 50-80 meteors per hour by the night of August 12/13 and then rapidly decline to about 10 per hour by August 15. The last night meteors are likely to be seen from this meteor shower is August 22, when an observer might see a Perseid every hour or so.

“Shooting stars” are intense streaks of light across the night sky caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids crashing and burning high in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Traveling at thousands of miles an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite in searing friction of the atmosphere, 30 to 80 miles above the ground. Almost all are destroyed in this process; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.

Most people do not know how easy it is to watch a meteor shower. Although it is Summer, evening temperatures can drop and jackets may be a necessity. Choose an observing location giving a wide view of the sky with as few obstructions as possible. If you’re viewing from the city, try to observe where artificial lights interfere the least. Places like Rooster Rock State Park, Stub Stewart State Park, Mt Hood area, or eastern Oregon are popular locations for dark sky in viewing the meteor shower. Possible to watch it from the comfort of your backyard, but only the bright meteors would be visible. Meteor watching is basically an unaided-eye event but binoculars are handy for watching trails (persistent trains) that may hang in the sky for one or more seconds after a meteor’s passage.

The Radiant will be low in the northeast sky after sunset. For early evening viewing, be outside about the time the first stars appear. The Radiant will be low in the northeast but don’t concentrate just on that one area, but rather, let your gaze wander over a large portion of the sky. Meteors that appear near the Radiant will have short paths while those that begin farther out have much longer ones. In the early evening you may spot a few so-called Earth Grazers which can blaze long trails across the sky. They’re not likely to be numerous but do appear, sometimes at the rate of half a dozen or more an hour.

As the hours pass the Radiant rises higher and between about midnight and dawn the greatest number of meteors can be seen. Viewing through city lights will reduce their numbers considerably but the brighter ones will show up nicely.

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New JPL Website Offers NASA Infographics + Data to Create Your Own

Mars Science Lab Landing Timeline

Infographic explaining how the Curiosity rover landed on Mars on August 5, 2012

Researchers, Teachers and Students should take note of the new NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory website based around infographics!

Infographics are those colorful graphics with lots of data that you have probably seen a lot of lately.  They are a popular way to quickly explain complex information in a visually interesting and easy to understand way.

JPL wants to help you to create great infographics.  They’ve made it easy to get data sets for various missions, planets, spacecraft, stars, and other space related information.  Just find the subject your’e interested in, download the data sets, decide how you’d like to talk about the information, then use one of JPL’s current infographics as inspiration for your own.  Users can upload new infographics for feedback or find pre-made graphics for use in classrooms, projects, etc.

Check out the JPL Infographics website today and show us your research and graphical skills!

MS PHD’s Professional Development Program for Undergraduate/Graduate Students – Deadline August 31, 2012

MS PHD'S Program

MS PHD’s Cohort IX: 2012-2014 Professional Development Program for Undergraduate/Graduate Students (Apply by Aug. 31)

The Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success (MS PHD’S) Professional Development Program facilitates mentoring and networking activities for minority undergraduate and graduate Earth system science and engineering (ESSE) majors and provides a supportive environment in which participants develop strategies and professional skills necessary to excel in Earth system science and engineering fields. Space is also available for those interested in being mentors.

MS PHD’s is currently accepting applications for Cohort IX (2012-2014). The deadline to submit your online application is August 31, 2012. In addition to the online application, please have two references submit letters of recommendation to by August 31, 2012.

To learn more, visit

JPL Creates 3-D Visualization of Curiosity Rover Landing

Eyes on the Solar System Curiosity Simulation

Try the Eyes on the Solar System Curiosity simulation to view the NASA mission in real time!

JPL’s Eyes on the Solar System is a 3-D environment full of real NASA mission data. Explore the cosmos from your computer. Hop on an asteroid. Fly with NASA’s Voyager spacecraft. See the entire solar system moving in real time. It’s up to you. You control space and time.

As a special feature for the Eyes on the Solar System program, you can now experience the Mars Curiosity Rover landing in real time! This visualization lets you ride with Curiosity all the way to the surface of Gale crater. Preview the events of Entry Descent and Landing, or watch live!

Visit the Eyes on the solar System website today to try this interactive simulation! Note: JAVA is required and the simulation will open in a separate window.

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