Category Archives: Education

NASA Space Place – Exploring the Water World

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in April, 2013.

By Diane K. Fisher

2013february2_spaceplaceIn some ways, we know more about Mars, Venus and the Moon than we know about Earth. That’s because 70% of our solar system’s watery blue planet is hidden under its ocean. The ocean contains about 98% of all the water on Earth. In total volume, it makes up more than 99% of the space inhabited by living creatures on the planet.

As dominant a feature as it is, the ocean—at least below a few tens of meters deep—is an alien world most of us seldom contemplate. But perhaps we should.

The ocean stores heat like a “fly wheel” for climate. Its huge capacity as a heat and water reservoir moderates the climate of Earth. Within this Earth system, both the physical and biological processes of the ocean play a key role in the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and climate variability.

This great reservoir continuously exchanges heat, moisture, and carbon with the atmosphere, driving our weather patterns and influencing the slow, subtle changes in our climate.

The study of Earth and its ocean is a big part of NASA’s mission. Before satellites, the information we had about the ocean was pretty much “hit or miss,” with the only data collectors being ships, buoys, and instruments set adrift on the waves.

Now ocean-observing satellites measure surface topography, currents, waves, and winds. They monitor the health of phytoplankton, which live in the surface layer of the ocean and supply half the oxygen in the atmosphere. Satellites monitor the extent of Arctic sea ice so we can compare this important parameter with that of past years. Satellites also measure rainfall, the amount of sunlight reaching the sea, the temperature of the ocean’s surface, and even its salinity!

Using remote sensing data and computer models, scientists can now investigate how the oceans affect the evolution of weather, hurricanes, and climate. In just a few months, one satellite can collect more information about the ocean than all the ships and buoys in the world have collected over the past 100 years!

NASA’s Earth Science Division has launched many missions to planet Earth. These satellites and other studies all help us understand how the atmosphere, the ocean, the land and life—including humans—all interact together.
Find out more about NASA’s ocean studies at http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/oceanography. Kids will have fun exploring our planet at The Space Place, http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/earth.

This article was written by Diane K. Fisher and provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Caption: This image from September 2012, shows that the Arctic sea is the smallest recorded since record keeping began in 1979. This image is from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio at Goddard Space Flight Center.

About NASA Space Place

The goal of the NASA Space Place is “to inform, inspire, and involve children in the excitement of science, technology, and space exploration.” More information is available at their website: http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/

Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) Soliciting Comments – Request For Light Pollution Comments And Consideration Of IDA Recommendations

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The following post to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Outdoor Lighting Forum from Gary Honis (astrophotographer extraordinaire) was sent along to me by John McMahon (local amateur astronomer and responsible-lighting proponent extraordinaire). John had also forwarded the youtube video from Gary concerning drilling-related light pollution made at Cherry Springs Dark Sky Park, home of the Cherry Springs Star Party (Ryan Goodson and I are currently registered for the event this year) late last fall (see the image above, taken from Gary Honis’ Skyglow from Marcellus Gas Well Drilling Site page).

Gary is requesting that concerned amateur astronomers comment on the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) website immediately as this new organization establishes standards for shale drilling. Of note is the request for the CSSD to consider the IDA lighting fixture recommendations. Of drilling-specific note is the recommendation that flaring times be limited. Gary’s post, including links to the CSSD page and several relevant articles, is provided below.

A new organization (CSSD) was formed this week comprised of the gas drilling industry and environmental groups that have reached agreement to create a system to set standards for reducing the effects of shale drilling. The article is here:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/03/both_sides_agree_on_tough_new.html

According to the article, multiple states will be covered but it does not mention any outdoor lighting or flaring controls.

The CSSD has a comment page set up for receiving comments. If you are so inclined, please consider requesting that they include exterior lighting and flaring standards to address the problem of light pollution. The CSSD comment page is here:

http://037186e.netsolhost.com/site/contact/

If they don’t receive comments from the astronomical community, I doubt lighting issues will be addressed. Below are the comments I provided:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My recommendation is the CSSD should include flaring and lighting requirements in its standards to avoid the problems of light pollution such as glare, light trespass, energy waste and skyglow. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) maintains a list of IDA approved shielded light fixtures and also has developed lighting codes jointly with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). See

http://www.darksky.org/outdoorlighting

Utilizing the IDA approved light fixtures and CSSD adoption of the IDA/IESNA lighting codes would address lighting problems for adjacent land owners. It would also avoid the light pollution as documented in
the 2012 NASA Earth Observatory images showing wasted light and skyglow in North Dakota and Pennsylvania from gas drilling operations. See:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NPP/news/earth-at-night.html

Having standards that limit flaring operations to daytime or during New Moon periods, as is being done in sensitive areas of PA, would help preserve our disappearing night sky resource.

Thanks for your consideration of this request.

Gary Honis, P.E.
GHAAS

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I have one YouTube video of the effect on Cherry Springs Dark Sky Park from flaring and associated unshielded lighting at gas drill rigs posted here:

NASA Space Place – Your Daily Dose of Astonishment

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in March, 2013.

Poster’s Note 2:The featured image for this article is that of the Antikythera mechanism, an object that almost defies technological explanation for its age. Its history and operation is worth your considered read! More on this object can be found in its wikipedia article: Antikythera mechanism.

By Diane K. Fisher

2013february2_spaceplace
As a person vitally interested in astronomy, you probably have the Astronomy Picture of the Day website at apod.nasa.gov set as favorite link. APOD has been around since practically the beginning of the web. The first APOD appeared unannounced on June 16, 1995. It got 15 hits. The next picture appeared June 20, 1995, and the site has not taken a day off since. Now daily traffic is more like one million hits.

Obviously, someone is responsible for picking, posting, and writing the detailed descriptions for these images. Is it a whole team of people? No. Surprisingly, it is only two men, the same ones who started it and have been doing it ever since.

Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell shared an office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the early-90s, when the term “World Wide Web” was unknown, but a software program called Mosaic could connect to and display specially coded content on other computers. The office mates thought “we should do something with this.”

Thus was conceived the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Now, in addition to the wildly popular English version, over 25 mirror websites in other languages are maintained independently by volunteers. (See apod.nasa.gov/apod/lib/about_apod.html for links). An archive of every APOD ever published is at pod.nasa.gov/apod/archivepix.html. Dr. Nemiroff also maintains a discussion website at asterisk.apod.com/.

But how does it get done? Do these guys even have day jobs?

Dr. Nemiroff has since moved to Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, where he is professor of astrophysics, both teaching and doing research. Dr. Bonnell is still with NASA, an astrophysicist with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory Science Support Center at Goddard. APOD is only a very small part of their responsibilities. They do not collaborate, but rather divide up the calendar, and each picks the image, writes the description, and includes the links for the days on his own list. The files are queued up for posting by a “robot” each day.

They use the same tools they used at the beginning: Raw HTML code written using the vi text editor in Linux. This simple format has now become such a part of the brand that they would upset all the people and websites and mobile apps that link to their feed if they were to change anything at this point.

Where do they find the images? Candidates are volunteered from large and small observatories, space telescopes (like the Hubble and Spitzer), and independent astronomers and astro-photographers. The good doctors receive ten images for every one they publish on APOD. But, as Dr. Nemiroff emphasizes, being picked or not picked is no reflection on the value of the image. Some of the selections are picked for their quirkiness. Some are videos instead of images. Some have nothing to do with astronomy at all, like the astonishing August 21, 2012, video of a replicating DNA molecule.

Among the many mobile apps taking advantage of the APOD feed is Space Place Prime, a NASA magazine that updates daily with the best of NASA. It’s available free (in iOS only at this time) at the Apple Store.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Caption: The January 20, 2013, Astronomy Picture of the Day is one that might fall into the “quirky” category. The object was found at the bottom of the sea aboard a Greek ship that sank in 80 BCE. It is an Antikythera mechanism, a mechanical computer of an accuracy thought impossible for that era. Its wheels and gears create a portable orrery of the sky that predicts star and planet locations as well as lunar and solar eclipses.

About NASA Space Place

The goal of the NASA Space Place is “to inform, inspire, and involve children in the excitement of science, technology, and space exploration.” More information is available at their website: http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/

Ying Tri Region Science And Engineering Fair & Central New York Science And Engineering Fair Judging Opportunities

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

Two requests for judges have come across my inbox from TACNY for the Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair (TRSEF) this Sunday (March 17th) and the Central New York Science And Engineering Fair (PDF Link) next Sunday (March 24th). I am volunteering for both events and encourage others with any science inclination to see just how smart some of our CNY teenagers are.

1. Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair – Sunday, March 17th

The Ying TRSEF has doubled in size this year, so we need over 120 judges. As a result, I’m personally inviting CNY Observers and Observing members, hoping each would like to inspire middle and high school students on March 17th up at OCC.

Judges train from 9:30-11:15, then interview the students and deliberate with their judge team until 3:00 latest. We provide both breakfast and lunch, and our students are absolutely marvelous!

Please encourage your members to judge; they register online, so it’s easy.

2013march11_judging

2. Central New York Science And Engineering Fair – Sunday, March 24th

The Central New York Science and Engineering Fair (CNYSEF), formerly known as the Greater Syracuse Scholastic Science Fair, is in need of judges to evaluate students’ competition projects on Sunday, March 24, 2013, at the SRC Arena, which is located on the Onondaga Community College campus. Judges should arrive at the SRC at 8:00 a.m. The judging begins at 9:00 a.m. and the awards ceremony commences at 2:00 p.m. Breakfast, lunch and training for Judges will be provided on competition day. The CNYSEF is organized through the MOST, sponsored by Lockheed Martin, and is further supported by contributions from TACNY, NASA New York Space Grant, Time Warner Cable, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and several other local companies.

A bit about the CNYSEF:

Students from Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego counties will compete for designations as Honors, High Honors, and Highest Honors in two divisions: the Junior Fair for 4th-8th grade students, and the Senior Fair for 9th-12th grade students. Competitors are also awarded several unique Special Awards in addition to the categorial awards mentioned immediately prior. Judges do not need to be experts in science or engineering to listen as the students demonstrate how much they have learned and accomplished.

Those interested in serving as judges, please register online here. For more information, contact the CNYSEF Director, Peter W. Plumley, PhD, at CNYSEF@most.org.

The encouragement and interest shown by volunteer judges is an essential part of the students’ science fair experience. Help inspire our future generation of engineers and scientists.

Many, many thanks,
Diane & the CNYSEF Organizational Committee

Chasing Ice – A James Balog Documentary At The Palace Theatre On Earth Day, April 22

The following announcement for a special documentary screening came over the TACNY listserve recently. Regardless of your views of the origins of climate change, the ongoing change to the atmosphere means increasing unpredictability for amateur astronomers practicing their craft. Along with the movie screening, a climate panel is being held featuring Dave Eichorn, one of the most reliable meteorologists ever to interpret weather patterns in CNY.

Chasing Ice

“One of the Most Beautiful Films of the Year.” Huffington Post


On Monday, April 22, Earth Day, 7:00 p.m., GreeningUSA will bring Chasing Ice (www.chasingice.com), a 75 minute documentary by James Balog, National Geographic photographer, to The Palace Theatre, 2384 James St (google map below).


View Larger Map

Immediately following the film a Climate Impacts and Actions in CNY panel presentation will explore the documentary’s environmental implications from a local perspective. The panel will consist of Dave Eichorn, syracuse.com meteorologist; Chris Carrick, Energy Program Manager for the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board; and Yvonne Rothenberg, Founder of the CNY chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. Moderating the panel will be Chris Bolt, WAER news and public affairs director.

The film follows nature photographer James Balog as he documents melting glaciers in Alaska, Iceland, Greenland and Montana. Using time-lapse cameras, his videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Called the Extreme Ice Survey, Balog sets up still cameras that have been programmed to take a picture, once every hour, for three years, of the same glacier, from a fixed spot.

The scale of the glaciers, and the almost hallucinogenic clarity of the images, make the resulting footage, based on three years’ shooting, most impressive. One piece of ice we see breaking off is said to be the size of lower Manhattan.

The visuals are riveting, and they drive home the point that the film makes in voice over narration by Balog, interviews with glaciologists and climate scientists and occasional charts and graphs: Ice is melting at an alarmingly unglacial pace.

Chasing Ice has won 23 awards at film festivals around the world, including: The Environmental Media Association’s 22nd Annual BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARD.

“This is the climate change film we’ve been waiting for.” Caroline Libresco, Sundance Senior Programmer


“Stunning… Timely…. A solitary quest with global implications.” – Neil Genzlinger, NYT

Panel Presenters:

Dave Eichorn: Changes in Climate, Changes in Variability
Dave will address climate change from a meteorological perspective. How changes in the Arctic affect our climate, in particular the increased variability in our weather and the impact on CNY.

Currently Meteorologist for Syracuse.com, Dave was chief meterologist for WSYR for 20 years and has a M.S. degree in Environmental Science from SUNY ESF. While working on his master’s degree, he developed climate science courses for SUNY ESF under a NASA grant.

Chris Carrick – Climate Solutions in CNY
Chris will speak on regional efforts within Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego Counties geared at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering the adoption of clean energy technologies.

Chris manages the Energy Program at the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, a public agency. Chris is the founder and director of the Central New York Climate Change Innovation Program. C2IP provides financial and technical assistance to local municipalities to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Yvonne T. Rothenberg – Creating the Political Will for a Stable Climate
Why would a person leave a relaxed, comfortable retirement life style to take on the hard work of organizing and coordinating climate lobby groups first in Syracuse and than other cities in upstate N.Y. Yvonne will share why she felt compelled to organize for the Citizens Climate Lobby.

The Citizens Climate Lobby, www.citizensclimatelobby.org is a national non-partisan organization whose goal is to create the political will for a sustainable climate and to teach individuals how to exercise their political power.

Ticket prices: (suggested donations) At the door: Adults – $10, Seniors & Students – $5, Children 12 and under – Free. Advance sale tickets Adults only $7. For advance sale tickets go to www.greeningusa.org/chasing-ice/

Free parking in rear of Palace Theatre.

Green and energy related organizations will be staffing display tables in the lobby prior to and after the event.

For information on how to help sponsor this event contact Sam Gordon, 422.8276 ext.204, sgordon@cnyrpdb.org or Peter Wirth, 476-3396, pwirth2@verizon.net