January 31, 2011

The Sun from a Different Point of View

Sun Glare, Photo Credit: NASA

This view of Antares, the Apollo 14 Lunar Module as it sat on the moon's Frau Mauro Highlands, reflects a circular flare caused by the brilliant sun. The unusual ball of light was said by the astronauts to have a jewel-like appearance. At the far left, the lower slope of Cone Crater can be seen.

Our sun, the star at the center of the Solar System that humanity calls home, and has a diameter of about 1,392,000 km, about 109 times that of Earth. Its mass (about 2×1030 kilograms, 330,000 times that of Earth). The sun accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. The light from the sun appears yellow when viewed through earth's atmosphere. However, when viewed from off-world, the sun's light is white, as seen in the photo.

January 6, 2011

NASA Honors Tech-Savvy Teachers

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services

Without question, technology and education are both vital to the future of NASA. New technology will open new doors for NASA missions of the future, and education will develop the workforce to carry out those missions.

So it only makes sense that NASA would award recognition for excellence in the overlap of those two areas -- technology use in education. NASA's Office of the Chief Information Officer recently honored recipients of its Excellence in Teaching Award, Faculty Research Award and Student Innovator Award.

The Excellence in Teaching Award went to a pair of teachers who created a partnership that spanned the country. Neme Alperstein teaches at Public School 56, The Harry Eichler School in Queens, N.Y., and Pam Leestma teaches at Valley Christian Elementary School in Bellflower, Calif.

The pair have implemented a variety of projects that use technology to allow Leestma's second-graders and their sixth-grade "buddies" from her school to collaborate "coast to coast" with Alperstein's fifth-graders. The teachers organized a coast-to-coast downlink with the International Space Station, where students at both schools were able to ask questions of astronauts aboard the orbiting lab. The downlink was held at the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center in New York, which afforded participation to a number of schools in the area as part of their after-school program. In other activities, students in Alperstein's and Leestma's classes videoconference with scientists around the world and then compare notes. Their students have collaborated on websites, including one showcasing their visions of the future. Alperstein and Leestma both use NASA resources and opportunities to make the most of classroom technologies.