Thursday, March 14, 2013

What's New at NASA's Space Place Website

Earth Day is coming up April 22. What is the most abundant component of Earth’s surface? Water, of course. Water is such a big part of life on Earth that we may take it for granted. But where did it come from? What makes it liquid, solid or gas? And why should we care? Lots of NASA’s Earth studies are about water in all its forms.

What's New?
Many students are surprised to know that during July, Earth is at its farthest point from the sun, and during January it is at its closest. But that fact has nothing to do with why there are seasons. This new article explains and illustrates the reason for the seasons and why some in the U.S. are putting on swimsuits to play in a recently icy lake, just as some in southern Chile and New Zealand are digging out their skates as their lakes freeze over. Check it out to help you enlighten your class at

La Tierra en EspaƱol
¿Es la Tierra en parte un cometa? Now you can read in Spanish, as well as English, about where our oceans may have originated. With new space telescopes that can analyze the composition of passing comets, we can actually begin to tease apart these 4-billion-plus-year-old mysteries. Learn what they are finding out at

Spotlight on Mission Chronicles
Some NASA missions don't get nearly as far off the ground as you might think. Operation IceBridge is one that uses instruments on an airplane rather than a satellite to study the elevation and thickness of ice at the North and South Poles. So, although it may be a while before any NASA scientists make it to the moon, they can have a pretty alien-world experience right here on Earth. Christy Hansen, manager of the Operation IceBridge Mission, and her team took a trip to the South Pole and lived to tell the tale at

For the Classroom
Clouds, of course, are another form of water. But it's not easy to tell from the ground how much water is actually in the clouds above us. They may look very threatening but produce very little precipitation. In the classroom activity called “Sizing Up the Clouds,” the teacher sets up three simulated clouds representing three different cloud types. Students use different methods to estimate precipitation contents of each cloud type. Each method is roughly analogous to methods actually used in weather forecasting. Finally, the precipitation from each cloud is released, and the students will compare their estimates to what is actually experienced on the ground. “Precipitation” in this activity is represented by colored chocolate candies, which may help to keep the students’ attention! Find the activity in PDF format at

For Out of School Time
The “Go With the Flow” game presents puzzles in which the player must figure out how to place salt (which makes water denser) and heat (which makes water less dense) in an underwater grid scenario in order to create a current that will move a tiny, unpowered submarine to a floating key, which will then open a treasure chest at the bottom of the sea. We have watched kids playing this game, with or without their parents, at our take your child to work days. We can hardly tear them away! Go to

Special Days

March 5, 1979: Voyager 1 flew past Jupiter.
Another spacecraft is on its way to Jupiter and will spend a lot more time there.

March 10, 1876: First telephone call.
Alexander Graham Bell called Thomas Watson. How do spacecraft exploring the solar system call home?

March 14: Pi Day! or
p Day

All circles are 3.14… (ad infinitum, as far as we know) times as big around as across, a value called pi. What would pi be in binary numbers?

April 10: Encourage a Young Writer Day
Invite students to write about our future in space.

April 22: Earth Day
It's important, and fascinating, to study Earth's history. Like where did Earth's water come from?

April 28: Tell a Story Day
Check out some of the stories on The Space Place. They could be called creative nonfiction, always a fun genre!

A Great Earth Resource
Check out other activities and articles under the Earth menu on The Space Place. Remember, NASA has many more missions to planet Earth than to all of the other planets in the solar system combined. Earth is a very interesting planet!

Send Feedback
Please let us know your ideas about ways to use The Space Place in your teaching. Send to

Don't Forget…
You can find dozens of other ideas and rich resources for the classroom and out-of-school time at our Parents & Educators page,