Friday, September 23, 2005

Earth Science Week 10/9-10/15

Lucky for me astronomy is considered part of Earth Science or I would have to say I know nothing and have no interest in Earth Science. Well, that would have been true, until the last couple months. For no apparent reason, geology and weather (okay, there is a reason for that one) are becoming topics of discussion and investigation in our house. (See my fossil hunting post for more on that.) I still know very little but, here are some tidbits that are feeding my interest.

Blame it on the PA State Parks. They produce these short brochures about the geology about many of their parks. Ask when you get there, or download them before you go. For a more general overview of rocks, minerals and fossils, download educational guides on these topics specific to PA, here.

Wherever you live, you can celebrate Earth Science Week by doing the activities at this site. They've got a kit you may order as well with posters and informative brochures. There are a few contests and even some real live science to participate in (you have to jump through some hoops before you can submit your data though). Groups can order patches (like a scout patch) to commemorate their participation in ESW.

If you need resources to learn about hurricanes, I think the National Science Teacher's Association has found some great ones. Try the free Sci Guides about severe weather for high school age (or to brush up yourself!). Sci Links is another service they provide with information about storms for younger children, hurricanes for grades 5-8 and hurricane fundamentals and preparation for high school age kids.

One final note, don't forget to make cross-curricular connections by reading a bit about the people for whom the state parks are named. Gifford Pinchot and Samuel Lewis weren't Pennsylvanians I knew of before last month and it turns out they were pretty important people in regard to PA and US Forestry and Conservation.

Any interesting rocks near you?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mars Spectaucular?? NOT

Have you received an email recently with the subject line "Mars Spectacular"? Besides the fact that it falsely tells you that it is making it's closest approach in recorded history, it also makes this claim:
“Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot.”
If Mars ever looks as large as the full moon, pray for your soul, kiss your kids, and hubbie because the forces that hold the universe together are not working correctly.

Mars closest approach was August 2 years ago. Mars and Earth have a cycle where they are closest together on a two year and 2 month cycle.  This will happen this Oct/November and Mars will be the third brightest object in the sky. (Venus and the Moon will be brighter.)  It has a special name which I can’t remember at this moment and has to do with the different speeds at which the two planets go around the sun and their orbital paths. Read about it here and at the bad astronomy blog. Check for reliable astronomy information at,, Sky and Telescope and

Sky Show

Two astronomical events I hit upon in the last two days. Both should only involve walking outside. For the second one you'll need a a pencil, paper and a protractor to participate. The first is from Spaceweather:
Space Weather News for Sept. 6, 2005

SUNSET PLANETS: On Tuesday, Sept. 6th--that's today--the crescent moon will leap up from the glare of the Sun to join Venus and Jupiter in the western sky at sunset. It's going to be a beautiful sight; don't miss it! Bonus: Can you see a ghostly glow across the dark part of the moon? That's Earthshine.

The clear sky clock says the weather will be great for viewing tonight in the Philly area.

The other was from a science teachers' list I am subscribed to:
Take part in a global project during the September Equinox by joining
with students at Colegio Menor San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador) and
students and educators from around the globe in SunShIP, the Sun Shadow
Investigation Project. Participants will measure the altitude of the
mid-day Sun and use this information to calculate the polar
circumference of the Earth. Additionally participants are encouraged to
take pictures of student involvement or of mid-day shadows from various
latitudes for comparison.

Participating individuals or classrooms that send in data will receive
an official certificate from the Eratosthenes Society.

Visit the project web site at for more information, activities for all grade levels, and to add your name or
classroom to the participant guest map.

If you are studying Earth Science this year (or even if you aren't) participating in special events like these bring some purpose and excitement to the subject.