Way Back!

Mr. Peabody, His 'Boy', and the Original Wayback Machine

Mr. Peabody, His ‘Boy’, and the Wayback Machine

   Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary, 1993-2013, of the first web site. This was a web site created by CERN, (European Organization for Nuclear Research). In those days before browsers like Netscape appeared web pages were all text and consisted of links to other web pages or web sites – but again all in text, no graphics. The URL to connect with their original web site,telnet info.cern.ch, required that you had access to the Telnet. Commands, e-mail, everything, was all text.
Click here to go to the recreated first web site by CERN.

   I have grown up with the Internet, literally. In the mid 1980s I got my first computer, an Apple ][ with a whopping 48K of RAM. This was before the disk drive came out so loading a program meant re-typing the code every time or saving it on a cassette tape. The Modem I had was an acoustical modem at 300 baud. That modem changed as time went by and I am pretty sure I bought every speed that came out up to the 56K modem. It was around then that I finally went broadband!
   There was nothing called the Internet back then, but there was dial-up using a modem to connect to a local BBS. Where I lived in Peoria Illinois Bradley University operated one of the few Telnet systems called the Heartland Freenet. When you dialed in you could then connect via the Telnet (and at broadband type speeds) to other sites on the Freenet. This allowed me, for example, to connect with the Big Sky BBS in Montana where I would work on a Distance Education project with teachers from some Pacific Northwestern states, and Alaska.

Click on this image to go to January 2000

Click on this image to go to January 2000

   In those days, as a newsletter editor/publisher, I saw some serious value in learning how to write HTML and moved from posting on discussion boards to having my own web site. What I saw was the ability to connect, link, to other web pages. This was important in my thinking because I could more easily reference something, or connect with a similar web page. However the really big change came when the TABLE command was added. Suddenly page formatting became more like desktop publishing in the sense that columns could be created for a more ‘newspaper look’.
   Back then personal web sites were actually a web page or pages and were typically a sub-domain under the ISP’s web name. Many web pages had a URL that included the ISP name followed by /~ (slash tilde) then followed by the person’s name or name for the page. For example on every ISP I used I was /~starwalk, for example, http://www.pei.net/~starwalk (web site no longer at the address). These were not truly websites as we know them today but were very common. In the spring of 1997 I bought a domain name, currentsky.com, and for a couple of years out of a concern for being mistaken for a commercial site I would always follow a post by adding that ‘despite the .com’ this is not a commercial web site – nothing for sale.

   My oldest set of web pages is from January 2000. I had a monster of a disk drive crash sometime the year before and lost all files on even a backup drive. However on the Internet Wayback Machine there are copies that go back to april 1997. Click here to go way back to Qué tal in the Current Skies web site April 12th 1997!

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Student Science Opportunities

Iris logo    “Join the Tracking a Solar Storm challenge and guide students as they learn about the Sun’s anatomy, the space weather it generates, and why studying our star is important.
   This challenge is designed around NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission. Scheduled to launch in April 2013, the IRIS spacecraft will study the dynamics of the interface region of our Sun’s atmosphere using an ultraviolet telescope and imaging spectrograph. As students participate in the challenge, they will learn about the IRIS mission and the instruments scientists use to gather solar data.
   An educators’ guide to the IRIS challenge is available on the Tracking a Solar Storm website and includes key information for helping students study the sun’s weather, track a solar storm, and predict its effect on Earth. Students will demonstrate what they have learned by collecting data and producing a space weather report.”

Click here to go to the IRIS Challenge web site.

whatif   “Candy, soda and other everyday items will be the tools of the trade for teenage rocket makers competing in the What If? Live Student Design Challenge, which was kicked off Tuesday by NASA and the Ahoora Foundation of Plano, Texas. Registration is open through Feb. 28 for the worldwide contest, in which 14- to 18-year-old students will design experimental propulsion systems using materials that are cheap and easy to get.”

Click here to read the NASA press release.
Click here to go to the What If web site.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Next Generation Science Standards

ngss-2   The most recent and revised set of the Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS, have been released today. The links below will take you to the main page on the web site and the others take you to the specific grade levels for the standards under review for Earth and Space Sciences.

  •    Clck here to read more about the Next Generation Science Standards.
  •    Click here to read the Grade 1 ‘NGSS’ for Earth and Space Sciences (Space Systems: Patterns and Cycles).
  •    Click here to read the Grades 3-5 ‘NGSS’ for Earth and Space Sciences (Space Systems: Stars and the Solar System).
  •    Click here to read the Middle School ‘NGSS’ for Earth and Space Sciences (Space Systems).
  •    Click here to read the High School ‘NGSS’ for Earth and Space Sciences (Space Systems).

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Hanging from the Tropic of Capricorn

Hanging from the Tropic of Capricorn!

Hanging from the Tropic of Capricorn!

   With the recent change of seasons on the December Solstice I was reminded of a favorite teaching tool of mine. Developed in New Zealand, what may appear to be a unique design for a climbing frame is in reality a ‘unique design for a climbing frame’. However it is not just the design as this climbing frame is also an outdoor Planetarium of sorts. This is Pipehenge, and it is a climbing frame that is made specifically for the latitude where it will be installed. And when set up the Pipehenge is positioned to be aligned with local compass directions. PipehengeThere is a circumpolar ring centered on the North Pole star, or the South Celestial Point, a horizon bar, and bars representing the celestial equator, both ‘Tropic’ parallels, and several bars for Hour Circles. The structure of the Pipehenge is such that when seated on a stool in the center you could imagine sitting inside a Celestial Sphere.
   Update: Pipehenge and the desktop Earth-Space Simulator may no longer be available. An Internet search shows that the two web sites for Pipehenge and the ‘ESS’ are no longer available, aka no longer in use. The best references for the Pipehenge are on a web page written by one of the developers, John Dunlop of New Zealand. Also, click here to go to the Pipehenge YouTube web page to see a collection of short video clips featuring Eric Jackson explaining and demonstrating the Pipehenge model.solar_noon1
   Watch a short demonstration of the Portable Pipehenge by Steve Bevan.

ess   Bring the Pipehenge indoors with a desktop model called the Earth Space Simulator. This arrives in kit form and takes a short while to assemble into a hands-on model that simulates the apparent motions of the sky for any time of the year and for any latitude. It is an ideal teaching tool, for example, the effect latitude has on the Sun’s daily and seasonal apparent motion from sunrise to sunset.


Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

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Read A Book!

reasons to read   As a Science Teacher I would always confuse parents and others whenever I would describe myself a Reading Teacher. In reality I think that all educators are reading teachers, and like me, with an emphasis in a particular content area or areas. Critical reading is an essential component of any subject taught or learned about and reading is probably the most obvious link between all content areas. So with the semester coming to an end for many of us and the start of the winter break between semesters there may be more time for catching up on reading. So with this in mind here are some ideas for you or students, or younger family members to read. These two are books from a 3-part series written for the Elementary School Teacher by the folks from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory, or SDO as part of the Think Scientifically Elementary School Science Literacy Program.
joshua jumped too much   Book 1: The Day Joshua Jumped Too Much
“Joshua discovers that the Sun is Earth’s primary source of energy and learns what the world would be like without it!”
adventures in the attic   Book 2: Adventures in the Attic – “Matt and Matilda investigate the movement of Earth in the solar system, and how the tilt of Earth’s axis causes the seasons.”

Click here to go to the SDO web site to download these books.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

100 K Worth of Stars

100,000 Stars

   Folks at Google have just released an interesting display for the Chrome web browser that shows 100,000 stars in the area around our part of the Milky Way Galaxy. The display includes background music and is capable of allowing one to zoom in and out, roll the display in different directions, and select the display to show the spectral index and star colors. Clicking on individually labeled stars zooms into a closer view of the star (artwork), and some text describing some of the features/properties of that star. There is also a tour option that starts close to the Sun and then slowly zooms out with pauses at selected distances to briefly explain that particular point in space.
   Coming across this web site is rather timely as my classes are just now starting their unit on stars, with this week about spectra. Two other similar web sites they will be examining are NASA’s Mission Science web site, and the Chromoscope web site.
   While the 100,000 Stars display is interesting and fun to play around with there are other web-based tools for visualizing our space. There is the World Wide Telescope that does similar things as well as much much more. On a more local perspective there is the Solar System Scope web site, and NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Citizen Scientists

   Yesterday morning I once again took part in the annual Meet the Science Mentor event hosted by Science Pioneers on the UMKC campus. This is a gathering of scientists from many areas of expertise meeting and talking with students in grades 4 to 12 who are working on or planning a Science Fair project. Usually I ‘work’ alone but yesterday I had a partner, an Aerospace Engineering major from the University of Kansas in Lawrence KS.
   Among the discussions we had, especially for the youngest students doing Science Fair for the first time, were to suggest that they look into doing a Citizen Science project as their introduction to doing a Science Fair project. Basically a Citizen Science project is one in which the participants do something with the data from the project they are helping. For example there are projects where the participants catalog lunar craters by shape, or one in which the spectra of stars are studied. Some projects, like the SETI@Home project, install a small program on a home computer. The program works in the background as it downloads packets of data, analyzes the data, and returns its analysis all while your computer is on.

   To get involved with Citizen Projects go to the SciStarter web site. This is probably the best web site collection of the many types of Citizen Science projects out there. So get involved!

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.