Name a Mascot-Mail a Pringle

   Two contests for students are online and available for participation however both are somewhat restrictive based on geography – one’s location.
   esa mascotThe European Space Agency, ESA, is hosting a Name the Mascot contest to select a name for
their mascot, however the competition is only open for students ages 4-12 years who reside in one of ESA’s 20 Member States or Cooperating States. Note that although the United States (NASA) works cooperatively with the ESA the United States is not part of the ESA so this contest is not available for students in the United States.
   Click here to go to the ESA – Space for Kids web site to learn more about this contest.
   Click here to go to the ESA/Hubble web site for a treasure trove of resources from the Hubble Space Telescope.

A Pringle

A Pringle

   ;A contest available within the United States for students, the Pringles Challenge, is based on designing a small package that will carry a single Pringle potato chip through the U.S. Mail system in such a manner that the Pringle will arrive at its destination intact or undamaged.
   Click here to learn more about the Pringles Challenge contest.

    Please note that posting the above information is not to be taken as a personal endorsement of the Pringle’s Potato Chip.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Como se llama?

Click on this image to see it full size

Click on this image to see it full size

   The dwarf planet Pluto has five small moons of which three have been given names. Following the guidelines for naming planets and their moons the three named moons, Charon, Nix, and Hydra have names that are based on the Greek mythology of Pluto. The name Pluto is not from the Disney cartoon dog but is a reference to the Greek God Hades – ruler of the underworld. With the discovery of two additional moons, P4 and P5, over the past year or so there is now a need to give these two their own names.
   Click here to go to the Pluto Rocks web site to cast your ballot to choose a name for the two unnamed Pluto moons. Voting ends on February 25th.
   ¿dónde está el planeta Plutón. Currently Pluto is located just east of the star-rich Milky Way and the tea-pot shaped asterism of Sagittarius. Pluto rises a few hours before local time for sunrise but given its small size and great distance is not visible without a large telescope. The image above is from the Hubble Space Telescope.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Picture These – Write That

   NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory Astronomers have recently released some stunning images of planetary nebula taken as part of a survey of these types of objects. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory is an orbiting telescope designed to image objects in the x-ray wavelength part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Often images, such as this collection are a combination of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra.
   Planetary Nebula are expanding bubble-like shells of gases, the outer layers of a red giant star shed by a star. They are called ‘planetary’ because when these objects, disk-like in shape, were first viewed with the optical telescopes of the previous centuries they resembled a planets disk shape. However when images taken in visible light are combined with x-ray images then the results are quite stunning, and reveal more than possible with just visible light images.
   At the Chandra web site there are some really neat resources for educators and learners of all ages. One of the resources I use in my Astronomy classes is the page that is sorted by constellation. Each constellation is described as are the Chandra imaged objects within that constellation. Each constellation has a picture showing its classical dot-to-dot shape and artwork of the figure.


   The deadline for the 2012 Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest is now two weeks away. There’s still time for your students to write essays for the contest.
   The contest is open to students in grades 5-12. All students who enter will receive a certificate of participation. Winning entries will be posted on NASA’s Cassini website. Winners and their classes will be invited to participate in a teleconference, videoconference, or online discussion with Cassini scientists so the students can ask their space questions to the experts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
   Complete contest rules and videos about each of the three possible essay topics can be found on the contest website.
   The contest deadline this year is Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at noon (Pacific time). If you use the essay contest as an in-class assignment, please submit the best three essays from each of your classes, then e-mail with a list of the names of the other students who wrote essays but weren’t in the top three, so we can send them certificates of participation as well. Essays can be up to (but not longer than) 500 words.
   Some teachers choose to use the contest as an in-class writing assignment, since it meets both science and language arts national education standards. Others make it optional for extra credit, or let their students know about the contest whether or not credit is provided. (We ask that teachers submit their students’ essays because we can’t collect contact information of minors, so we communicate with the students’ teachers instead.)
   Here is the website for submitting your students’ essays:

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

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

   With a combination of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and a technique called gravitational lensing, NASA astronomers have been able to image what is so far the most distant galaxy. This galaxy is estimated to be somewhere around 13.2 billion light years distant, and at that distance the age of the galaxy would be about 200 million years old.
   Gravitational lensing is the term used to describe what happens when light from distant objects passes another celestial object like a galaxy or a cluster of galaxies lying in our line of sight direction – between us and the more distant object. That light is magnified and refracted by the gravitational field of the ‘between’ object. Think of this as being able to use a magnifying lens to enlarge the object being viewed.
   In a related topic the galaxy may actually be about 30 feet closer. Huh?!
   At the recently ended International Astronomical Union (IAU) meeting in China members adopted a resolution that agrees with Resolution B2 approved in 2009 which established the Astronomical Unit (au) as a distance of 149,597,870,700 meters, ± 3m (92,955,807.273 miles). This is the mean, or average Earth to Sun distance, or as my students should know, is the semi-major axis of Earth’s slightly elliptically shaped orbit. However they have learned that the value for 1 au is 149,597,870,691 meters. That is a whopping 9 meter (29.5 feet) difference from the IAU’s newly adopted value.