New Horizons Wake-Up Call

The New Horizons spacecraft on it's way to Pluto was scheduled to get a wake-up call on November 9 and then spend 10 days running system tests and diagnostics.  The trip to Pluto is so long (in spite of the craft's record speed of about 23 km/sec) that it spends much of its time in hibernation mode.  It's schedule to arrive at Pluton in 2015.  Today it crosses the 15 AU mark (that's 15 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is).

According to a Twitter post, the craft is now away and operating.  Hopefully, we'll get an update soon on Unfortunately, for all us eager to hear news of Pluto, well, we'll just have to wait.  Space is, alas, mostly space with not much to see.

Saturn's Ring System Just Got Bigger

Okay, the rings themselves haven't changed at all.  But it turns out that there is an outer dust ring that is about 24 million kilometers in diameter composed of dust grains that do not reflect visible light.  Because of that, it hasn't been seen before.  NASA has a short (very short) press release showing an artist's conception o

Galaxy Zoologists Wanted!

Here's a project in need of (part-time) volunteers.  Classifying galaxies.  Yep, you too can become a galactic zoologist!  You can find a short teaser on the Astronomy Picture of the Day web site (APOD Oct 26, 2009) with more details at the official Galaxy Zoo web site.  Makes a good family game with older kids, too.  How would you classify that galaxy?

Inquiry Based Science Lessons

Another generic resource, also from the NSTA elementary mailing list.  The issue of using inquiry in science lessons is a big deal and also came up a recent School Leadership Team meeting.  Inquiry does, of course, get used, but it's always a tough item since it is easy to get "off script" when using a lesson plan that allows student-driven inquiry.  At the same time, it's hard to really teach science without it.  The issue in NYC, and probably many other places, is that since the city has instituted standardized science testing, the test is naturally content based. 

Science Resources for Teachers

Today I am at jury duty here in King's County.  That means, for now anyway, that I'm waiting for my name to be called while the machinations of justice do their thing somewhere else in the building.  But the court system has moved into the modern age, at least in some ways, like providing free wifi here in the jury assembly room.  So I can catch up on a little reading from the National Science Teachers Assocation (NSTA) elementary level mailing list.

Historical Videos of Nuclear Tests

The national Nuclear Security Administration's Nevad Site Office has made available a number of historically important videos for nuclear tests from the 1940s through the 1960s.  Apart from our common morbid fascination with things that go boom, you can always think of splicing these in as special effects for your next July 4th videos....

Videos at

Oobleck - It's not just for Dr. Seuss Anymore

Oobleck is actually more than just a made-up name for the stuff in the Dr. Seuss book, it's the name now applied to a whole class of fluids which display what is called "shear thickening." 

"Recent" Planetary Collision around nearby Star

Recent, is of course, relative to the timescale involved.  In the case of planetary collisions and their aftermath, that can be a very long time, like, tens of millions of years.  So while very interesting, this isn't a train wreck (or planetary wreck) in progress, but the aftermath of one that is still settling.

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