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Day 135: Geologic History; Solomon Tsunami April 2, 2007

Posted by Admin in Geology, Science in the News.
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What do the terms Eon, Era, and Period have in common?  They are all terms that describe varying lengths of time in the geologic history of the Earth.  We examined these in great detail today after defining “Geologic Timeline” as the quantification of the history of the Earth into discreet intervals of time.

Following the Geologic Timeframe terminology notes, we took a look at Google Maps and examined the area of the latest Tsunami that occured over the weekend, killing more than a dozen people on the Solomon Islands.


Day 122: Lunar Eclipse Photos; Review March 5, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Geology, Homework, Science in the News, Test.
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Saturday’s lunar eclipse was clearly visible from here in Kansas, although we only saw the second half of the event. But that was enough to be clear evidence of the event. On what should have been a full moon, half of it was shrouded by the shadow of the Earth. My photos taken from here in town are below – the same view many in Tonganoxie observed:


Click on the images above to visit my personal website (http://www.notesinthemargin.com) with more photos and larger images. Notice that that the portion of the moon that is shaded is still somewhat visible, only much dimmer and slightly orange/red in color.

Approximately an hour after the image above was taken, the moon had returned to it’s full glory:


Following the discussion of the eclipse, students worked in pairs to complete the Geology Test Study Guide. It can be downloaded and printed from home. After school, all 15 short answer questions on the back of the study guide were answered in the test study session. The test tomorrow is worth 50 points and is the last major assignment of the quarter – the last chance to boost your grade for 3rd quarter.

Day 121: Quiz and Lunar Eclipse March 2, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Homework, Science in the News.
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lunareclipse.jpgBefore completing an electronic vote quiz on Rock Types today (grades will be entered over the weekend), we discussed the upcoming lunar eclipse that is slated for tomorrow (Saturday) evening. While the morning will likely be cloudy, if we are lucky, the clouds will clear by the late afternoon or early evening and afford us a great view of this rare event. The last lunar eclipse in this area was November of 2004. While we will not be able to observe “totality” from our area, we will still very clearly be within the region capable of viewing this great event. As the moon passes through the shadow cast by the Earth, the moon will slowly shift from its normal bright white glow to a light orange and finally to a crimson red shade (as shown in the photo from 2004 above). As the moon slips back out from beneath the Earth’s shadow, it will return to white.

Read much more on this upcoming eclipse via Nasa:

In the USA, the eclipse will already be underway when the moon rises on Saturday evening. Observing tip: Find a place with a clear view of the eastern horizon and station yourself there at sunset. As the sun goes down behind you, a red moon will rise before your eyes.

Rising moons are often reddened by clouds or pollution, but this moon will be the deep, extraordinary red only seen during a lunar eclipse. As you watch it ascend into the night, imagine what it would be like to stand by Shackleton Crater watching from the opposite direction.

If we are fortunate enough to experience clear skies, I will post some photographs of tomorrow’s eclipse on this page.  Email me your photos and I’d love to post them to the page and show them in class as well!  Read more on lunar eclipses via these links:

Day 115: Geology in the News February 22, 2007

Posted by Admin in Geology, Links, Science in the News.
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1. Will dropping clumps of cement into an Indonesian volcano make it stop oozing mud which is inundating entire villages below? This attempt at correcting a man-made problem seems fairly weak. The effort will probably not work, in the expert view of scientists:

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian plans to plug a mud volcano that has displaced more than 10,000 people by dropping clusters of concrete balls into it is unlikely to stop the flow, a Japanese scientist said on Tuesday.

The mud eruption that has inundated entire villages since May followed an oil drilling accident in Sidoarjo, an industrial suburb on the eastern part of Java island.

Numerous efforts to cap the flow have failed and it has become a political and environmental issue, with the government and the drilling company under fire from critics for what they say were lax safety standards behind the accident.

In the latest effort to brake the flow of hot liquid mud, the government has announced plans to drop 1,500 concrete balls in clusters linked by metal chains and weighing around 400-500 kilograms (800-1,000 lbs) each into the mouth of the volcano.

… Two towers are being built to launch the 375 chains of balls into a 50-meter hole from where the mud has been gushing, with each chained cluster consisting of four balls, he said.

2. A great analysis of fulgurites – natural glass made from lightning strikes in sand – is available from Science News Online:

Stroke of Good Fortune: A wealth of data from petrified lightning
Sid PerkinsThe lumps of glass created when lightning strikes sandy ground can preserve information about ancient climate, new research indicates.

Worldwide, lightning flashes occur about 65 times per second. Each bolt releases as much energy as is stored in a quarter-ton of TNT. The flash heats the air to about 30,000°C, about five times the temperature of the surface of the sun. If that electrical discharge strikes sandy ground, it can melt and then fuse sand and other materials into masses of glass called fulgurites, says Rafael Navarro-González, a geochemist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. Those masses take their name from fulgur, the Latin word for lightning.

A current event write-up (Write a total of 5 paragraphs, one each for the who, what, when, where, and why of the article) for one of the articles above (your choice) is due tomorrow (Friday, 02/23) in class. Be sure to click the link for the story of your choice so you can read the entire article before completing your write-up.

Day 91: Stellar Life Cycle, Day 2 January 18, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Links, Science in the News.
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How do stars die?  That was the big question today as we completed the notes and discussion on the Stellar Life Cycle – Part II. Included in this second half of the stellar life cycle are the phases of the White Dwarf, Supernova, Neutron Star, and Black Hole.  Keep your notes – we’ll be using these in a project that we’ll begin on Monday.  First though, we must more thoroughly explain/discuss the implications of Black Holes.  To accomplish this, we’ll view a portion of a video (NOVA:  The Monster of the Milky Way) tomorrow.

Have you seen the photographs of Comet McNaught snapped from the Southern Hemisphere?  As promised, McNaught is much brighter as seen from the Southern Hemisphere than it was when it was located in our viewing range.  The photographs will likely get even more spectacular in coming days.  Check out Page 11 in particular of the SpaceWeather.com Comet McNaught Gallery for some incredible snapshots!  If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, check out the write-up that our very own Tonganoxie Mirror has done regarding our studying of Comet McNaught.

Day 90: Stellar Life Cycle – Day 1 January 17, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Science in the News.
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The big questions of today:  How are stars born?  How do they evolve over time?  We focused on the first half of the stellar life cycle today by taking some PowerPoint notes over the topic.  These slides included information on the star nursery (nebula), the middle life of the star (main sequence), and the older years of the star (the Red Giant phase).  Tomorrow we will focus on the second half of the life cycle:  How stars die.

Although Comet McNaught is gone from the nighttime sky here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is still getting lots of attention.  Check out the article in the Tonganoxie Mirror all about how we’ve discussed Comet McNaught in our own class.  As comet McNaught brightens for Southern Hemisphere viewers, we are certain to get even more brilliant images over the coming weeks.  It is now reportedly even brighter than Venus!  Be sure to check out SpaceWeather for daily updates and new photographs.

Day 88: Goodbye, McNaught! January 12, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Links, Quiz, Science in the News.
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Comet McNaught is on its way to a close encounter with the sun. Currently, McNaught is visible even during the daylight hours, but unfortunately, we will be shrouded in clouds (a significant winter storm?) throughout the weekend.


Click map for a larger view of skymap from spaceweather.com

How to find McNaught in the daytime sky: If you’re going to be someplace where the sky is clear over the weekend or early this coming week, be sure to look for McNaught around noon – local time. McNaught will be found approximately 5 degrees to the left of the sun. Check out the sky map. The best way to measure 5 degrees in the sky? Your closed fist, stretched at arm’s length, is approximately equal to 5 degrees. Be careful though – the sun is a formidable foe when it comes to trying to view objects in the daytime sky! Also, do not ever aim binoculars, telescopes, or cameras at or even near the sun – the risk of eye damage is too great! Be sure to look around online to get daily updates on the location, intensity, and projected path of the comet. Below I’ve included some links to help you out.

Friday’s class included a brief discussion of Comet McNaught, as well as a quiz over the green “Scale of the Universe” activity that we completed this week. I will have the quiz graded and online grades updated by Tuesday. Next week we will continue our exploration of the Big Bang, including a lab on the expansion of the universe. Following the lab, the rest of the week will see us exploring the life cycle of stars. Enjoy the long weekend and the wintery weather!

Day 87: Scale & Comet McNaught January 11, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Science in the News.
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Another day spent working on the Scale of the Universe along with discussion and photograph viewing of Comet McNaught. Several dozen students have been able to view the comet over the last few nights which is wonderful, considering this may end up being the brightest comet in our lifetimes!

Although I thought it would be cloudy this evening, it appears now that we may have a fifth night in a row of good comet viewing! Look back to Days 84 and 85 to see more information on how to track/find/photograph Comet McNaught! Also, view this page for more photographs and discussion.

Tomorrow (Friday) we will be wrapping up our work with the Scale of the Universe by taking a quiz. Be sure to bring your scale to class with you as the quiz will be virtually impossible without it!

In the longer term: Next week we’ll be discussing the current scientific theories on the origins of the universe; namely, the big bang. We will complete a lab and then we will start working on gaining a better understanding of the life cycle of stars, detailing their stages of life from birth to death. We will then discuss our sun and planets for a couple of weeks before moving into Geology next month. It is looking as though we’ll likely have a test in about two weeks (around January 25th or so).

Day 86: Scale Day 4 & McNaught January 10, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Homework, Science in the News.
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Yes – more McNaught!  It is clear again this afternoon, so you’ve got another great shot at viewing the comet.  I’ll be heading out around 5:45pm or so to see if I can’t spot it for the third evening in a row.  See if you can’t do the same!  If I get any good photographs, I’ll update this post later this evening with links.

Homework tonight:  Complete the “Scale of the Universe” activity by attaching all of the tabs to the green handout.  The white worksheet does not need to be done by tomorrow.  We’ll have more in-class work time for that worksheet tomorrow and it will be due Friday.  Also – quiz on Friday covering the Scale of the Universe.

See the last couple of posts (Day 84, Day 85) for more info on tracking and photographing Comet McNaught!

ALERT: Geminid Meteor Shower Tonight! December 13, 2006

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, General Announcements, Science in the News.
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You all have a copy of the current sky map and tonight it will come in very handy. The Geminid Meteor Shower, an annual event, is set to peak overnight tonight and tomorrow morning.  From the SpaceWeather.com page:

The Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight. Start watching around 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday, Dec. 13th. The display will start small but grow in intensity as the night wears on. By Thursday morning, Dec. 14th, people in dark, rural areas could see one or two Geminids every minute.

Remember it is named the Geminid shower because all of the meteors (shooting stars) that are part of this shower will appear to emanate from the constellation Gemini. This constellation is visible in the Eastern sky in the evening, overhead in the middle of the night, and in the western sky in the morning.

View a sky map for tomorrow morning here.

Read even more from the Nasa page here.