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This explanation of the factors that produce the polar aurora, (northern lights) discusses the role of electrons in the ionosphere, positive ions in the solar wind, and the mixing of the two to create plasma. The work of Kristian Birkeland of Norway in exploring the cause of the aurora is cited and a link leads to in-depth information on auroras, including some dramatic photographs. Full description.
Grade level: High (9-12), College (13-14)
Resource type: Ref. material
Subject: Geophysics, History and philosophy of science, Physics, Space science
 
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National Science Education Standards (NSES): Read
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In this lab activity using M&M candy, students will explore the concepts of radioactive decay and dating. Students generate a radioactive decay table to simplify the math, use their data to plot a decay graph, develop the concept of half-life, and then use the graph to find the age of a mummified seal in Wright Valley, Antarctica. In a follow-up exercise, students will solve a mysterious Arctic ... Full description.
Grade level: Middle (6-8)
Resource type: Lab activity
Subject: Biology, Geologic time
 
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National Science Education Standards (NSES): Read
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Misconceptions: Read (1)
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Are we made of stars? This video segment features scientists studying light emissions from exploding stars called supernovas. It explains the process by which new elements are formed in these explosions and then disseminated to create planets and new stars. The segment is one minute fifty-five seconds in length. A background essay and list of discussion questions are also provided. Full description.
Grade level: Middle (6-8), High (9-12)
Resource type: Video, Ref. material
Subject: Space science
 
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National Science Education Standards (NSES): Read
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Earth provides a comfortable and temperate environment for a wide variety of living organisms. However, in the past few decades, scientists have discovered unusual life forms thriving in areas where the majority of living things on Earth could never survive, such as near deep sea vents, in dry deserts, or on frozen ice sheets. This video segment explores life forms that survive in extreme conditions ... Full description.
Grade level: Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High (9-12)
Resource type: Video, Ref. material
Subject: Biology, Chemistry, Space science
 
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Sun
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This section of the Windows to the Universe web site provides information and images about the Sun including detailed information about stars, the solar interior, sunspots, solar activity, the photosphere, the chromosphere, the corona, eclipses, the solar cycle, coronal mass ejection, and myths about the Sun. Windows to the Universe is a user-friendly learning system pertaining to the Earth and Space ... Full description.
Grade level: Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High (9-12), College (13-14), Informal, General public
Resource type: Computer activity, Illustration - artistic, Illustration - scientific, Imagery - remotely sensed, Photograph, Ref. material
Subject: Chemistry, Physics, Space science
 
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This lesson covers the generation of the Sun's energy through nuclear fusion, as well as some ideas about the evolution of stars like the Sun and their ultimate collapse, leading in some cases to supernova explosions. The section also acquaints the student with some fundamentals of nuclear physics. In addition, the lesson plan contains a supplemental section, which is a historical introduction to ... Full description.
Grade level: High (9-12)
Resource type: Lesson plan
Subject: Physics, Space science
 
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The inner radiation belt, discovered by Van Allen, consists of very energetic protons, a by-product of collisions of cosmic ray ions with atoms in the atmosphere. This site provides information on the behavior and relative energies of the particles in the belts. Historic information about the discoveries made in 1958 by a University of Iowa team, headed by James Van Allen, is cited as well. Full description.
Grade level: High (9-12), College (13-14), College (15-16)
Resource type: Ref. material
Subject: Geophysics, History and philosophy of science, Physics, Space science
 
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This site describes the structure and dynamics of plasma particles in the immediate vicinity of the Earth. The boundary between the Earth's magnetosphere and the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), called the magnetopause, is described. It includes polar cusps, neutral points, and magnetic reconnection as proposed by James Dungey in 1961. Also mentioned is the bow shock due to the high speed of the ... Full description.
Grade level: High (9-12), College (13-14), College (15-16)
Resource type: Ref. material
Subject: Geophysics, Physics, Space science
 
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The information on this site discusses celestial bodies with magnetospheres and also types of high energy particles and radiation found in space. Space probes that have visited the giant planets in our solar system found that all were magnetized, even more intensely than the Earth, and all were surrounded by radiation belts. There is a description of the discovery of cosmic rays in 1912 by Victor ... Full description.
Grade level: High (9-12), College (13-14)
Resource type: Ref. material
Subject: History and philosophy of science, Physics, Space science
 
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For hundreds of thousands of years, lava flows have created intricate patterns on the slopes of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano. Until the mid-1970s, it was impossible to know when each of the flows occurred. However, as this video segment describes, a researcher has discovered a way to date the flows by determining the age of carbonized plant remains that they covered. The segment is four minutes thirty-three ... Full description.
Grade level: Intermediate (3-5), Middle (6-8), High (9-12)
Resource type: Video, Ref. material
Subject: Geologic time, Geology
 
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National Science Education Standards (NSES): Read
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