NCNAAPT Morning Talks on Kepler

Edna DeVore, SETI Institute, edevore@seti.org

“Transit Tracks: NASA’s Kepler Mission”

DeVore outline the educational activities available with the Kepler Mission. There are several Kepler Mission Activities, including building an LEGO Orrery, instructions available on website.

There are 374 known planets around other stars. At the Kepler Mission Workshop (details coming soon) all participants get to take home an Orrery kit that can work with a Vernier Optical Sensor to model the Kepler Mission.

A transit is when a planet is observed in front of a star. Teaching transits can reinforce graphing skills and the graphs that students produced will match the published Kepler’s graphs. All graphs, simulations and materials available at Kepler website has all instructional materials

Natalie Batalha, NASA Ames and San Jose State University, nbatalha@science.sjsu.edu

“The Search for Habitable Worlds”

Kepler’s objective is to find habitable Earth size planets orbiting other stars. There are several things that are necessary for life and others that would be helpful. Life on Earth is incredibly diverse and some life exists in conditions that would kill other forms of life, but all forms of life are carbon based and require water. This restricts potential habitable planets to just the right distance from a star, called the “Habitable Zone,” which depends on the temperature of the star. The Transit method of detection is used to find smaller planets. The process for approval and building of Kepler was shared as well as the first images taken by Kepler. Kepler is aimed at the Summer Triangle which is a larger field of view than Hubble. Kepler is an Earth-trailing satellite. The data produced thus far shows a much clearer and refined picture than previously available. The objective of the Kepler Mission is to find out if Earth-sized planets within a habitable zone are common or rare. William Borucki is the scientist behind the Kepler Mission.

NCNAAPT Keynote Speaker

Keynote Speaker: Sy Liebergot; EECOM Mission Flight Controller for Apollo   www.apolloeecom.com

This year is the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo program that culminated with landing on the moon. N Cal/Nev AAPT is pleased to commemorate mankind’s greatest adventures with a special appearance of Sy Liebergot.

Sy spoke about what it was like to be a Mission Flight Controller when a monster failure occurred during the Apollo 13 mission and landed squarely in his lap. He related the general details of the explosion as they really happened.

Paul Robinson, Program Chair and Sy Liebergot, EECOM of the Apollo Missions
Paul Robinson, Program Chair and Sy Liebergot, EECOM of the Apollo Missions

NCNAAPT Business Meeting

Run by Claudia Winkler, NCNAAPT President

Next meeting will be at American River College in the Spring:

Would like to make afternoon session to be more Show & Tell with a longer length (10 min). Include not only new ideas but also “oldies but goodies” that new teachers may not know.

Potentially have a world-class astrophotographer for the Friday night reception

Potential Topics:

–  learn how to be better physics educators

– learn how to increase people entering Physics and bring in current topics

– potentially have speakers involved in green energy & environmentally topics

– Dual topics for high school & college

– potential speaker in physics education research

– current research topics (problems) facing Physics

– No Child Left Behind issues

Potential Locations:

– CSU Chico

– Lawrence Livermore National Lab

– Exploratorium

– Academy of Science (SF)

Email ideas to: conferences@ncnaapt.org

NCNAAPT Afternoon Session

Scott Sandford, NASA Ames, ssandford@mail.arc.nasa.gov

“Taking a Ride on the Wild Side: The Successful Stardust Sample Return Mission to Comet 81P/Wild 2”

One of the rare sample return mission meant to analyze the composition of a comet. There are long term benefits to sample return missions including future study and analyses that were not developed or wanted at the time of the original mission. Stardust had to make three elliptical orbits of different sizes in order to get the right timing to collect from the comet. Sandford discusses the design of Stardust including specific design challenges such as the 6km/s average speed of particles within the coma of the comet. The Wild 2 comet uses areogel to collect material from the coma. After collection, the spacecraft returned to Earth’s orbit and only the collection capsule returned to earth. The spacecraft used a heat shield similar to the Apollo missions to return to Earth in Utah Test and Training Range. Sandford helped to collect the capsule in Utah which included several practice ones involving dropping mock capsules at the range. The December 15, 2006 issue of “Science” has a detailed article about the results. The results were surprising, samples were found of more complex materials than expected and some minerals that were usually found only in hotter conditions. Several samples were also a lot larger than expected and disagrees with the traditional theory that comets are made of miscellaneous interstellar material.

Additional information available on the Stardust Mission website.