Keeping Current With Science Research

Keeping up with the latest research in science is getting easier – wonderful science blogs and news services can inform and engage both you and your students. Depending on the blog or service, you can have the content delivered to your inbox or show up on your browser homepage. Look for the RSS symbol on the page for directions on how to add the content to your web site or favorite RSS Reader. You can follow many of these on Twitter. Here are some of our favorites – please use the comment box and let us know where you go on the web to stay current with what is happening in science.

Science 360 News Service
Science 360 gathers news from scientists, college and university press offices, popular and peer-reviewed journals, dozens of National Science Foundation science and engineering centers, and funding sources that include government agencies, not-for-profit organizations and private industry. This portal provides links to audio, video, picture of the day, and selected blog posts (What the blogs are saying today). So if you only have time to look at one resource, this is probably the one you want to look at. One news blast each day.

Wired Science
This blog follows in the footsteps of the parent magazine – an eclectic mix of really interesting stories that cover all science disciplines. Lots of cool images and embedded videos. Not a lot of opinion – mostly summaries of the science that is happening now. Usually one post a day – sometimes two. Also covers some mathematics topics – here is a good one: Mathematical Modeling for Surviving a Zombie Attack!

DotEarth: Nine Billion People, One Planet
In this New York Times blog, Andy Revkin explores the climate, sustainability, and other environmental issues facing us as the global population continues to grow. Frequent thoughtful, well-researched posts, interviews, and interactives will keep you up-to-date with the issues facing our planet.

Bad Astronomy
The guy that writes this blog, Phil Plait, the webmaster of Bad Astronomy, worked on Hubble Space Telescope. He is famous for debunking quite a few science myths (he doesn’t believe in alien encounters). This is a personal blog – he fights the misuses of science and praises the wonder of real science. Usually one post a day.

Science Buzz
Science Buzz, a blog from the Science Museum of Minnesota, is a way to dig deeper into science headlines and share questions and concerns with scientists, museum staff, and other visitors. Bloggers focus on science in the news, emerging research, and seasonal science. They encourage readers to be part of the buzzzzz. Two or more posts most days.

Science News – The New York Times
The science page of the NYT brings together all of the science content from the media outlet – articles, video, science blog posts (including DotEarth), letters to the editor and much more. The page is updated each day.

NPR Health Blog
This blog covers news about health and medicine. It is written and reported by NPR’s Science Desk. Two or more posts each day.

Tween Tribune
Many middle school science teachers expect their students to keep up with science news and trends. If you’re looking for a news source aimed at early adolescents, check out TweenTribune, which uses a blog tool to share fresh science news each week. TweenTribune also provides national and world news, entertainment, and a growing list of book reviews written for tweens.

ScienceDaily
ScienceDaily summarizes the top science news stories from the world’s leading universities and research organizations. These stories are selected from among dozens of press releases and other materials submitted to ScienceDaily every day, and then edited to ensure high quality and relevance. Updated several times a day with breaking news and feature articles, seven days a week, the site covers discoveries in all fields of science. A good search tool and readable content make this site very user-friendly.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 10/14/2011.

What’s Happening With Hubble?

The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized the study of astronomy since its launch in 1990 and has sent a steady stream of striking images of space back to Earth from its orbit. It has:

Precisely measured the age of the universe
Found evidence of dark energy
Took images of distant galaxies in the young universe
Captured the “best ever” image of Mars
Provided proof of black holes
Gave first views of star birth
Showed how stars die
Caught spectacular views of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s collision with Jupiter
Confirmed that quasars are galactic nuclei powered by black holes
Gathered evidence that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating

In January 2004, NASA decided to let nature take its course and not send any more servicing missions to Hubble. The outcry from astronomers and the public was amazing. In November 2006, the space telescope escaped its death sentence when NASA approved a shuttle mission to service and upgrade the instrument. And with the state-of-the-art instruments delivered by Servicing Mission 4 (SM4), the Hubble Space Telescope will be able to look onto the universe with new eyes, surpassing even its previous vision. The mission is scheduled for October 8, 2008. Veteran astronaut Scott D. Altman will command the final space shuttle mission to Hubble.

The first objective is to extend Hubble’s operational life by at least five years. Over a series of five spacewalks, astronauts will replace all six gyroscopes, install new batteries, and exchange a degraded Fine Guidance Sensor with a new one. They will also install replacement thermal insulation on critical component bays of the telescope, and attach a mechanism that will aid in Hubble’s final de-orbiting.

The second objective is to enhance Hubble’s scientific power. Astronauts will install two new instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). WFC3, which sees in visible, infrared and ultraviolet light, will improve Hubble’s sensitivity 10-30 times because of improvements in technology and design that have occurred since the last instruments were installed. COS, Hubble’s new spectrograph, will improve Hubble’s sensitivity at least 10 times. Spectrographs are instruments that break light into its component colors, revealing information about the object emitting the light. COS sees ultraviolet light, which is particularly important because most of the ultraviolet light from space is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, making ground-based telescope observations impossible.

The third objective is to repair Hubble’s out-of-commission instruments, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). STIS stopped working in 2004 and ACS failed in 2007. ACS is Hubble’s most prominent camera. Its wide field of view and ability to see in wavelengths from ultraviolet to visible light allows it to conduct broad surveys of the universe, study the nature and distribution of galaxies, and examine some of the universe’s earliest activity. ACS was responsible for the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image, NASA’s deepest view of the cosmos.

STIS is a spectrograph. It separates light into its component colors, allowing scientists to examine the object’s temperature, chemical composition, density and motion. STIS can see in ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared and has been used to examine black holes, quasars and planets.

If these objectives can be successfully carried out during the servicing mission, then Hubble will be at the apex of its scientific capability, with six working, complementary science instruments. These upgrades will keep Hubble functioning at the pinnacle of astronomy well into the next decade.

Behind the Pictures
The Hubble Space Telescope is noted for providing beautiful and often bizarre color pictures of galaxies, planets, and nebulae. Do the pictures really reflect the colors these objects would have if we visited them in a spacecraft? Why do some of the pictures have an unusual stair-step shape?

Hubble On The Go
Get the newest images and discoveries from Hubble sent directly to your email box or PDA.

Showcase of Hubble’s Smash Hits
This slideshow of Hubble’s greatest images is breathtaking. You can also download wallpaper, images, and murals.

We Need Your Help

We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School Portal publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.

Phoenix Mission to Mars: Final Seven Minutes of Terror

After traveling 422 million miles since its launch last August, the Phoenix Mars Lander is aiming for a touchdown on Sunday, May 25, 2008 in the unexplored regions of Mars. But first it must survive what engineers are calling the “final seven minutes of terror” to reach the surface of Mars. Watch a video of what the Lander will have to go through to touch down.

Over thousands of years, water carried explorers to new lands. Following water continues to guide exploration even as space is explored—find water and you might find life itself. One such mission that is following the water is the Phoenix Mars Lander project. On August 4, 2007, the lander was launched on its 10-month journey to the Red Planet. Phoenix will land on the northern plains of Mars and dig into the soil and water-ice seeking the Martian Holy Grail: water and possible life-supporting conditions.

Phoenix Mars Mission
The official project site includes background information, a mission blog, podcasts, a count-down clock to landing on Mars, and a gallery of pictures. Lessons specifically designed for grades 6-8 can be found at http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/edu_whywater_lessons3.php.

MarsNSDL Annotation
This site provides a comprehensive overview of the planet including Mars Geology (tectonics, water, and volcanism); Mars Atmosphere; and Mars Seasons and Climate.

Welcome to Mars and MARS Dead or AliveNSDL Annotation
This NOVA site provides the teacher’s guides, transcripts, and supplementary materials for two programs: “Welcome to Mars” and “MARS Dead or Alive.” There are articles from scientists, interactive activities, animations, and information on robots.

The Great Debate: Terraforming Mars
At a 2004 conference cosponsored by Astrobiology Magazine, scientists and science fiction writers debated the promise and pitfalls of terraforming Mars; that is, making Mars suitable for life. In the first of seven debates, planetary scientist Christopher McKay advocated making Mars habitable for Martian life. Links to the other six debates are given.

From Earth to Mars: The History of Mars Exploration
This interactive time line includes text and video of previous missions.

We Need Your Help

We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School PortalNSDL Annotation publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.