Label: Exploration

October 23, 2013

Today’s Writing Wednesday is about a newly discovered planet far from our solar system, and it is different than any other we have ever seen. We want you to read this science news story and then come up with a better name for this new planet based on what you have learned from the story.

The Facts: Eighty light-years from Earth, astronomers have discovered a planet that is six times bigger than Jupiter, floating all alone without a 

sun to keep it warm. Scientists have seen free-floaters like this before, but we have never been sure whether they were planets or stars that had died. This time, we have enough information to be sure it is a planet similar to the "gas giants" in our solar system - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. These planets are very low in density and consist mostly of hydrogen and helium gases. If you tried to land a spacecraft on Jupiter, for example, it would keep sinking down through the gas, until it would be crushed by Jupiter’s gravity.

The new planet is named PSO J318.5-22, and it is near a group of young stars called the Beta Pictoris moving group, which formed about 12 million years ago. One of the stars in that group is circled by its own gas-giant planet that’s about eight times bigger than Jupiter.

"We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that that looks like this," team leader Michael Liu said. "It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone. I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do."

Your Assignment: I don’t think that PSO J318.5-22 is a very good name for a planet, do you? Write a paragraph telling your readers what you would name this planet, and why. Support your idea with information from the news story (above). When you are finished writing, you may post your writing for others to read by clicking on the yellow "Comments" link at the bottom of this blog post.

Happy Writing!

 

Image: An artist’s rendering of PSO J318.5-22 by V. Ch. Quetz / MPIA



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(4) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Astronomy, Common Core, Exploration   •  Permalink (link to this article)

October 15, 2013

Jim Arnosky’s exciting story about running into a dangerous crocodile while paddling in the Florida mangroves is the focus of today’s Writing Wednesday.

Jim is a wonderful science writer - a true naturalist who writes and paints from what he experiences in nature. 

  In the excerpt below, from his new book WATER STORIES: ADVENTURES AFLOAT, Jim tells about a day spent exploring in a kayak with his wife, Deanna. He describes the boat as sitting very low in the water - just a couple of inches off the surface - which makes it ideal for sliding under branches hanging over the water. It is not so ideal, however, if there is a dangerous animal in the water. Here’s how Jim Arnosky describes the moment when they came upon what appeared to be a floating, rough-barked log:

 

For your Writing Wednesday activity, I want you to imagine that you are in that kayak and come upon a dangerous croc. What are you thinking? How would you feel? What would you DO? Look closely at all the details in Jim’s painting, and describe the scene as powerfully as you can.

When you are finished, you can click on the yellow "comments" button below to post your writing for others to read.

Happy (scary!) writing!


Note to Educators: Jim Arnosky and I have been friends and colleagues for a long time, and I am so pleased that he has written this new book, WATER STORIES: ADVENTURES AFLOAT for my digital publishing company, StarWalk Kids Media. If you have not checked out our exceptionally high quality and very affordable streaming eBook collection, I hope that you will soon.

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, Exploration   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 9, 2013

 

In today’s Science News, scientists have discovered one of the largest known volcanoes in our Solar System under the Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 miles east of Japan. That’s right, the new volcano, named Tamu Massif, is not only the largest volcano on Earth (by far), it is one of the largest in the Solar System. Quite a discovery, right here at home!

Tamu Massif covers an area of about 120,000 square miles - about the size of the state of New Mexico. That is 60 times bigger than Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, which up until now we had thought was the largest volcano on Earth.

Fortunately, the huge volcano is no longer active, but scientists are eager to study it and try to learn more about how these mega volcanoes form.

There is much that we are still learning, about Earth’s geology and about animals, under the oceans that cover 70% of the surface of our planet. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(4) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Volcanoes, Exploration   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 5, 2013


Today’s "Cool Photo of the Week" is a magnificent shot taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been sending us photographs from Saturn for almost nine years. This one is particularly beautiful because we can see Venus - a tiny, bright speck - shining in the distance.

We often see Venus in the early morning here on Earth, shining like a bright "morning star." This is an entirely different view, since Venus is seen here from a distance of 884 million miles (1.42 billion kilometers) away from Saturn.  If you want to try to imagine how far 884 million miles is, it is TEN TIMES the distance our planet Earth is from the sun. That’s quite a camera on the Cassini probe!

The early Romans named the dazzling white planet Venus, after their goddess of love and beauty. Gazing at this lovely image, you can certainly see why.

Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI


You can read more about both VENUS and SATURN in my newly updated eBooks, which are part of the StarWalk Kids streaming collection of digital books for schools and libraries. These "Read and Listen" books have top quality, professionally-recorded narration and come with "Teaching Links" to support Common Core use in the classroom. Educators: Click here to sign up for a free, 30-day trial for your school.

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: eBooks, Cool Photo, Solar System, Common Core, Exploration, Saturn, NASA, Venus   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 13, 2012

Welcome to SeeMore Explorers Day! Every Thursday will be SeeMore Explorers Day on this website. The idea is to get out in nature and look around you. Take a photograph or draw a picture in your notebook. Write down as many details as you can about what you have seen. Then, come back to school or home and use the resources around you to try to figure out what it is that you have discovered. You can use books, encyclopedias or an Internet search; it is also fine to ask your teacher, librarian or other grownup to help you get started on your research.

We have created a SeeMore Explorers log that you can download and print out - it is designed to help you organize your information when you discover something exciting and interesting in nature. Click here to download your copy. Print it out and you are ready to start exploring - just like Seymour Simon does when he is out walking around and enjoying nature!

 

I am going to start things off with this photograph that our daughter Jules sent from Washington, DC recently. She thought that this butterfly was so beautiful that she snapped a picture on her phone and sent it to Seymour and me in a text. And of course, we wondered what it was. 

We started by writing down everything we could think of in our own SeeMore Explorers log.

Here is what we came up with: 

 

 

See how writing down what you see helps you figure out what you are seeing? We would love to see your observation logs. You can scan and upload right to this website if you want to, by clicking on the yellow button at the top of every page that says "Send Us Photos/Video." Or you can mail your observation log to:
SeeMore Explorers, 15 Cutter Mill Road, Suite 242, Great Neck, NY 11021

Send us your log, and you may find it published right here on SeymourSimon.com!


Photo: Jules Kelly 

 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Butterflies, Insects, Exploration, nature   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 11, 2012

You may have already seen this magnificent photograph of Mars, taken by the mast camera on the Curiosity rover. Everyone has marveled at how much it looks like Earth, with its gravely surface and sandy dunes.

Here is a cool fact that you may not have heard about this photograph. If you were standing on Mars, these are not the colors that you would see in front of you. The dust in the planet’s atmosphere makes everything look very red, including this sandy dune.

The reason this photograph isn’t red is that NASA’s engineers are doing something called "white balancing" - adjusting the colors to make the scene look the way it would with the kind of light we have here on Earth. They do this to help out a particular bunch of Earthlings - the geologists who are studying the images with eyes that are trained to recognize rocks, minerals and other substances in more familiar light.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Cool Photo, space, Exploration, Mars   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 6, 2012

It’s finally happening! After 8 years of planning and a interplanetary journey from Earth to Mars that took eight months, the one-ton Curiosity rover came down for a soft landing on the surface of Mars.  

 

The landing spot was in the middle of  96-mile-wide Gale Crater. Curiosity immediately sent back this photo of its own shadow on the Martian soil. 

Curiosity will soon be sending back many full-color photos of Mars. After a number of weeks of tests, the rover will be rolling up the sides of a nearby mountain looking for traces of water and carbon in Mar’s history. Why water and carbon? Because the presence of water and carbon are good indicators that life may have once existed on Mars. 

Stay tuned for new developments about Mars and look forward to a new book on Mars that I’m writing now. Is there (or was there ever?) life on Mars? We’re going to find out soon!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Solar System, Exploration, Mars, NASA   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 16, 2012

Here is a great Summer Vacation Science moment from reader Jennifer J:


 

 

Two Oklahoma children enjoying their beloved grasshopper, Hopsters. Dad fetched it from the pool and they thought he saved the insect from drowning. Summer is best with jars and bugs.

 

 

 


I was curious about what kind of grasshopper this is. Jennifer also sent this close-up photograph, so I decided to fill out my Summer Vacation Science Observation Log, to see if I could identify the grasshopper. Here is what I wrote on the log:

 

 

 

 

It was very difficult to identify this insect strictly by doing an image search on the Internet. Too many choices came up, none really looked like this grasshopper, and I realized that it would take too long to do it this way - there are 11,000 known grasshopper species worldwide. 

One thing I find helpful to do when I am stuck like this is to ask myself: "What else do I know?" I decided that the important thing I know is that this grasshopper is found in OKLAHOMA. Surely, that should narrow things down.

I did another Internet search, this time searching for the words "Oklahoma grasshopper." One of the first things that came up on the list was titled: Grasshoppers  of Goodwell and Texhoma,  OK on a website run by a researcher named Kurt Schaefer at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. It lists each local grasshopper species with a link that lets you see a photograph. I clicked on the link next to each grasshopper name until I found one that looks like "Hopsters."

Based on what I found on this website, I have concluded that these children found a WRINKLED GRASSHOPPER.

Isn’t it fun to try to figure out what you are seeing? It is like being a Nature Detective!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Summer Vacation Science, Insects, Exploration, Observation   •  Permalink (link to this article)

July 12, 2012

Today, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope announced that they have discovered Pluto’s fifth moon. Scientists have been looking closely at the space around Pluto because they are preparing for the 2015 Pluto flyby of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. New Horizons is going to give us our closest look yet at the dwarf planet, so NASA engineers want to map as many potential crash hazards as they can and design the safest possible course for the probe.

For the moment, the new moon is simply called S/2012 (134340) 1, or "P5" for short. Eventually, the International Astronomical Union will give names to P5 and P4, the fourth moon that was discovered late last year, and they will probably be names from Greek mythology. Pluto’s first three moons were named after mythological characters associated with the underworld. Greeks believed Charon was the ferryman who carried souls across the river to the underworld. Hydra was the serpentine monster that guarded the gates of the underworld, and Nix is named after the Greek goddess of the night.

The team is waiting awhile before naming P4 and P5, in case a P6 comes along. One thing for sure is that we’re going to learn a lot more about Pluto and the objects orbiting it in the next three years.

The timing of this discovery is good for one of my new eBooks. We are updating SPACE WORDS: A DICTIONARY for publication as an eBook, and my editor just changed the Pluto entry to state that it has five moons. Surely this will be the most up-to-date reference out there when it is published in late July!

 

Photo: M. Showalter / SETI Institute / NASA / ESA

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Solar System, space, Exploration, Space Travel, Pluto   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 24, 2012

 

Scientists studying Orcas in the seas off eastern Russia have spotted an all-white killer whale, and have named him "Iceberg." 

Baby white orcas have been spotted in the past, including in Iceberg’s pod, but no one has ever seen one that grew to adulthood. Iceberg was photographed while he was swimming with 12 members of his pod off Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

"In many ways, Iceberg is a symbol of all that is pure, wild and extraordinarily exciting about what is out there in the ocean waiting to be discovered," said Erich Hoyt, co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project. "The challenge is to keep the ocean healthy so that such surprises are always possible."

 

Photo: E. Lazareva/FEROP via AFP 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(13) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Oceans, Cool Photo, Conservation, Exploration, Marine Life, whales   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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