Date: January 14, 2011
Title: Celebrate Your Favorite Solar System
Podcaster: Bob Hirshon
Organization: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) – http://www.aaas.org
Description: Christine Shupla, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, tells us about the Year of the Solar System and the many events and activities scheduled between now and August 2012. And podcaster Bob Hirshon solicits your solar system songs for a future podcast.
Bio: Bob Hirshon is Senior Project Director at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and host of the daily radio show and podcast Science Update. Now in its 23rd year, Science Update is heard on over 300 commercial stations nationwide. Hirshon also heads up Kinetic City, including the Peabody Award winning children’s radio drama, McGraw-Hill book series and Codie Award winning website and education program. He oversees the Science NetLinks project for K-12 science teachers, part of the Verizon Foundation Thinkfinity partnership. Hirshon is a Computerworld/ Smithsonian Hero for a New Millennium laureate.
Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by The Education and Outreach team for the MESSENGER mission to planet Mercury. Follow the mission as the spacecraft helps to unlock the secrets of the inner solar system at www.messenger-education.org.
Welcome to the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast. I’m Bob Hirshon, host of the Science Update radio show and podcast. Today, I’ll be reporting on the Year of the Solar System.
Now I think if we stop and think for a moment what life would be like without our solar system, we’ll quickly realize why this year of appreciation is long overdue. First of all without the solar system, there would be no earth, and we would all perish in the near vacuum of space.
And that’s just the beginning. Because there would also be no planet Saturn, with it’s beautiful rings, no Jupiter, with it’s colorful, hypnotically swirling clouds, no Mars with its ice caps or Venus with its thick layer of greenhouse gases that make its surface hot enough to melt lead, or Mercury, which we are just about get a close look at with via the MESSENGER spacecraft. In all, this entire region of space would be incredibly uninteresting.
Christine Shupla is Education Specialist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute. She says that the solar system is so cool that one earth year was just not enough time to fully appreciate its awesomeness.
Being the Year of the Solar System, as a teachable moment we decided to extend this year. It is running from October 2010 until August of 2012, and that is a Martian year: the amount of time it takes for Mars to make one complete orbit around the sun.
And this Martian year running through Aug. 2012 is jam packed with space missions that will help us learn more about the Solar System.
Back in November, there was a flyby of a comet and there will be another one in February again. And in March, of course, we’re joining the heliosphysics division to celebrate Sun/Earth Day. And we’re also celebrating the arrival of the MESSENGER mission to the planet Mercury. It has flown past Mercury several times now, and it will be arriving at Mercury in March. Additionally, in our Martian Year of the Solar System, we are celebrating Juno’s launch toward Jupiter. There is a mission that is on its way to the asteroid belt that will be taking off during this year.
And of course, there are so many wonderful missions that are ongoing right now. There’s the rovers that are still at Mars, and there are missions in orbit around Mars. There’s the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that’s in orbit around our Moon. There is the Cassini mission that is still gathering wonderful data in the Saturn system. There is New Horizons, that is on its way to Pluto. I can’t possibly list all of them.
So you might be thinking to yourself, “Wow, I will definitely follow all those missions as they unfold. But I do that anyway. What can I do to make the Year of the Solar System special? Well, Schupla says that each month has a special theme, and they’ve posted activities related to these themes on the Year of the Solar System website at solarsystem.nasa.gov/yss
In April we want people to be celebrating Earth Day and Astronomy Day in May.
The year of the solar system website has activities for teachers for each of these themes, as well as activities for outside of school for families, kids, scout troops, after school groups—everyone.
There are events you can find on the website, and you can post events there, too.
We also are encouraging people to share their own event. If they are holding a public event that they want the people in their state to know about, to come and submit it and add it to the calendar. If they are holding something special for Earth Day, or for Sun-Earth Day, or they’re holding an observing session, and they’re going to be looking at Jupiter up in the sky, and they want people to know about that, we would like them to add it to the calendar.
There is also a list of NASA Ambassadors: these are space experts who can come to your classroom, your scout troop, after school program, Rotary Club meeting—any gathering – and speak to the group about cool space stuff. And there are links at the website to other resources:
And the resource tab includes a variety of things, including podcasts, including the 365 Days of Astronomy podcasts here and there, whenever we can connect them to our particular topics.
Lastly, Schupla says you can contribute to the Year of the Solar System by posting your experiences and works of creative genius to the website.
They can go to the site and upload comments about activities that they tried and how they worked, send photos of their children’s or their classroom’s project and what they did. Tell the stories about what they are doing.
We’ll be doing more podcasts on some of these themes as the year unfolds, and coming up with ideas to help you celebrate the Year of the Solar System. In fact, I was just thinking why not consider writing your own original Solar System related song? Yeah… write a solar system song. Make it good. But not too long. Write of Venus and Mars (but not Mars and Venus, because then you’ll have to find a rhyme for “Venus”). Write of planets, not stars (unless they’re shooting stars, in which case they would be in the solar system.) But just write a solar system song, make it goofy, but not factually wrong. Don’t worry if it’s so awful that we’re gonna want to band a gong (a reference to “The Gong Show,” in which celebrity judges would bang a gong to stop particularly egregious performances), but just write a solar system song, and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s bhirshon at gmail. Send it as a link or a audio file—mp3 or wav. And if we get some, I’ll do a podcast in the future, and do it all about these songs that we get all about the solar system that you send in.
[NOTE: We’ll also send them to our friends at the Year of the Solar System website!]
Thank you very much; that’s it for today’s podcast. For the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast, I’m Bob Hirshon.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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