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A-Train Outreach Jazzes Up Science With New Orleans Students
NASA scientist Chip Trepte
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NASA Langley scientist Chip Trepte gives students a lesson in Earth Science at the John Q. Adams Middle School in Metairie, La. Credit: NASA/Blair Allen

› The A-Train
› Duke Ellington's
    "Take the 'A' Train"

› NASA EDGE video

When NASA scientists visited New Orleans to set up the A-Train Symposium, employees at the hotel hosting the event asked if they would please reach out to local students.

So last week, 14 researchers from NASA and university partners fanned out to classrooms in and around the city, engaging students in discussions about our home planet and the role of the A-Train fleet of Earth-observing satellites.

Topics presented in the schools included the ozone layer, how satellite technology affects the world around us, comparing Mars to Earth, weather and meteorology, careers, the scientific method, and how scientists use the A-Train to collect data.

"The reaction from the students and the teachers was tremendous," said Lin Chambers, one of the scientists from NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. "I think they were very appreciative of NASA being there, because that's not something we usually do at a symposium like this; and New Orleans is a bit out of the way for most of NASA's activities."

The A-Train collects data on the Earth system, including atmosphere, land surface and oceans. The formation includes the satellites Aqua, CloudSat, Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO), and Aura.

Afternoon Train

A-Train, artist's concept
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Artist concept shows the A-Train in formation above Earth. Credit: NASA

The satellite fleet passes above the equator each afternoon at around 1:30 p.m. local time, giving the constellation its name -- the "A" stands for "afternoon." If you're wondering why "A-Train" sounds familiar, it's probably because "Take the 'A' Train" is a Billy Strayhorn jazz standard popularized by the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1938.

Chambers was joined in the outreach effort by representatives from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as scientists from across the country, including Langley, the Jet Propulsion Center in Pasadena, Calif., Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Colorado State University, and Texas A&M.

NASA also engaged university students and teachers in activities at the symposium. One of the most popular NASA shows -- NASA EDGE -- was there too, capturing the symposium live. NASA EDGE is a video podcast that "takes an inside and outside look at all things NASA."

Michael Finneran
NASA Langley Research Center