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With One Eye on the Sky

Who are NASA's Earth Explorers?

The elementary school student wondering how El Niño will affect tomorrow's weather. The scientist studying connections between ozone and climate change. And the farmer using satellite pictures to keep track of crops. All of these people are Earth Explorers -- they are all curious about the Earth system. This series will introduce you to NASA Earth Explorers, young and old, with many backgrounds and interests.

Photograph of Abigail standing next to a telescope
Abigail has always liked exploring and studying the world around her. She enjoys looking at beautiful skies, staring at the stars with her telescope, and going to science lectures at Princeton University. Abigail, 14, is a NASA Earth Explorer because she loves science.

Image to right: Abigail is this month's NASA Earth Explorer. Credit: NASA

Abigail grew up in New Jersey. She got interested in Earth science with the help of her dad who also enjoys looking at stars. She remembers learning science facts with her father when she was just 5 years old.

In seventh grade, Abigail became involved in NASA's S'COOL (Students' Cloud Observations On-line) program. "I loved astronomy and all things NASA-related," Abigail said. "[The S'COOL program] was an opportunity to help NASA."

S'COOL is a project where students look at the clouds and the weather. They write down notes about what they see from the ground and post them online. The scientists compare the notes with information taken from space by NASA satellites. S'COOL helps students and scientists to work together and learn more about clouds and climate.

"Scientists benefit from the use of student observations; students benefit from their participation in a real-world science experiment," Lin Chambers said. Chambers is the director of S'COOL and a scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center.

Abigail was really excited about S'COOL. She started observing clouds, studying Earth science, and even writing reports for her science classes.

Working with NASA has inspired Abigail to explore science even more. This year she will go to the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer program for the third time. During the camp, Abigail will take college-like classes. Also, she will meet other kids who like science as much as she does.

Abigail has also been accepted into a prestigious school in Massachusetts. At this school she will be able to take advanced science courses and use high-tech science tools.

"I would have probably never been accepted to the school had it not been for S'COOL," Abigail said.

What might the future hold for this Earth Explorer? The answer may be found in the clouds, or even in the stars. Abigail is just a freshman in high school, but already wants to attend a science-oriented college. When she grows up, Abigail wants to be a NASA scientist.

In the meantime, Abigail says she will continue exploring and studying the world around her. She hopes to participate in SHARP, NASA's Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program, before graduating.

See previous Earth Explorer Articles:
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Choosing a Career in Atmospheric Science
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Katherine Lorentz, NASA Langley Research Center