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March 19, 2002

John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000



NASA will mark the first day of spring with a satellite telecast about the sun led by an astronomer and some 100 student guests from the San Francisco Bay area. The March 20 broadcast from 10 a.m. to noon PST (1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST) also will be distributed via the Internet as a 'webcast.' Webcasts enable students to watch live video, listen to audio and interact in real time on the Internet with experts.

Host Paul Mortfield, an astronomer with the Stanford Solar Center, Stanford, Calif., will be joined by students at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, to share their observations of the sun. Classrooms around the world can do the same grade-specific activities and share their results before and during the broadcast, according to broadcast organizers.

"I've been involved in astronomy all my life. I started educating people about astronomy and about what they could see in the sky when I took my first telescope to class to show the other students the sun when I was 10 years old. Since then I've built my own telescopes, taken photographs of outer space and talked about astronomy on TV news," Mortfield said. "The exciting thing is to share my passion for astronomy with people of all ages, and (to make) a complex subject fun and interesting so that everyone can understand. It's also pretty challenging (and fun) trying to create intelligent educational content that teachers and students will use."

Sun-Earth Day is a national celebration of the sun, the space around the Earth (geospace), and how the sun affects life on our planet. NASA Ames is producing the broadcast in collaboration with Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and the Stanford Solar Center.

"Paul Mortfield's energy inspires kids to learn about the sun," said Linda Conrad of the NASA Quest program at NASA Ames. "I think the importance of the broadcast of his program via satellite and by Internet webcast is that guest students will be sharing the results of their solar observations."

The theme for 2002 is 'Celebrate the Equinox.' This year's programming will place traditional star knowledge side by side with NASA knowledge of space science and astronomy. The webcast will begin with an explanation of the Lakota celebration of the equinox at Harney Peak, S.D. This introduction will include Lakota cultural parallels to the science of the sun. The program also will feature a discussion with astronaut John Young about the effects of the sun on space travel.

"We're going to have students from the American Indian Charter School in Oakland, Calif., visit Ames and participate in the live programs," said Thomas Clausen, educational specialist at NASA Ames. "The students who will participate in the TV show have been working with astronomers in classrooms, learning the physics of the solar system, the reasons for Earth's seasons and the connection between Earth and sun."

Student experiments will include use of ultraviolet-sensitive beads that change color when exposed to sunlight, and the building of a spectroscope students will use to analyze the colors of light. Young people also will determine the rotation rate of the sun by using images from the SOHO spacecraft. Students can participate in the NASA-sponsored Internet events without pre-registering.

Students in distant classrooms can ask questions live as NASA Quest simulcasts the program via webcast technology. Guest scientists will be on hand to help answer questions during the event. The two-hour televised webcast will feature discussions about the sun's connection to the Earth through images, cultural parallels and activities that Native Americans have used to share sun-Earth science through several generations.

The Sun-Earth Day webcast can be found on the Internet at:

This website has additional activities for K-12 students.

The televised program will be on NASA Television, which is available on GE-2, transponder 9C at 85 degrees west longitude, with vertical polarization. Frequency is on 3880.0 megahertz, with audio on 6.8 megahertz. For questions about the satellite distribution of the program, broadcasters may call NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.: Fred Brown, 202/358-0713. Any changes to the line-up will appear on the NASA video file advisory on the web at:

Nearly every NASA center and NASA educator resource center has planned an event for science teachers and students or for the public in conjunction with Sun-Earth Day. Specifically, more than 4,500 science teachers have been invited to education workshops related to the science of the sun-Earth connection.

Another activity will be 'Telescopes in Education,' in which participants will turn solar telescopes toward the sun and explore the only star that can be studied up close. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will host more than 60 children from Eliot Middle School. Via the Internet, the students will operate a telescope located at Mount Wilson Observatory, high above the Los Angeles basin in the San Gabriel Mountains.

The Telescopes in Education program allows educators and students around the world to remotely control research-quality telescopes and cameras created at JPL and located at the Mount Wilson Observatory. All they need is a computer with a modem and special astronomy software.

More information about Sun-Earth Days events in other communities is available at:



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