Earth and Sky

    The Earth and Sky program is a structured approach to collecting data from our surrounding environment, plotting thatdata using our own graphing tools and uploading the data using international protocols to enable its use in combination with comparable data collected by schools around the world. Data from daily atmospheric conditions (cloud types, rainfall, rain Ph, high/low temperatures, and barometric pressure), as well as soil and water conditions have protocols prescribed by the G.L.O.B.E., Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program (globe.gov), sponsored by N.A.A.S.A. (National Aeronautics and Space Association) and N.S.F. (National Science Foundation) and supported by N.O.A.A. (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) and the U.S. Department of State since 1995. N.O.A.A. renders the data uploaded by students in schools and clubs in over 160 countries into its satellite maps. As an I.A.A. student, you will learn how to collect and enter the data on-line, as well as take part in other seasonal data collection for soil and water, but the goal is enable you to create a data collection site at your own home and backyard, which will become your own I.A.A. classroom site for doing science. The secure network of the program also allows for teachers and students in participating schools in every country to conduct projects created by students and teachers: for example, comparing macro images of freshwater invertebrates found in our respective rivers. We'll be keeping a blog to record our regular observations, some images, and reflections on the data collection process and it's function in the larger G.L.O.B.E. activities. Learn more about it at globe.gov.



Opening Night for University of North Georgia's Planetarium's new Digistar 5 full dome 
projector January 9, 2015.

    The new planetarium dome projector gave me the unsettlingly wonderful experience of being able to travel through space. There were more than a few times that my stomach felt that we were in fact travelling through space in a spaceship about the size of Star Trek's Enterprise, with around thirty other lucky people. Before lift-off, we stared at the setting sun in a northern Georgia sky, then the sky grew darker and the shining light of two planets, Venus and Mercury became visible. Our captain, Dr. Jones reminded us that we see these planets in different parts of the sky each night this time of year  because they are in orbits around the sun, just like our earth is, and that the combination of our planet's orbit and their orbits make the locations of the stars and planets in the sky appear different every night. Mercury will will appear to be crossing the path of Venus and even becoming one with it for a brief time. Up above Venus and Mercury, in the upper left part of the southern sky, Dr. Jones pointed out a faint Mars, faint he noted because it is on the other side of the sun from where the Earth is on it's orbit. "Shall we go there and see what the view of space is along the way?" he asked us. "Yes!" we answered, and the ship felt as if it lurched forward, causing gasps from the crew, then smoothly picked-up speed, and we were off! Jupiter and Saturn soon came into view because their orbits around the sun were in between the Earth's and Mars's. It was the first time I had really thought much about the different orbits of our planets around the sun and how that affects our seasonal view of the night sky. 

    Mastering the physics behind the orbits and gravities of the planets and the rare comet "67P" were essential for European Space Agency's successful launching the Rosetta satellite at just the precise point that made it possible for the satellite to dock on the comet 67P this year after twelve years of masterful navigations! Catching the waves of gravity of the earth and mars at precise times enabled the satellite to slingshot out into deep space, enter the orbit of the comet and accomplish the amazing feat of landing on it the comet this year.  
     We also observed and identified different constellations such as Orion, the Gemini Twins, and Taurus too, but they didn't look the same from other planets. We were reminded very well that our perspective from earth depends on our unique place and orbit around the sun and the other planets' orbits. Flying around different planets, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, and Earth was especially awesome, according to our students. It will take many trips to begin to soak in some of the perspectives of space and we are already looking forward to the next adventure when we can make it every Friday night at 7PM. To top it off, after the planetarium show finishes at 9, a seven mile drive to the observatory opens up the real skies for viewing on the only night open to the public.