Flying High with NASA Student Airborne Research

My first experience studying the Earth and its systems was during the NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP), when I got to fly on NASA’s P-3B aircraft, carrying a variety of scientific instruments to study atmospheric, oceanic, and land processes.  While NASA does a lot of work studying space, I hadn’t even known about their research on Earth systems, and I was fortunate enough to get a firsthand view of this as an undergraduate.

My undergraduate work focused on chemistry, which led to the opportunity to participate in SARP. The atmospheric chemistry that I was investigating depends on large-scale processes like air circulation patterns, weather, and exchange with the ocean. While investigating this area, I learned quickly how valuable my fellow interns were, because of their varied areas of study. Some had backgrounds in physics, while others focused on meteorology or mathematics. With their help and expertise, I was able to learn much more about these systems than I could have otherwise.  Scientific questions about Earth systems are too big to be tackled by just one discipline.  There is more than one path to becoming an Earth system scientist, because the complexity of our planet means we need people from many different scientific backgrounds. Continue reading


The Earth System – 5 Spheres Working Together

Our home planet is a complex place, filled with connections that create a unique habitable environment that supports a vast array of living things. Earth is unique in the solar system – it is the only planet known to sustain life. As part of the Earth system, you are connected to everything on Earth, which means that a change at the North Pole could change your life. How? Imagine this:

A drop of rain falls from the sky and hits the ground. It soaks into the soil, becoming part of the ground water that eventually bubbles up as a spring. The pool of spring water spills out into a creek, which flows to a river, which flows to an ocean. The water mixes with ocean currents, rising and sinking and flowing around the world. Eventually, sunlight heats the ocean, and the water at the surface evaporates into the atmosphere. The water condenses into a cloud and then coalesces into a raindrop, where it the journey begins once again. Continue reading


“Explore Water in Our Earth System” in the Classroom


In an earlier post, we focused on a special resource created especially for Earth Science Week. “Explore Water in Our Earth System” is an interactive wheel that presents datasets from four NASA missions in a way that encourages students to explore the interconnected nature of components within Earth’s water cycle. Our team has developed the following educator resource guide to help teachers use this new resource in both formal and informal settings.  Continue reading

ConceptMap Graphic

Mapping Earth’s Water Cycle – An Educator Event

We have some great events coming up as part of Earth Science Week, including the following: 

Mapping Earth’s Water Cycle with NASA Scientists – An Online Event for Educators
October 16, 2014, 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT

This presentation will use an online concept map tool for exploring the water cycle. Unlike traditional slide-based presentations, these dynamic maps act as a resource that can be explored with an audience, instead of a one-way, linear presentation. The concept maps presented are loaded with educational assets – including images, videos, news items – that webinar participants can use in their own educational practices, presentations or for their own learning. The concept maps and other materials presented are freely available online, and instructions will be provided to give participants access to the maps after the webinars. Participants will also learn how to create their own maps.

Jorge Vasquez, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
J.T. Reager, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Annette deCharon, University of Maine
Carla Companion, University of Maine

More detailed information on the webinar will be available in the near future, so stay tuned!

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 5.09.59 PM

Resource Focus: Explore Water in Our Earth System

Earth Science Week offers a great opportunity for students to explore the interconnected nature of the Earth system. From land to sea, ice to sky, and everything living in between, NASA scientists and engineers work hard to develop missions that study connections in the Earth system, and allow us to have a better understanding of our home planet. For Earth Science Week 2014 NASA has created a special educational resource focused on the water cycle: Explore Water in Our Earth System, which we’ve nicknamed “The Earth Wheel.” Continue reading


Know Your Earth Quiz Collection 2014

Are you an Earth Expert or a Student? The Know Your Earth Quiz Collection 2014 offers a fun and easy way to test your knowledge. In partnership with the Earth Right Now campaign, the Know Your Earth team has released five quizzes covering a range of Earth science topics, with more to be released through the end of 2014. Each quiz contains NASA Earth imagery, as well as fun facts about Earth. Kids and adults alike are invited to visit the Know Your Earth website, take the quizzes, and learn more about our home planet. Results can easily be shared through social media, so feel free to show off how smart you are! In addition to the quizzes, links to relevant missions are provided for further investigation. Continue reading


Your Planet is Changing. We’re On It.

This has been a busy year for NASA Earth science. So far, three Earth science missions have launched, and two more are scheduled within the coming months, making this the most Earth-centric year for NASA in over a decade. The Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory (GPM) will provide a new look at precipitation on Earth. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite will allow scientists to “follow the water” through the water cycle. Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will provide new information on our atmosphere. Aboard the International Space Station, ISS-RapidScat will observe wind on Earth, while the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) will provide information on clouds and aerosols. Continue reading


A Year of Mapping Our World

Earth Science Week 2013 celebrated “Mapping Our World,” a theme focused on how we measure and observe Earth. From satellites and airborne campaigns, to missions on the ground, NASA technologies improve our ability to understand the changes that take place on our home planet, and allow the opportunity to observe our world from space. Continue reading