Browsing articles from "December, 2012"

Dec 31, 2012   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

In 2012 we said goodbye to Sally Ride, the first woman in space and as we bring 2012 to an end I could see no better way to end it than with this tour of the International Space Station with Expedition 33 commander, Suni Williams.  Williams led the Expedition 33 mission and performed three spacewalks with fellow astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.  Williams holds the record holder for a female astronaut with the most time logged in spacewalks. Girls around the world as you watch her tour the ISS, may you all be inspired to one day look down on the Earth from the Cupola of the ISS or from a space craft that will have humans going to the ISS and beyond.  The tour is not only informative about the ISS and how astronauts live and work there, but she shares some interesting personal anecdotes as well.  She loves Fluffernutters!


Christmas Presents from the Solar System!

Dec 28, 2012   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Merry Christmas! This time of year is always nostalgic for me and I love the spirit of what the Christmas Season means more than the material side that has us flocking to malls, online sites, jewelry stores, and even car dealerships to find the perfect present for everyone on our Christmas list. My grandmother was born on December 25th and celebrating her birthday on Christmas day always was an extra special gift for me.

As I thought about my best Christmases and the gifts I cherished the most while growing up, I seemed to come back time and time again to the microscope set my father gave me one year and the 1954 American Flyer Train that always found its way under our Christmas Tree every December. The microscope was a gift that helped confirm my dream that one day I would be a doctor and learning how to use it and see the wonders of things too small to view with the naked eye. This would begin my path of learning towards a career in medicine. The train made no connections in my mind with transportation or engineering, either electrical or mechanical, I just thought it was cool. My mother, on the other hand, thought both gifts were for boys and couldn’t wrap her mind around what would motivate my father to give me a microscope that had me pricking my finger over and over and looking at my own cells for hours or a train no less that required me to put lengths of track together and sit on the floor to operate the transformer that powered the train on its course.

Now that I am immersed in science and creating programs to inspire more girls to develop a love for science, I think about how our perceptions on gender affect whether girls are steered towards math and science or deflected away from it. My mother thought I should be given dolls and Easy Bake Ovens. My father, whether he was aware or not, supported my dream of doing science. I didn’t get bit by the science bug at school but by reading and going to The Museum of Science and Industry and making trips with my grandmother to Dr. Prince’s office on Cottage Grove Avenue. Dr. Prince wore a white lab coat and to get to his examination room you had to go through his office. It was the most disorganized place I’d ever seen and I think in some ways I wanted to be a doctor so I could treat people in an office that was neat, organized, and promoted healing. He had a large leather sofa in his office that I remember after being examined or waiting for my grandmother I would sit on and watch the elevated trains go by.

A little girl with a big dream. That was me and while I let that dream go in college I never stopped loving science. Today as I go around and share the wonders of the Solar System, engineering projects and competitions, math challenges, environmental awareness, etc. I look in the faces of students and I often see my dreams reflected in their eyes. We have more tools, more access, and a greater push towards diversity today than we had four decades ago. Opportunities for girls as well boys, all populations that are underrepresented and under-served in STEM, are all around us. This Christmas I thought I would share some of the gifts that have come my way this year with all of my students, colleagues, friends, parents, and everyone who shares a love of science and looking to the skies.

Peace and Love to you all and have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The 2011 Lunar Eclipse was technically at the end of last year, but it was spectacular nonetheless.  The pictures were taken by a friend of mine who works at the planetarium in Tokyo and hosts the monthly Liveshows of the night sky at Yerkes Observatory with my friend and colleague Vivian Hoette. This eclipse happened one day before my mother’s birthday.  Her light, just as that reflected from the Moon, continues to shine on us all!

December 10, 2011 Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse Dec 10, 2011 Image courtesy of Kimouru

Annular Eclipse

Annular Exlipse

May20th, 2012 Annular

Eclipsein Chicago

All we were able to see
in Chicago.

This was a strikingly beautiful event on May 20th, 2012. I watched from my computer and telescopes from An annular eclipse occurs when the moon blocks out the center of the sun, leaving a glowing ring called an annulus around the moon’s dark silhouette. The glow from the ring was referred to by many media outlets as a “Ring of Fire.”


The Transit of Venus

All eyes were focused on the sky on June 5, 2012 as Venus made her transit across our Sun. It was an event that none of us will ever see again in our lifetime making it one of the truly once-in-a-lifetime events. I spent the day on the lawn of Yerkes Observatory in my volunteer role as a NASA Solar System Ambassador as well as a Stars@Yerkes Teacher Leader and assisted visitors in viewing Venus through sunscopes, solar viewing glasses, and some pretty low-tech ways to watch the transit as well. Inside there was live telescope viewing thanks to the Yerkes connection to a network of telescopes around the world. If you missed it or just want to experience it again, enjoy!

Projected Image of the Transit of Venus - Low Tech Viewing

A safe, low tech, way to watch the transit of Venus. Of course, your arm would get very tired!

Transit of Venus

Venus in Transit. Photo Credit NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Wathcing the Transit of Venus

Educational stations for family engagement included safe viewing through solar glasses.









What Lies Beyond?

Voyager 1

Voyager leaves our
Solar System

On September 10, 2012, Voyager 1 left our Solar system. Passing Jupiter in 1979 on a mission to explore the outer planets, Voyager 1 is the farthest man-made object in space. It is still transmitting data and scientists are learning more about our Heliosphere as
Voyager continues its journey in space.






The Mayan Calendar ends Dec 21, 2012: Thus So Does the World?

Well the predictions from doomsayers that the world would come to an end on December 21, 2012 proved that we lived another day and will live many more to come.  Yes, the Mayan’s were great

Earth Disaster

Would this be the end?

astronomers and what they left behind for us to try and figure out has shed an understanding that we as humans have always had a link to the heavens regardless of what culture we belong to.  As so many of my students were talking about the end of the world, I thought it would be a good project for them to do some authentic research to see if any of the predictions including Earth burning up from a gigantic solar flare to the galactic alignment could hold any truth.  When they discovered that it looked like we’d be here on Friday, Dec. 21th, the surrounding veil of impending doom lifted and they could then tell other students, “No, the world will not end on December 21st, but……..”

They learned too how the Sun actually looks thanks to NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and I don’t think they will ever look at the Sun in the same way again and they also learned about the Winter Equinox which really did occur on December 21st!Yes, they learned that a giant asteroid, Apophis, which is big enough to cause planetary extinction of all life as we know it, is heading towards Earth but it will be several years before we have to worry and hopefully if its trajectory stays course with Earth, some brilliant mind will have figured out a way to blow it up or deflect it by then.  My son keeps saying that Earth needs a Superman.

There were the meteor showers too that delight us every year and will be back in 2013.   And all doomsayers aside, we did have our own share of natural tragedies with multiple tornadoes in the Midwest during the spring,  unprecedented heat across all of the United States this summer, and the devastation and destruction of hurricane Sandy in November.  Despite all of this, we are resilient.  As I sit here writing this, a gentle snow is finally falling outside.  More lake effect than the storms that are traveling East and a pavement void of at least 6″ of snow in Chicago in December is just about unheard of.

So in 2013, keep your heads to the sky and marvel in the presents our Solar System gives us free of charge and do one inspiring thing everyday for you never know whose life you may change by just being you!