"You know Orion always comes up sideways,
Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
And rising on his hands, he looks in on me
Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
I should have done by daylight..."
- The Star-Splitter, Robert Frost
Visit the Sandburg Sky Poetry Web
page, including CSMS student-authored sky poems.
Sandburg Center for Sky Awareness
A Fairfax County Public Schools Planetarium
'00-01 WoWs! | '98-99
Website of the Week (WoW!)
Every week from October through May, the SCSA will feature one interesting
sky-related Web site. Ideally, the Web site will be related to a current
topic of interest (e.g., a site related to cloud identification featured
during "Sky Awareness Week") and could be used by classroom teachers to
deliver timely, high-interest cross-curricular instruction. The Website of
the Week will be updated on Monday of each week.
Editor's Note: Be advised, WoW! goes on Summer hiatus beginning 31
May; WoW! will return October '00.
29 May 2000 - (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay, ...
22 May 2000 - Lightning Safety
||Lightning is the second deadliest weather hazard (second
only to flash flooding). Learn how to minimize your risk by visiting the
following lightning-related Web sites:
- Know the enemy! Questions
and Answers About Lightning, prepared by the NOAA/NWS National
Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL).
- "Generally speaking, if an individual can see lightning and/or
hear thunder he/she is already at risk." Updated Recommendations
for Lightning Safety - 1998, is a report from the NSSL Lightning
Safety Group which provides potentially life-saving information regarding
appropriate action to take when threatened by lightning.
- Is lightning a current (pun intended!) weather hazard where you live?
For a view of all lightning activity in the continental United States,
Explorer, featuring actual lightning information from the National
Lightning Detection Network. (Courtesy Global Atmospherics, Inc. Requires
Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x and 4.x or Netscape 4.x. "Cookies" are
used and must be accepted by your Web browser.)
Teacher Tip: The Weather Channel
Project SafeSide - a free
collection of cross-curricular lesson plans and activities that teach
students how to prepare for severe weather and natural hazards, including
floods, tornadoes, extreme heat, hurricanes, winter weather, and
earthquakes. Designed for grades 4-12.
15 May 2000 - I'll Follow the Sun
As the Beatles sang, "for tomorrow may rain...." So, for the Sun lovers
out there (Summer is your season), the Sun is the theme for the
WoW!s this week.
As the midday Sun is getting higher and higher in the late May sky,
explore the daily and annual cycles of change in the path of the Sun
across the sky. Great Circle Studio's Solar Calculator will
calculate the Sun's altitude and azimuth for a user-specified location, date &
time, and data interval. A variety of output modes are available.
Ever notice the odd-looking figure eight which appears on many globes?
It's called an analemma. See the analemma for Washington,
D.C. (can you tell when the maximum altitude of the noon Sun occurs
during the year?), then visit the Analemma Web site to learn more about,
As its name suggests, Great Circle Studio's Sundial Generator
generates a sundial for a user-specified location. A variety of output
formats are available.
08 May 2000 - Hurricane Awareness Week
Due to the rapid population growth in
hurricane-prone coastal areas and the recent devastating effects of
hurricane-related inland flooding in the mid-Atlantic states, the National
Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have joined
forces to declare May 12-20, 2000 "National Hurricane Awareness
Week" (in Virginia, Hurricane Awareness Week is June 4-10).
1 June is the beginning of Tropical Atlantic hurricane season (ending 30
NOV). What's the seasonal outlook this year? La Nina usually means an
active hurricane season in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean. For a second
opinion, visit the Colorado State University Hurricane
Forecast Web page for reknowned hurricane forecaster Dr. William M.
The Weather Channel Project SafeSide is a free
collection of cross-curricular lesson plans and activities that teach
students how to prepare for severe weather and natural hazards, including
tornadoes, lightning, floods, extreme heat, winter weather, and
earthquakes. Designed for grades 4-12.
FCPS Technology Resource Teacher Joanne Goodwin provides pointers to
selected hurricane-related Web sites as well as suggested teaching
strategies for upper elementary hurricane
activities involving science and technology integration.
01 May 2000 - Space Day/Early May Planetary Conjunction
Celebrate Space Day/Cyber Space Day on
Thursday, 04 May 2000. Visit Teachers' Space for
a variety of space-related classroom activities in the Lesson Library.
Students should enjoy a little open-ended exploration of cyberspace by
visiting 101 Ways to
May 2000 Planetary Conjunction
"The long-awaited, though invisible, conjunction of five planets occurs during
the first two weeks of May. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn all
lie on the far side of the Sun as seen from Earth, spanning a 27°
stretch of sky on May 3. The Moon is also included in the collection. Two
weeks later, on May 17, the six bodies minus the Moon stretch out across
only 19.5° of the sky.
The grouping cannot be seen because the Sun is in the way. In
reality, the planets, as always, lie far apart--this grouping is merely a
line of sight effect, but nonetheless unusual. It is sure to spark some
media attention." (Excerpted from The
Sky Show in May, by Martin Ratcliffe and Alister Ling, courtesy Astronomy magazine,
Viewed from Earth: Help students visualize what they would see in
the sky (if the Sun weren't in the line of sight) by showing a QuickTime movie (170
Kb) showing the position of the five planets (visible with the unaided
eye) at 0600 UTC everyday from
4/6/2000 to 5/26/2000.
Teacher Tip: Two views to help students visualize the May
2000 planetary conjunction:
Viewed from Space: Visit Solar System Live for
a real-time "bird's eye view" of the entire
Solar System which should help students visualize the actual location
of the planets in their orbits around the Sun. Change the following
settings (otherwise, use the default settings), then click the "Update"
button: Show: Images; Size: 512; Observing site: Lat. 39°N Long.
24 April 2000 - National Sky Awareness Week
Test your awareness of the day and night sky by taking the following
17 April 2000 - Spring Break!!!
With apologies to non-Christians, Happy
Easter!!! Did you know that every year, Easter occurs on the first
Sunday after the first Full Moon after the March (or Spring) Equinox? For
example, the March Equinox occurred on 20 March 2000, the next Full Moon
occurs on 18 April, and Easter is Sunday, 23 April). Well, usually.
For more details, visit The Date of Easter
Web page, including the Easter Calculator.
10 April 2000 - Solar Maximum/Aurorae
April 6-7, 2000, an interplanetary shock
wave (caused by a solar coronal mass ejection on 4 April 2000) hit Earth's
magnetosphere and triggered a major geomagnetic
storm, providing a rare opportunity to see the Northern Lights from
the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Consistent with our Themes for 1999-2000,
we provide pointers to two great new Web sites from NASA and the
Exploratorium: Solar Max
2000, Your Guide to the Year of the Active Sun; and Auroras 2000,
Your Guide to the Northern and Southern Lights. Aurora forecasts are
available from SpaceWeather.com, a service of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Teacher Tip: From the Schedule &
Archive of NASA's Thursday's Classroom, visit
Activity Heats Up (9 March 2000) for a set of sunspot-related
activities. Highly recommended: Happy
Birthday Sunspot Plot, in which students use historical data to
construct a simple bar graph of sunspot numbers. Students identify their
birthdate in the solar cycle. Activity includes a Teacher's
Lesson Plan, Activity
Sheet, and Answer
Key. [A classroom-ready version of the
activity (prepared by Walter Sanford, SCSA Director) and Teacher's Answer Key are also available.]
03 April 2000 - Astronomy Day/Week (and Space Day)
27 MAR 2000 - Where in the World is Carl-man Sandburg-io?
What is your Universal address? For the Sandburg Center for
Sky Awareness (Sandburg Planetarium), the address is: Universe; Virgo
Super Cluster of Galaxies; Local Group of Galaxies; Milky Way Galaxy;
Cygnus Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy; Solar System; Earth; North America;
United States of America; Virginia; Fairfax County; Alexandria; 8428 Fort
Hunt Road; Carl Sandburg Middle School; Planetarium (second floor,
northern side of the building). Like the old saying from real estate
sales, it's all about "location, location, location!" What's your
exact location? This week, we feature a variety of Web sites which will
help you find yourself, geographically speaking that is!
- Obtain your latitude and longitude by visiting Heavens Above. Providing detailed
predictions for the Earth-orbiting satellites visible in your sky tonight,
your initial task is to select your viewing location (choose from among
two million sites worldwide). Happy sat-trackin'!
- Visit the U.S. Geological Survey National Mapping Information Web page,
where you can access the Geographic Names Information
System, which contains not only the lat/long for cities and towns in
the United States but also significant structures within a municipality,
such as hospitals and schools. You may also View USGS Maps and
Aerial Photo Images Online:
- For a bird's-eye view of your location, visit Microsoft TerraServer. It doesn't have
complete coverage, but you may be able to find your home or school on an
- TopoZone, by Maps a la carte,
Inc., provides an interactive interface which allows users to view a
seamless topographic map and feature database of the entire United States.
- Home in on your location by using a Web sampling of the Eagle Geocoding Technology developed by
Etak, Inc. Use the "test drive" feature to find the lat/long of a mailing
address, including an optional map.
- For a map (courtesy ADC) showing the location of your school, visit
the Fairfax County (VA) Public
Schools Web site, follow the link to Schools & Centers,
navigate to ESs, MSs, HSs, etc., then find the listing for your school and
click on "map" (e.g., Sandburg MS map).
Teacher Tip: Use a GPS receiver
to pinpoint your exact location (well, almost). Location-Finding
Using Global Positioning System (GPS), by Phil Wherry & Walter Sanford
is a classroom-ready activity in which you will learn how to use a GPS
receiver to locate your exact position on Earth (lat/long), and in the
process, discover how the Global Positioning System actually works.
20 March 2000 - WeatherNet4 Weather Calendar
Pick a day (in the past) to see the weather observations for
that date. Plot a graph showing 24-hours of data: temperature/dew point;
humidity; barometric pressure; wind speed; wind direction; or rainfall.
Teacher Tips: Visit the weather
calendar after a strong cold front passes (e.g., Friday, 17 MAR 2000);
students should graph data for a period of time before and after the
weather front passes. Guide students to recognize the following changes in
weather elements as the front approaches and passes: temperature, dew
point, and humidity should decrease after the front passes; barometric
pressure should decrease as the weather front approaches then increase
after it passes; wind direction should shift from S-SW ahead of the front
to N-NW behind the front; rainfall should end after the front passes.
Access the meteogram for Dulles Airport
(IAD) for a unique graphic presentation of the past 24-hours of
weather observations, perfect for analyzing how the weather changes as
weather systems (Highs, Lows, and fronts) approach and pass. "M"
is for Meteogram - Discovering Interrelationships Among Weather Variables
Using Meteograms, by Joanne Goodwin & Walter Sanford, is a
classroom-ready activity using meteograms.
13 March 2000 - Tornado Preparedness Day
Virginia Governor Gilmore has declared Tuesday, 28 March
2000, "Tornado Preparedness Day." [In MD/DC, "Severe Weather Awareness
Week" is April 23-29, 2000 (coincident with National Sky
Awareness Week).] Visit the NOAA National Weather Service Office of
Meteorology Severe Weather
Awareness Web site for an online Tornado Preparedness
Guide, including information regarding tornado safety in schools.
Preparedness Guides for other weather hazards are available online also.
A GUIDE TO
DEVELOPING A SEVERE WEATHER EMERGENCY PLAN FOR SCHOOLS, by Barbara
McNaught Watson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the NWS
Baltimore/Washington Forecast Office, is a "must read" for school safety
Teacher Tips: The Weather
Channel Project SafeSide -
a free collection of cross-curricular lesson plans and activities that
teach students how to prepare for severe weather and natural hazards,
lightning, floods, extreme heat, hurricanes, winter weather, and
earthquakes. Designed for grades 4-12.
Tornado Data is a classroom-ready activity by Joanne Goodwin,
Technology Resource Teacher, Churchill Road ES, FCPS, in which students
use a spreadsheet to organize and analyze tornado data.
06 March 2000 - If you know what a conjunction
...grammatically speaking, then you know what a conjunction is,
astronomically speaking. The dictionary defines a conjunction
- the act of joining together or the state of being joined together.
- a word used to connect words, phrases, or sentences. And,
but, or, and if are conjunctions.
- Astronomy, the apparent meeting of two or more planets or other
heavenly bodies at the same celestial longitude.
March 7-10, the best evening conjunction
of the year occurs as the planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn and the waxing
crescent Moon appear to come together in a short, straight line in the
western sky shortly after sunset. Twilight is a good time to go
planet-watching, as the planets are the first objects (other than the
Moon) to appear in the sky as daylight fades to darkness. The Moon appears
slightly below the line of planets because its orbit is inclined
approximately five (5) degrees with respect to the plane of the Earth's
orbit around the Sun. Each night, the Moon will appear to slip from right
to left along the line of planets, beginning with Mars on 8 March. (Graphic courtesy Astronomy magazine, Kalmbach
Teacher Tip: The planetary
conjunction provides a great opportunity to deliver some timely,
high-interest, cross-curricular instruction. We suggest you dust off your
copy of the Disney video, Schoolhouse
Rock!: Grammar Rock and show the old favorite, "Conjunction
Junction." Once students know what a conjunction is (grammatically
speaking), you can easily make the connection with an astronomical
conjunction--a brief, effective grammar lesson and astronomy lesson rolled
into one, just in time for the Virginia SOL writing exam!
28 February 2000 - Man-Made Shooting Stars: Tracking Satellites
Be they faint streaks or brilliant flares, satellite observing is like watching man-made
"shooting stars!" Heavens-Above "provides you with
all the information you need to observe [satellites]." NASA's Liftoff
to Space Exploration Satellites
Web page is another excellent starting point. Visit J-Track
3-D for a unique view of over 500 of the artificial satellites which
orbit the Earth.
21 February 2000 - Is That Your Final Answer?
Who says learning can't be fun? Test your knowledge of astronomy by
visiting the following links to a variety of astronomy-related online
quizzes, games, and puzzles:
- Mission: Fun,
a feature of the Space Day (4 May
2000) Web site. [Note: Some activities require the Shockwave
Flash multimedia plug-in for your Web browser.]
Observatorium Fun & Games - a wide variety of Java-based activities,
including a couple of good geography-related applications of
- NASA is my Playground -
New NASA for Kids Web site. Explore the links to topics such as
Earth, Planets, Stars & Galaxies, etc., and discover a wide variety of
space-related activities, quizzes, and games.
- NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Astronomical Data Center Quiz
#1, as well as links to a rich variety of astronomical datasets.
- Visit Stig's Sky Calendar Astro Quiz to save the Earth from The Doomsday
Asteroid. Race to beat the clock by correctly answering questions;
incorrect answers reduce the remaining time on Earth! [Note: Focus
on the content and forgive the occasional spelling mistake or grammatical
- Brent Turcotte's Astro
Puzzles Web page offers several astronomy-related brain teasers.
- Visit Quia! to create your own
learning activities (games, quizzes, etc.), or follow the link to Astronomy for a variety of
ready-made astronomy-related games.
- Use Discovery Channel School's Puzzlemaker to create
a variety of puzzles and games, including customized word search,
crossword and math puzzles using your word lists, and build your own maze.
Use Puzzlemaker with any subject matter, but we know you love
sky-related themes from astronomy and meteorology! [Note: Requires
14 February 2000 - Happy Valentines Day...
...from Mars!!! Check out the cool image of a Martian heart-shaped
surface feature captured by the Mars Global Surveyor. Men may be from
Mars, but clearly we have a romantic side for all to see!
07 February 2000 - Weather Almanac Activity
The Sandburg Center for Sky
Awareness is pleased to announce that The
Unofficial Student Activity for Bob Ryan's 2000 Almanac & Guide for the
Weatherwise is now online.
A "scavenger hunt" in which students use a weather almanac to search for
the answers to weather-related questions, the activity is a great way to
teach weather & climate (and of course, astronomy) as well as applied
mathematics (don't worry, the math is fairly simple!) plus there are a few
interdisciplinary questions related to Language Arts and Social Studies.
The activity has been used with great success by many teachers who have
touched base to let me know how their students "really got into it!"
All you need is a class set of almanacs [minimum 15 copies (one for every
two students)] and photocopies of the activity (use your Web browser to
print a photocopy master). Almanacs are available at Giant Food stores
[$1.49 each (all monies donated to local charity)]. For younger students,
you may want to divide the activity into smaller sections (to avoid
overwhelming them!). A teacher's answer key is available upon request.
31 January 2000 - Wintery Mix
Did you know that most precipitation (including rain) starts as snow? See
how the three-dimensional structure of the atmosphere determines the type
of precipitation which reaches the Earth's surface: How winter storms bring
rain, ice and snow, courtesy USA TODAY Weather.
24 January 2000 - Total Lunar Eclipse Redux/Shapes of Snow
Total Lunar Eclipse Redux
If you missed the lunar eclipse on Thursday, 20-21
January (or if you'd like to see it again), then visit View the Eclipse, courtesy
the Virginia Living Museum. The site features background information, a
GIF animation, and still photographs of the eclipse. Good show! Note the
curved shadow of the Earth--proof that the Earth is in fact round!
Shapes of Snow Crystals
Did you notice the shape of the snow
crystals which fell upon Washington, D.C. during the "Nor'easter of
2000" (25 JAN)? They were needles, not dendrites (the stereotypical
snowflake shape). Can you infer the air temperature at cloud level?
17 January 2000 - Virtual Lunar Eclipse/Wind Chill
Virtual Lunar Eclipse
In Washington, D.C., the weather forecast for Thursday, 20 JAN calls for
cloudy skies and a chance of snow. So, plan to watch the lunar eclipse
virtually by visiting one of the following live Webcasts:
Wind chill is the apparent temperature which results from the combined
effect of air temperature and wind speed. Visit the Wind Chill Calculator
to see how low air temperatures and high wind speeds can combine to
produce dangerously cold wind chill temperatures!
10 January 2000 - Total Lunar Eclipse, 20-21 JAN 2000
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Full Moon passes through the Earth's
shadow. Plan to watch the upcoming total lunar eclipse by referring to the
SCSA Special Events Web page for an
eclipse timetable. For extensive background information, visit the
following lunar eclipse-related Web sites:
Wish upon a star for clear skies on the night of 20-21 JAN!
Awesome Eclipse of the Moon (adapted from an article which
appeared in the JAN 2000 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine)
- NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Eclipse Home Page Press
Release: Total Lunar Eclipse: January 20-21, 2000
- NASA/GSFC's Eclipses
During 2000 Web page provides more technical information regarding the
JAN 2000 total lunar eclipse (as well as other Y2K solar and lunar
- NASA/GSFC's Eclipse
Photography Web page offers helpful tips regarding "Lunar Eclipse
Observing and Photography."
20 December 1999 - Happy Holidays!!!
WoW! takes a break for the holidays. WoW! will resume next year.
Whoa, don't tell me you fell for that old joke! But seriously
folks, WoW! will resume 10 January 2000. 'Til then, Happy
13 December 1999 - Where in the World is Santa Claus?
The Official NORAD Tracks Santa
Claus Web Site. The Website has a variety of high-tech features and
tackles numerous aspects of Santa Claus--including calculations of cookie
and milk consumption; how he gets around the world so quickly; how he gets
down the chimney, etc. On Christmas Eve, the page will track Santa using
digital animation, satellite/cockpit images and audio reports from
Cheyenne Mountain--NORAD's Operations Command Center. New images and
reports will be posted every hour for a 24-hour period. The site is
available in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. (Requires the
Flash multimedia plug-in for your Web browser.)
06 December 1999 - Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!
Snowflakes - A Thematic Approach
provides K-12 teachers with a flurry of ideas for using snow to deliver
interesting and exciting interdisciplinary instruction perfect for the
holiday season. Happy Holidays from the Sandburg Center for Sky Awareness!
29 November 1999 - Sun Cam
Building upon our Solar Maximum theme, we point you toward the Sun Cam, courtesy
Discovery Channel Online. And while you're there, check out the Sunburn Cam
which focuses upon the danger of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation
from the Sun (another of our Themes for
22 November 1999 - Are You Aware...
...that the sky is on the air? Huh?
Look, listen (with RealPlayer), and
enjoy the online version of the following sky awareness radio programs:
Weather Notebook, A Radio Show about Weather and Everyday Life from
the Mount Washington Observatory (home of the world's worst weather).
radio--the longest-running science feature in the country--is the daily
astronomy-related radio program produced by the McDonald Observatory,
University of Texas.
- Earth & Sky @World of
Science includes a link to "Tonight's Sky" featuring a sky chart
generated by Starry Night Deluxe.
15 November 1999 - Mercurian Transit
On Monday, 15 November 1999, the western Hemisphere will be treated to an
astronomical event unseen for 25 years. On that day the tiny planet
Mercury will pass between the Sun and the Earth--an event known as a
"transit." Who else but the Exploratorium, who has Webcast the last two
total solar eclipses, would be crazy enough to attempt Webcasting the tiny
10 arc-second diameter disk of Mercury?
The event starts at 1:00 p.m. PST (4:00 p.m. EST) when you can join the
Webcast by going to the following Web site (live now except for the
The famous 36" refractor telescope at Lick Observatory will be used to
bring you the images of the transit. The transit will last about one (1)
hour. Archives of the transit will be posted for those who cannot
experience it live.
08 November 1999 - Solar Maximum
To learn more about the upcoming solar maximum, visit NASA's Sunspots and the Solar Cycle Web
site (including today's sunspot number, What is "The Solar Cycle?", and
many other interesting features). View real-time images of sunspots by
very latest SOHO images Web site; click on the "MDI Continuum"
image (third from left). Very cool! (Actually, sunspots are
relatively cool areas that appear as dark blemishes on the face of the
01 November 1999 - Weather Underground Astronomy
Visit the Weather Underground Washington, DC
Forecast Web page, then follow the link to "Astronomy" for an
interactive night sky image generated with Distant Suns (commercial
planetarium software). Not as good as a visit to your local planetarium,
but hey, not bad!
25 October 1999 - Start of the New Millenium?
How many days 'til the end of the century/start of the new millenium?
Well, longer than you think! More in a minute. But first, visit the Days-Between-Dates
Calculator to calculate the number of days between two dates, e.g.,
the number of days between now and the end of the millenium--the
actual end of the millenium.
Now back to the end of the century/start of the millenium--it isn't
31 DEC 1999/01 JAN 2000! For more information, visit the United States Naval Observatory Web
site, then follow the hyperlink to "Millenium Pages."
18 October 1999 - Constellation of the Month (CoM)
11 October 1999 - Second Annual AGI Earth Science Week
Celebrate Earth Science
Week, 10-16 October 1999. The American Geological Institute (AGI)
initiated Earth Science Week in 1998, the institute's 50th anniversary, as
a way to achieve its mission to educate people about Earth, the earth
sciences and the importance of earth scientists' work in solving the
challenges we face as the planet changes.
04 October 1999 - Cricket Chirp Converter
Did you know that the rate at which crickets
chirp is loosely correlated with air temperature? See for yourself by
counting the number of cricket chirps in 15 seconds, then enter that
number in the Cricket Chirp
Converter, and voila--your very own "cricket thermometer!" For
example, click on the cricket to hear it chirp--in slightly less than 15
seconds, it chirps 23 times, which converts to an air temperature of
Compare the chirping rate of outdoor versus indoor crickets (as overnight
low temperatures tumble, notice that more of 'em are seeking shelter
indoors!). Verify the accuracy of the cricket thermometer by using an
actual thermometer (caution: use only alcohol thermometers with children!)
to observe the air temperature (outdoor and indoor). Have fun!
A couple of suggested insect- and
cricket-related activities in which students make observations and create
scientific illustrations based upon their observations: Cricket
Diagrams; and Cricket
Life Cycle (activities courtesy Joanne Goodwin, Technology Resource
Teacher, Churchill Road ES, Fairfax County, VA).
Geoscience-Related Information Servers | Geosystems in FCPS
Meteorological Society DataStreme Project