scsa home | mission & goals | scheduling | site visits | curriculum | planetarium visits
what's up? | sos | com | special events | resources | wow! | what's new? | contact us | credits
"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 Past WoWs!

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, ...

Past WoWs!

22 May 2000 - Lightning Safety

    Take cover! 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, visit Lightning 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.)

    Suggested Teaching StrategyTeacher 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 lightning, 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.

    Solar Calculator
    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.

    The Analemma
    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, well, analemmas!

    Sundial Generator
    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

    NHAW - May 12-20, 2000Due 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. Gray's prediction.

    Suggested Teaching StrategiesThe 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 hurricanes, 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

    Space Day
    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 Embrace Space.

    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, Kalmbach Publishing.)

    Suggested Teaching Strategy Teacher Tip: Two views to help students visualize the May 2000 planetary conjunction:
    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.

    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. 77°W.

24 April 2000 - National Sky Awareness Week

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

03 April 2000 - Astronomy Day/Week (and Space Day)

27 MAR 2000 - Where in the World is Carl-man Sandburg-io?

    Our 
Home in SpaceWhat 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 aerial photograph.
      • 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).

    Suggested Teaching StrategyTeacher 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

    WeatherNet4 Weather CalendarPick 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.

    Suggested Teaching StrategiesTeacher 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

    Tornado!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 planners.

    Suggested Teaching StrategiesTeacher 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, including tornadoes, lightning, floods, extreme heat, hurricanes, winter weather, and earthquakes. Designed for grades 4-12.

    Examining 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 is, ...

28 February 2000 - Man-Made Shooting Stars: Tracking Satellites

    Hubble 
Space TelescopeBe 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.]
    • NASA's Observatorium Fun & Games - a wide variety of Java-based activities, including a couple of good geography-related applications of remotely-sensed imagery.
    • 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 error!]
    • 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 Netscape 4.0 or higher; ignore the Javascript error messages.]

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

    Bob Ryan, WRC-TV Chief MeteorologistThe 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 Crystals

    Total Lunar Eclipse Redux
    Total 
Lunar Eclipse ReduxIf 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
    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:
    • An 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 eclipses).
    • NASA/GSFC's Eclipse Photography Web page offers helpful tips regarding "Lunar Eclipse Observing and Photography."
    Wish upon a star for clear skies on the night of 20-21 JAN!

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 Holidays!!!

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 Shockwave Flash multimedia plug-in for your Web browser.)

06 December 1999 - Let it Snow, 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 1999-2000).

22 November 1999 - Are You Aware...

    Tune in to the sky......that the sky is on the air? Huh? Look, listen (with RealPlayer), and enjoy the online version of the following sky awareness radio programs:

    • The Weather Notebook, A Radio Show about Weather and Everyday Life from the Mount Washington Observatory (home of the world's worst weather).
    • StarDate 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 video):

    http://www.exploratorium.edu/transit/

    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 visiting The 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 Sun.)

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

    Click here to hear cricket 
chirping...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 63°F (17.2°C).

    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!

    Suggested Teaching StrategiesA 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
American Meteorological Society DataStreme Project