Canadian Astronaut Steve MacLean will be counting the stars aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis as it orbits the earth on its next mission. He's hoping that children across the US and Canada will join him. NASA Education Specialist Linus Guillory explains...
"He's simply going to find a window, make a tube, and essentially look out and count stars from his end."
Gillory says MacLean will then upload his information to a website. Students can get a paper towel roll for a tube and count a section of the sky also. They'll then upload their data to the same site. Gillory says counting is just the beginning of the experiment for children.
"They're asked to consider their latitude, longitude. They're asked to consider their elevation. They are asked to look at cloud cover, pollution, things like that. So while the hook is the astronaut onboard doing this type of activity, really as a learner, students will be pulled into a lot more."
The Star Count Project gets students to look to the sky to learn something about their home planet. Educational Specialist Jon Neubauer says students can compare the Houston sky to one over say Montana or for that matter, how the sky looks from the shuttle.
"You can take an activity that appears to be simple, you know looking through a tube and counting the number of stars. Educators can really make this a worthwhile experience investigating some more complex science, or math concepts with their students."
NASA says students can learn not only about light pollution, but how pollution in general can change the night sky. Gillory says wildfires, volcanic eruptions and other natural occurrences can affect the skies.
"You really need to have an appreciation for what's going on around the country and around the world and this is one of those activities that will push students to explore what's happening in Mexico. Are the fires burning again? What's happening in other parts of the world that may be impacting us and we don't see it because it's not happening within our borders but there are certainly impacts that come from them."
You can find a link to the Star Count Project at KUHF-dot-org. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.