Science & Exploration

Abstracts - ESA Summer Workshop for Teachers 2013

08/03/2013 878 views 4 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Education


Workshop abstracts and presenters


WS 1 - Mars as the abode for life?

Anu Ojha is Director of the National Space Academy (National Space Centre, Leicester, UK)

Since the dawn of the telescopic age of astronomy, Mars has exerted a unique hold on humanity’s imagination. The current suite of ESA missions including Mars Express and the upcoming ExoMars missions will be precursors to human exploration later this century and in this hands-on interactive workshop, attendees will explore novel ways of using the inspirational context of Martian science and discovery in the physics classroom to boost core understanding of fundamental physics concepts.

These include activities related to the modelling of gravitational fields and associated phenomena, gas laws and the consequences for life in the Martian environment, the relationship between the behaviour of charged particles in magnetic fields and why Mars has lost most of its atmosphere. Participants will also learn how to build a working cloud chamber to illustrate the dangers associated with galactic cosmic radiation and the consequences for the Martian environment.


WS 2 - Is there life out there?

Chris Carr is a National Space Academy Lead Educator based at John Leggott Sixth Form College, Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire.

A highly interactive workshop that looks at the nature of life, both on this planet and possibly beyond. Practical sessions include:  Search for life/organic molecules - Investigating sand samples for evidence of organic molecules (starch, protein, sugars, etc) and life forms (yeast). Linking with Viking missions; Surviving the extremes - Discussion on extremophiles and the weird and wonderful places they inhabit; Mars as an extreme environment -  The story of how Mars lost its magnetic field, atmosphere and eventually its water. Practical demonstrations looking at effect of reducing air pressure on boiling point of water using syringes. UV pens and key rings to demonstrate high energy radiation and link to resulting damage it causes to organic molecules; Hunting for life on Mars -  Discussion on the ExoMars mission and principle of drilling below the Martian surface to look for indicators of life. Hunting for amine groups - stereoisomerism of amino acids and possibility of discovering DNA. Practical on DNA extraction from residue left behind by a life form (human saliva).


WS 3 - Satellites communications and operations


From the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt a host of ESA spacecraft – involved in exploring the solar system (Venus Express, Mars Express, Rosetta), investigating the Universe (XMM Newton, Planck, Integral, Herschel) and monitoring our home planet (GOCE, Cryosat 2) – are controlled. Satellite operations includes flight dynamics and mission analysis (spacecraft orbits, trajectories and paths within planetary atmospheres), software development, spacecraft navigation and tracking, satellite communications and the coordination of  information on debris in space (both artificial and natural).

In this hands-on workshop attendees will explore a suite of practical interactive activities and projects that can be used to teach the fundamental mathematical, physics, chemistry and engineering principles that form the core of science behind ESOC’s work – and will also learn how they and their students can acquire and utilise real-time satellite data from CubeSat missions in the classroom.


WS 4 - ESA SOHO data archive in the classroom 


Much of the data returned by ESA’s fleet of Solar System and astronomy missions is public and freely available to use. In this session participants will discover the wealth of the ESA science data archives, especially those of SOHO, ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

SOHO is a space-based observatory that is studying the Sun from its deep core to its outer atmosphere - the corona. It also studies the solar wind, to a distance ten times beyond the Earth's orbit.

During this workshop participants will learn how to use the archive tool in order to access over 15 years’ worth of scientific data of the Sun taken by SOHO. Participants will explore the archives and find out how to utilise the data in the classroom in order to enhance secondary science lessons.


WS 5 - Mapping our own galaxy, the Milky Way, with Gaia


Whilst it is relatively easy to learn about the structure of far-away galaxies, we have a less clear picture of our own backyard, the Milky Way. Unable to view our Galaxy from outside, we have to rely on special techniques and highly sensitive instruments to map the stars in the sky. Following the promising early results of the Hipparcos satellite, ESA will launch its successor, Gaia, in late 2013. Gaia will accurately map and classify a billion objects in the night sky providing the most detailed 3D view of our Milky Way Galaxy ever seen, crucial for astronomers to understand how the Milky Way formed and how it might evolve in the future.

During this workshop, participants will learn about key techniques employed by Gaia to map our Galaxy. These include stellar distance measurements using ‘Stellar Parallax’ and a star-counting exercise to determine the number of stars visible in the night sky. By performing real astronomy experiments similar to those undertaken by early astronomers such as William Herschel, participants will get a feel for observational astronomy and experimental methods, and the observational conditions which can affect astronomers’ results. A unique feature of this workshop is that the materials for both experiments include modifications to make them suitable for a wide age range, from upper primary school level to students taking advanced maths/physics/astronomy courses towards the end of high school.

WS 6 - Exploring the moon: Was Jules Verne right or wrong?

Bernhard Sturm teaches chemistry and physics at the Neues Gymnasium, a secondary school in Oldenburg, Northern Germany.

In 1870 Jules Verne wrote his novels “From the Earth to the moon” and ”All around the moon”. In these books, he described the preparation of a rocket and a successful trip around the moon using the scientific knowledge of his age. His visions fascinated readers in the end of the 19th century and - although moon landings and space traveling came true - they still do in these days.

This workshop will guide participants from quotations to simple experiments for the classroom and ask for correspondences and differences between Verne´s imaginations and current space missions. It stresses chemical aspects in earlier and current rocket propulsion substances, the appearance and use of gas flames as energy sources, oxygen supply with non-renewable or renewable substances, disposal of carbon dioxide, but also shows other phenomena that can be explained with chemical model experiments and used for interesting application links in chemical lessons, such as thin jets of water or droplets demonstrating trajectories of space shuttles.


WS 7 - Sherlock Holmes on board the ISS

Theodoros Pierratos is Head of Laboratory Centre for Physical Sciences of Evosmos, Thessaloniki, Greece

During a spacewalk an astronaut lost radio contact with the ground and his crew. A few minutes later he was found unconscious. Thanks to immediate medical help provided by the crew of the ISS the astronaut recovered but he was unable to explain what happened to him. Can you follow the clues and find out what really happened out there?
In this workshop the participating teachers are involved in a forensic based activity, supposedly, taking place in space.  By performing experiments which will answer the following questions will they be able to come to some kind of conclusion to solve the mystery: Does the extremely cold environment affect materials’ properties? What phenomena can the ultraviolet radiation cause? How does the solar wind affect the electronic equipment? How does the micro gravity environment affect the astronauts?

WS 8 - The threat from space - simulating asteroid and comet impacts 

Paul Roche is director of the Faulkes Telescopes Project and Head of Astronomy at the University of Glamorgan, Cardiff, UK

The meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk in February of this year highlighted the potential threat of impacts from fragments of ice (comets), iron and stone (asteroids) with Earth. This workshop will cover the "Down to Earth" project, a UK-based education programme that uses the science of asteroids, comets, impacts and meteorites to teach fundamental physics concepts such as kinetic energy. A recent collaboration with ESA has allowed an update to the multilingual "Impact Calculator" website, and the development of an Android phone app, which will be demonstrated in this workshop. We will also look at how schools can access astronomical data (and even live observations) of asteroids and comets using the Faulkes Telescope Project, including tracking comet 67/P, the target of the Rosetta mission.

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