It Came from Outer Space!
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Engagement and Exploration (Student Inquiry Activity
Describe the world you have set up outside. Tell them that the beans represent meteorites. Tell them that each team will get 30 seconds to find meteorites. They are to pick two of their members to search while the others help from outside the square. The rest of the class can watch.
After the first team has had its turn, the teacher will help them count their meteorites, and then throw them back readying "the earth" for the next team, and so on.
Give out the Student Handout(see below).Have them fill it out and tell them that they will have to submit their answers as part of their final report for evaluation.
Discuss the class's answers. Do they all agree that Antarctica is the best place on earth for collecting meteorites? If not, or to convince them further, explain that the Antarctic Ice Sheet is like a conveyor belt. That after time a meteorite which has fallen in the center of the ice sheet finds itself transported to the coast as the glaciers and ice streams move. Then it is easy to collect them in virtual piles at the coast or along the front of the Transantarctic mountains. (MAP) Also explain that Antarctica only rarely, and only in some places, has liquid water ( a sometimes occurrence in the McMurdo Dry Valleys). Since liquid water is so rare there, there will be little chance for chemical weathering of the samples. Meteorites collected in Antarctica are pretty much, even after thousands of years of lying on the ice cap, the way they were when they hit the surface. Students may bring up the difficulty of working in Antarctica, that maybe they would rather search for meteorites on the French Riviera or on Maui. Smile and agree with them. But then say, let's look at teams of researchers at work collecting meteorites and doing other space related work in Antarctica. It is really not that bad and is one of the greatest adventures researchers can have.
OK! We all want to congratulate the _____team for their splendid work. They will get the NASA?NSF contract for continuing using their superb finding skills.
But now we'll go back to our table groups, and each table group will prepare a realistic Meteorite Search Plan for the Earth.
Elaboration (Polar Applications)
Using the Antarctic map and the internet outline a research mission to Antarctica which begins in November and ends in February, the austral summer. Your task is to journey from McMurdo Base to a location of your choice which you believe will yield quantities of meteorites. You are to write a series of collection protocols, strict rules which you will follow while collecting the meteorites to avoid any chance of contamination. How will you pick them up? In what sort of a container will you keep them? How will you protect them while transporting them back to your lab at home? Resources A great place to start your researches into this problem is the web page entitled "Planetary Materials Curation at NASA JSC". http://www-curator.jsc.nasa.gov/curator/curator.htm
Another place to start would be the journals of TEA Sue Bowman ../../tea_bowmanfrontpage.html
Sue went to Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole during the 98-99 season to work on the AMANDA Project which was designed to measure neutrino muons from space. Reading her journals will give you a feeling of what it's like to do astronomical research in Antarctica .
Evaluation (Assessing Student Performance)