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Comets and Asteroids Educator Conference

Comets and Asteroids Educator Conference A composite image of comet Borrelly, taken by NASA's Deep Space 1. Image credit: NASA/JPL Larger image

December 21, 2010

Comets and Asteroids Educator Conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
February 5, 2011
8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Recommended for Grades 5 - 8 Educators

What: Comets, asteroids and protoplanets are the leftover building blocks of planets, which may have contributed water and organic material to ancient Earth, aiding the start of life. By observing these small bodies up close, scientists better understand the formation and evolution of our solar system and how life came to exist here on Earth.

With the recent success of the EPOXI mission capturing never-before-seen images of Comet Hartley 2, NASA's knowledge about our solar system's smaller bodies continues to expand. The recycled EPOXI (formerly Deep Impact) spacecraft, having already completed its original 2004 flyby of comet Tempel 1, and the Stardust spacecraft, another repurposed vehicle on its way to take a second look at Tempel 1, are part of a suite of missions investigating comets, asteroids and protoplanets.

On February 14, 2011, Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel 1) will encounter Comet Tempel 1, providing a unique opportunity to measure the dust properties of two separate comets (Wild 2 and Tempel 1) with the same instrument for accurate data comparison. The encounter will also provide a comparison between two observations of a single comet, Tempel 1, taken before and after a single orbit around the sun.

In July 2011, the Dawn mission will investigate in detail two of the largest protoplanets, Ceres and Vesta, to help scientists understand the conditions that led to planetary formation and diversity. To complete the suite, in 2014, the solar-powered Rosetta spacecraft will land a probe on Comet P67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and orbit its nucleus to examine how a frozen comet is transformed by the warmth of the sun.

Hear from mission experts about the growing interest in these smaller bodies and the difficulties that prevail with each mission. Discover hands-on activities you can do with your students as well as resources that are available from each mission.

Who: All educators (including museum staff) and students (high school and above) interested in Earth, space science and exploration. The conference content is generally non-technical but does include some detailed scientific and engineering content. The objective of the conference is to tell the exciting tale of real-life exploration and new discovery in a way that will excite and inspire students. High school students under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a registered adult.  This workshop will be a series of presentations as well as introduction to hands-on activities mainly targeted for grades 5-8, however activities can be adapted for both lower and higher grade levels. Instructional materials and resources will be shared and hands-on activity materials will be provided.

When: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's von Kármán Auditorium. JPL is located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in north Pasadena. For directions please visit . Note that pre-registration is required.  Walk-up registration will not be possible for this conference.
How: To register for this conference please download the registration form (PDF) and fill it out:

You will need to send a check postmarked by February 1, 2011, for $25 payable to "Jet Propulsion Laboratory." Details are on the registration form.

Please register by February 1, 2011. The $25 registration fee includes continental breakfast and a boxed lunch. For registration questions please call the JPL Education Office at 818-393-0561. For other questions please call the JPL Educator Resource Center at 909-397-4420.