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Professional Development Workshops

Workshop One: Moon-Earth System

[developed and offered via Planets Are Places Too]

The Moon has fascinated and puzzled humanity for millennia. People have gazed at the Moon, watching it wax and wane in the sky with the passage of each month, contemplating its contrasting patterns of light and dark patches, which have been interpreted by different cultures at various times, as animals, insects, even a face; the Moon has been worshiped and feared. However, over the last 300 years, the Moon has been subject to scientific scrutiny and we, as a society, have become aware of the Moon as more than just an enigmatic heavenly body, but as a place; a tangible destination, which we have visited and will visit again.

Many seasoned schoolteachers may remember watching the first moon landings as children; some more fledgling teachers may only remember reading about them. In either case, much was learned about the Moon in the years leading to, and following those landings. This workshop will focus on fundamental observations one can make of the Moon and will provide a robust inquiry-based assessment of those observations in order to provide the participant a greater depth of understanding of the Moon as a planetary body and Moon-Earth System.


1. Observe the Moon (using ground based photos, simulate looking at the Moon from one’s backyard)
     A) Recognize/explain lunar phases (new moon, quarter moon, full moon, etc.)
            discuss orbits of Earth and Moon
     B) Recognize/describe surface features
             light and dark areas
             circular features

2. Photogeology (using a variety of image data sets form spacecraft missions)
     A) Scale exercise
             Map scale, image resolution
     B) Surfaces
             Smooth, rough, dark, light
     C) Craters and plains
             Structure, size (width, depth), numbers

3. Impact experiments
     A) Scale relationships (mass of projectile and size of crater)
     B) Effects of target materials
     C) Features of craters (floor, wall, rim, ejecta)

4. Age of the surface (methods of determining relative and absolute age dates)
     A) Geologic relationships
            Crosscutting and embayment relationships (laws of superposition, original horizontality)
     B) Crater counting
            Population of objects in the solar system (comets, asteroids)

5. Insights into geology of Earth from study of the Moon (and Origin of the Moon)
     A) Formation of the Moon
     B) Crater history and age of the surface

6. Future exploration of the Moon



Workshop Two: Exploring the Terrestrial Planets

[developed and offered via Planets Are Places Too]

Study of the Earth and its heavenly neighbors by human and robotic exploration and ground-based and orbiting telescopes, continually increases our pool of knowledge from which we mold our perceptions of the solar system and the means by which it has arrived at its present state. This workshop will introduce the science of comparative planetology and provide background information regarding current trends in planetary geology.


1. Big picture comparison of physical properties of terrestrial planets
     A) Orbit, size, density, surface conditions, etc.

2. Review/introduce Moon-Earth system (workshop one) and introduce some global datasets of the terrestrial planets
     A) Compare topography of planets and image data from various spacecraft images
     B) Using physical properties and datasets, place 'new' terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars) into a continuum between Earth-like and Moon-like, explain what parameters were used to group and differentiate the planets

3. What makes the surfaces of some planets young?
     A) Physical/chemical weathering, plate tectonics, resurfacing

4. Half-life exercise
     A) Discuss radiometric age dating with respect to biostratigraphy (Earth), Lunar samples returned by astronauts (Moon), and meteorites (Mars and solar system)

5. Photogeologic mapping exercise
     A) Examine images of the surfaces of Mercury, Mars, and Venus



Workshop Three: Impact Cratering

[developed and offered via Explorer's Guide II]

The collision of high velocity asteroids or comets with a planetary surface produces a tremendous explosion, in which the impactor (also referred to as the projectile ) releases all of its energy and is completely destroyed, ultimately leaving a huge hole on the ground and spewing a large amount of material all around.

Although Galileo discovered craters on the Moon in 1609, for a long time the lunar craters were believed to be volcanic, and the process of impact cratering was not considered until the late 1800s, with the scientific acceptance of the extraterrestrial origin of meteorites. The full connection between meteorites and craters was made only in 1906, when Daniel Moreau Barringer demonstrated that Meteor Crater, in northern Arizona, is of meteoritic origin. With the advent of the space program it has become clear that impact is one of the fundamental geologic processes affecting all planetary and asteroidal bodies. With the exception of Jupiter s satellite Io, whose surface is continually renewed by volcanic processes, all Solar System bodies with solid surfaces show the presence of craters, from less than 200 on Earth to millions on the Moon and Mercury and other bodies. This workshop will provide a background in the process of impact cratering, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with geologic materials, and an inquiry-based understanding of impact craters and how they affect the solar system.


1. Introduction to impact craters on the Earth
     A) Distribution, size, age
     B) Morphology of terrestrial craters: target influence and preservation
     C) Criteria for recognizing impact craters

2. Virtual field trips of impact craters
     A) Take a virtual tour of Meteor Crater, Haughton Crater, and Ries Crater via "The Explorer's Guide to Impact Craters" website

3. Learning about impact rocks
     A) Introduction to impact rocks
     B) Describe tock textures and characteristics
     C) Match impact rocks with location in or around the crater

4. Impact experiments
     A) Scale relationships (mass of projectile and size of crater)
     B) Effects of target materials
     C) Features of craters (floor, wall, rim, ejecta)
     D) Limitations of the experiment: laboratory versus natural impacts

5. Dating planetary surfaces with craters
     A) Crater counting of a planetary surface
     B) Use known age/crater relations to estimate the surface age
     C) Interpretation and implications of the results

6. Chances of impact
     A) Review the population of objects in the solar system (comets, asteroids,)
     B) Review of Near Earth Objects (NEO) and their potential danger
     C) Estimating the impact hazard for few known NEOs
     D) Using the "Impact Effects" website to evaluate a potential hit



Workshop Four: Volcanoes of the Solar System

[developed and offered via Planets are Places Too II]

Volcanoes and lava fields are found on all the rocky planets of the Solar System: on the Earth and Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and many smaller satellites of the outer gaseous planets. The widespread occurrence of volcanic provinces (past and present) stresses the importance of volcanism in the creation and evolution of planets. This prominent role is due to the fact that planets are born hot and continue to produce heat, albeit at a declined rate, throughout their lifetimes. Magmatism and volcanism are the fundamental mechanisms that allow planets to cool off, by transporting heat upward to the surface, where it is radiated to space. This workshop will provide a background in Volcanology, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with geologic materials, and an inquiry-based understanding of volcanoes and how they work throughout the solar system.


1. Introduction to volcanoes on the Earth
     A) Distribution/surface patterns
     B) Types of volcanoes/eruption styles
     C) Importance of studying and monitoring volcanoes: volcanic hazards

2. Volcanic rock exercise 1
     A) Introduction to types of volcanic rocks
     B) Describe tock textures and characteristics
             Intrusive vs. extrusive volcanic rocks
             Lavas vs. pyroclastic rocks
             Crystallization and bubble formation

3. Volcanic rock exercise 2
     A) Link rock descriptions to processes of formation
             Participants will describe volcanic rock characteristics, classify the rocks, and then place them in an appropriate volcanic setting

4. Role of gases in volcanic eruptions: discussion and demonstration using carbonated beverage analog

5. Studying volcanoes from space
     A) Monitoring volcanoes on Earth from space
     B) Volcanoes in the solar system: photogeology exercise



Workshop Five: Deserts of the Solar System

Deserts are areas of low precipitation (rain or snow) and cover about one third of Earth s land surface. Their locations - mostly in the north and south mid-latitudes and polar regions - are governed by global atmospheric circulation and local topography. Some deserts are hot, like the Sahara, and some are cold, like the Antarctic plateau. The lack of moisture in deserts limits the growth of plants, so geologic features (e.g., sand dunes and dry riverbeds) and processes are easily seen in arid and hyper-arid regions. Nearly all the solid surfaces on other planets and moons in the solar system are deserts (Mars is basically one large cold desert, whereas Venus is one huge hot desert). This workshop will provide an introduction to deserts on Earth, desert landforms and processes, and specific information on the geology of the Tucson region. Participants will examine and make comparisons between deserts on Earth and Mars.


1. Introduction and definitions
     A) Global circulation. climate, and occurrence of deserts
             Deserts of the Earth: Case studies

2. Desert processes and landforms
     A) Processes: Fluvial, aeolian, mass wasting, weathering, soil formation
     B) Landforms: Dunes, channels, landslides, playas

3. Geology of the Sonoran desert
     A) Regional tectonic setting
     B) Geologic history of the Tucson region
     C) Desert landforms of southern Arizona

4. Tucson from space (using aerial photographs and satellite images)
     A) Mountain ranges
     B) Tucson basin: Driver systems (Santa Cruz, Tanque Verde, and Pantano), types of rocks found in the major washes and their source regions
     C) Rock cycle as applied to the Tucson region (use Rocks of the Desert rock kit)

5. Introduction to Extra-terrestrial deserts
     A) Case study: Mars
             Exercise: Locating and identifying desert landforms from remotely-sensed images using Google Mars. Measuring landforms on Mars for comparison with those on Earth

6. Evidence of climate change
     A) Dry rivers in Tucson (due to population growth and increased water use)
     B) Dry lakes and rivers systems in the Great Basin (climate change between ice ages and interglacials)
     C) Story of Anasazi in Arizona and drying climate
     D) Climate change on Mars



Workshop Six: Astrobiology and the Search for Extrasolar Planetary Systems

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, distribution and evolution (past and future) of life. While we have no confirmed evidence of life beyond Earth, the search for life is not limited to Earth alone. It is thus crucial to address the fundamental questions: What is life? What does life need to originate and develop? What do we look for, when searching for life? How did life begin and evolve? Can we find life beyond the Earth? Where else in the Solar System might life exist? This workshop will introduce some of the concepts central to Astrobiology, and provide an inquiry-based understanding of the difficulties associated with understanding life and its origin, development and future on the Earth and in the Universe.



1. Definition and conditions for life
     A) Criteria used to define life
     B) The 20 questions game: Is it alive?
     C) Introduction to the general conditions required for life as we know it

2. Extremophiles
     A) Introduction to extremophiles on Earth and their extreme habitats
     B) Comparison with various planetary habitats with extreme conditions

3. The search for habitability beyond Earth
     A) Follow the water: Earth is a "water world" and suggests that when looking for life in space we should identify other "water worlds" (e.g., Mars,. Ceres, Europa, Enceladus)
     B) The "Habitable Zone" around a star
     C) Alien Earths: looking for Earth-like planets around other stars and possible indication of life (bio-markers and/or SETI)

4. Life and Changing Environments
     A) Life adapts to environments available to it, as shown by adaptation of extremophiles to extreme conditions
     B) Earth climate: look at the climate on Earth during the Phanerozoic (last 500 Myr)
     C) Climate change: How has life reacted to periods of changing climates on Earth? How does the current antropogenic climate change compare to natural climate change?



Workshop Seven: Asteroid-Meteorite Connection

[developed and offered via Workshops in Science and Education Resources]

Asteroids are the remnants of the material that formed the planets and their satellites. We can learn much about the formation and evolution of our Solar System by studying them. Most of what we know about the asteroids is limited to observing them with Earth- and space-based telescopes and from spacecraft missions that have flown by or orbited a few asteroids. Fortunately, we have one other way to study material from asteroids: meteorites. Impacts in the asteroid belt bring material from the asteroids for us to study on the Earth, connecting our telescopic and space craft observations with actual samples of asteroids material.

This workshop addresses the following questions about asteroids and meteorites: What are they? How do we study them? What do we learn from them? Why are they important?



1. Categorizing objects
     A) Importance and use of categorization in science
     B) Ways to categorize objects in the solar system

2. Unexplored world/How we learn about unexplored worlds
     A) Practice observing unknown objects
     B) Explain how inferences are made from observations
     C) Discuss instruments and methods for observing objects in the solar system

3. Tour of the solar system
     A) Images and discussion of planets, dwarf planets, satellites, asteroids, comets, and other solar system bodies

4. Asteroid and meteorite connection
     A) Images and discussion of the formation, characteristics, and properties of asteroids and meteorites
     B) Earth processes - the rock cycle

5. PSI meteorite kits
     A) Use PSI meteorite kits to identify and classify types of meteorites

6. Sky lights: Asteroid and meteorite spectra
     A) Match spectra of meteorites and asteroids

7. What are little asteroids made of?
     A) Composition of the Earth
     B) The rock cycle
     C) The geology of asteroids
     D) The types of asteroids
     E) Finding the ages of asteroids
     F) Densities of common compounds

8. From dust to planets: Formation of the solar system
     A) Origin and evolution of the solar system
     B) Use of observations of planets and dust around other stars to validate current theories of the formation of the solar system
     C) Discussion of the Late Heavy Bombardment and formation of the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud

9. Stories rocks can tell

10. Tale of three asteroids: Putting it all together

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