UNH Space Scientists Reach
Out to the Public
May 1 Event in Concord Features NASA-Sponsored
Contact: David Sims
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
April 27, 2004
DURHAM, N.H. -- When scientists at the University of New Hampshire
work with the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA)
on a mission, public outreach and education is an integral part
of the deal.
Take, for example, one project currently underway at the Space
Science Center (SSC) in the university's Institute for the Study
of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS). Scientists, engineers and technicians
are in the flight assembly stage of building two identical instruments
for the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory or STEREO. The instruments
were designed and are being fabricated at the SSC.
The instruments, called PLASTIC for the Plasma and Suprathermal
Ion Composition Investigation, will be delivered to NASA later this
year, says Antoinette Galvin, lead scientist for the UNH effort.
The $11 million contract includes $150,000 in education and public
outreach funds, which, among other things, UNH-STEREO is using to
help sponsor the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium's “Spacetacular
Saturday” to be held in Concord May 1 from 1 to 9 p.m.
“NASA recognizes that in order to achieve the technical successes
they're noted for they have to have a well-educated public and a
pipeline of future engineers and scientists for the next generation
of missions,” Galvin says.
Over the past eight years, NASA has implemented what it characterizes
as being perhaps “the largest single program in astronomy
and space science education ever undertaken.” In 2002, NASA
invested more than $35 million in its education and public outreach
“It's a way for NASA to go through its principle investigators
and reach beyond the university. It's good for us and it's good
for the community,” Galvin says.
UNH-STEREO is also putting outreach money towards Project SMART
(Science and Mathematics Achievement through Research Training -
a NH Space Grant Consortium program for high school students), development
of software for a radio telescope located at EOS (data from which
will eventually be accessible in real-time to classrooms around
the state), and other McAuliffe planetarium programs. Other UNH-NASA
missions contribute outreach money in similar fashion.
STEREO is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes
program, scheduled to launch in February 2006 aboard a single Delta
II rocket. This two-year mission will employ two nearly identical
space-based observatories to provide the first-ever 3-D stereoscopic
images to study the nature of the Sun's coronal mass ejections or
The PLASTIC experiment will provide plasma characteristics of protons,
alpha particles and heavy ions. PLASTIC is the primary sensor on
STEREO for studying the processes between the corona and solar wind,
and between solar wind and the heliosphere. The heliosphere is the
region of space through which the solar wind extends.
For more information on the planetarium's Spacetacular Saturday,
visit www.starhop.com. For
more information on the UNH STEREO-PLASTIC mission, visit http://stereo.sr.unh.edu/stereo.html.