Academic journal article Science Scope

Exoplanet Explosion

Academic journal article Science Scope

Exoplanet Explosion

Article excerpt

NASA's Kepler Mission has been searching for Earth-sized planets orbiting Sun-sized stars. Recently, NASA announced that more than 2,300 exoplanets had been identified using data from the Mission's specialized telescope. Three candidates in particular caught the media's attention in December: Kepler 22b, located in a habitable zone of orbit, but too large in size to support life; and Kepler 20e and 20f, Earth-sized planets in orbital zones too close to their stars to harbor life as we know it.

New discoveries like these are why astronomy excites the imagination of nearly everyone, not just Star Trek and other science fiction fans, but middle school students as well. Astronomy is a key curriculum topic in the current National Science Education Standards for grades 5-8, and is the first (ESS1) of three core ideas for Earth and Space Sciences found in chapter 7 of the newly released Framework for K-12 Science Education. 'The first core idea, ESS1: Earth's Place in the Universe, describes the universe as a whole and addresses its grand scale in both space and time. This idea includes the overall structure, composition, and history of the universe, the forces and processes by which the solar system operates, and Earth's planetary history" (NRC 2011, p. 7-2).

A vivid imagination and a sense of excitement is not sufficient enough for students to fully understand the impact of announcements like those from NASA or to meet the educational goals outlined by the newly released Framework. …

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