STEM through the lens
Chances are you’ve seen this photograph before—maybe on a T-shirt, on a billboard, or in a TV ad. The “Blue Marble Shot” has been reprinted more than any other photograph in history. It was taken on December 7, 1972, by one of the three Apollo 17 astronauts on their way to the Moon. But no one knows which astronaut took the picture because all three claimed to have been the photographer.
During the few minutes Apollo 17 flew across the place in space located directly between the Sun and Earth (which was 28,000 miles away), no one should have been looking out of the window as they all had important tasks to do. But, obviously, someone, and perhaps everyone, was looking out. One of them grabbed a camera and clicked the shutter four times.
After Apollo 17 returned to Earth, the picture was published on the front page of newspapers all over the world. For the first time ever, people saw the full planet Earth completely flooded in sunshine. Heavy clouds swirled over vast oceans. The African coastline was clearly visible, with its northeastern edge fitting like a puzzle piece with the Arabian Peninsula. Madagascar, the fourth largest island on Earth, was slightly off center, looking like a slipper floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean. And because the photo was taken just two weeks before the winter solstice, Earth’s southern hemisphere was tilted toward the sun, revealing Antarctica. For the first time ever, the south polar ice caps appeared in a photo.
The mystery of who took the picture has never been solved. The commander of the mission, Eugene Cernan, who was the last man to walk on the moon, says he snapped the picture. But would the commander have had the time to take the photo at that critical point of the flight? Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, the first geologist sent to the moon, also swears that he took the picture. Perhaps that makes sense because he was responsible for making scientific observations. Ron Evans, who died in 1990, also claimed that he took the picture.
No one will ever know for sure who took the Blue Marble Shot. But the words of Commander Eugene Cernan describe what he saw out of his spaceship window “…you can look out the window and you're looking at the most beautiful star in the heavens— the most beautiful because it's the one we understand and we know, it's home, it's people, family, love, life —and besides that, it is beautiful. ”
In Alex's book Cars on Mars you can follow the course of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission as twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity explore the Red Planet. Learn how scientists determined that there was once water on Mars and how the earthbound NASA team resolved problems with the rovers from afar in order to prolong the mission, which continues today. For more information, click here.
Alex is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 CItation
Siy, Alexandra. "Mystery of the Blue Marble." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 30 Nov. 2017, www.nonfictionminute.org/ Mystery-of-the-Blue-Marble.
Stephen R. Swinburne
The celebrated astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, said, “People never look up.” Tyson or Starman, as he is called, is right. Look up and you’ll see amazing stuff: puffy cumulonimbus clouds rising 60,000 feet, broken rainbows, blue skies bluer than blue, Venus and Mars huddling beside the new moon, the Milky Way.
When you look up, you can’t help realize you are standing, feet firmly planted, on planet Earth. We are attached in a very physical way to this place...this planet called Earth.
So, not only look up, but, as Rachel Carson declared in many of her writings, “Look around, and down, and closer.”
Whether you are looking up or looking down, we celebrate our home planet every year on April 22. This celebration or “birthday” is called Earth Day and it has been going on since 1970 after Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed a day of national focus on environmental issues. Buoyed by the success of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, about the concern for living organisms and the environment, Earth Day 1970 set out to raise public awareness for the health and harmony of the planet. People from all walks of life— young and old, farmers and urban dwellers, liberals and conservatives— banded together and achieved great things. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
And now, forty-six years later, Earth Day 2016 has gone truly global. Around the world, people celebrate Earth Day with massive rallies, marches and festivals. But for many people it is not just an annual event, but all the quiet acts and the simple habits performed throughout the year. For instance, I make it a habit of recycling every piece of plastic I use (or as much as humanly possible). Less plastic that ends up in the oceans means happier and healthier sea turtles and whales.
If you want some ideas about how you can demonstrate your support for environmental protection, you might start by checking out the book, Recycle This Book - 100 Top Children’s Book Authors Tell You How To Go Green.
And if you link to the Earth Day website, you can take a peek at all the great activities planned around the world on April 22, 2018.
Let’s make this the best Earth Day ever...all year long!
With essays from renowned children’s book authors such as Ann Brashares, Jeanne DuPrau, Caroline B. Cooney, Laurie Halse Anderson, Bruce Coville, Gennifer Choldenko, and more than 100 others, each piece is an informative and inspiring call to kids of all ages to understand what’s happening to the environment, and to take action in saving our world. Helpful tips and facts are interspersed throughout.
Part of the award-winning Scientists in the Field book series, Sea Turtle Scientist introduces Dr. Kimberly Stewart, “the turtle lady,” and describes her work on St. Kitts with endangered loggerhead sea turtles. The book provides extensive information on sea turtles and Dr. Stewart’s research, as well as the efforts of WIDECAST to preserve and protect these amazing creatures. For more information, visit the author's website.
Stephen R. Swinburne is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
For Vicki Cobb's BLOG (nonfiction book reviews, info on education, more), click here: Vicki's Blog
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