Friday, January 4, 2008

Website of the Week: USGS Astro Kids

Learn about Pluto’s downgraded status as a dwarf planet (it’s now considered to be the 10th planet from the sun)** and more at Astro Kids, the Astrogeology Research Program webpage of the United States Geological Survey. Create a model moon from a tennis ball, discover fun facts about the planets and print coloring pages of them, or make a magnet of the planet Mars.

What is "astrogeology"? This scientific study explores the geology of celestial bodies in our solar system other than Earth (like our moon, other planets and their moons, comets and asteroids). Astrogeologists map the surface features on these celestial bodies (like the mountains and valleys of Mars, for example) and try to figure out how they were formed (such as, does this planet have water or volcanoes?).

**But please remember to check the dates on any web pages about the planets, particularly Pluto. Anything created prior to Pluto’s reclassification by the International Astronomical Union on August 24, 2006 (like the Planetary Info Sheets on the Astro Kids website), still incorrectly show Pluto as the ninth planet. Keep in mind, though, the words of Jim Murphy, Head of New Mexico’s State University’s Department of Astronomy: "This reclassification of Pluto as a ‘dwarf planet’ does not in any way change the physical aspects of Pluto ..." (Read his complete statement about Pluto’s reclassification here.)

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