Press Release

Passport to the Universe 5 Jan 2001

By SpaceRef Editor
January 5, 2001
Filed under ,


Concerned about meeting state and national standards with current, exciting
core science content?

Want to bring light and optics, the electromagnetic spectrum, gravity and
motion, matter and energy, Earth’s place in the Universe, and today’s
scientific enterprise to life for students?

Then your answer is…

LIVE FROM A BLACK HOLE (March 6, 2001 @ 13:00 Eastern)
LIVE FROM THE EDGE OF SPACE AND TIME (April 3, 2001 @ 13:00 Eastern)

Debuting in 2001, a “Real Science” odyssey to the most extreme environments
in our Universe, live on the web, educational networks and NASA-TV. The
latest from P2K, public television’s longest-running series of interactive
multimedia adventures.


They used to be the stuff of science fiction. An early Star Trek episode
referred to “dark stars.” Then, in 1967, quantum theorist John Wheeler
coined a term which caught the public imagination: “black holes”-places
where gravity is so extreme that not even light can escape. In the past
decade, they’ve moved from fiction and theory into proven fact.

We’ve now demonstrated the existence of black holes a few times the mass of
our Sun in our own Galaxy-using an equation so simple it fits on the back
of an envelope and uses only middle school math. We now know that
supermassive black holes, more than 2 1/2 million times the mass of our
Sun, sit at the center of galaxies like the Milky Way. In 2000 came the
discovery of mid-size black holes, what some astronomers call the “missing
link” which may help us understand the birth, life cycle and death of all
stars. Black holes seem to power gamma ray bursts, quasars and vast jets of
matter and energy streaming out of active galaxies. Black holes can’t be
seen in visible light, but they appear to be everywhere. Their study
illuminates (sic) and enlivens key concepts at the heart of the science
curriculum-light and optics, gravity, the electromagnetic spectrum, the
nature of the stars and the origin of the elements.

Now, as part of its new PASSPORT TO THE UNIVERSE Module, P2K offers 2
hour-long video programs and companion online resources, inviting students
to explore black holes and the origin, structure and evolution of the
Universe while interacting with some of America’s leading astronomers.
Broadcast by participating public television stations and NASA-TV (subject
to last minute Shuttle and Space Station events), and free to all schools
and educational networks, the programs embody P2K’s credo: “Real Science,
Real Scientists, Real Locations, Real Learning.”


LIVE FROM A BLACK HOLE (March 6, 2001 @ 13:00 Eastern)
Impossible to see at visible wavelengths, black holes shine bright in
X-rays as matter swirls in and over the “event horizon,” reaching
temperatures of millions of degrees. So black holes are perfect targets for
NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, 3rd in the series of Great Observatories
that began with the Hubble Space Telescope and continued with the Compton
Gamma Ray Observatory-named for three of the 20th century’s leading
astronomers. In this program, students will meet the men and women who
built and operate Chandra and use it to image black holes, quasars, active
galaxies and more. Visually-dramatic sequences use Chandra, Hubble and
Compton images and animations to show how stars are born, live and die.
We’ll see why the principles of optics mean X-ray telescopes use a
different shape than traditional optical telescopes. Hands-on
demonstrations will use imploding oil drums, blow-torches and more to
dramatize key scientific principles which have helped us understand black
holes. Andrea Ghez from UCLA (author of “You Can Be A Woman Astronomer”)
describes how innovative technology and Hawaii’s Keck Telescope reveals the
black hole at the center of our Galaxy. Cosmologist Alan Dressler explains
the Doppler Shift, and how Hubble images play a role in studying black holes.

The program and website also introduces and supports a unique, interactive
opportunity, the “Chandra Challenge”, in which students use the video and
online resources to research topics related to black holes and other
fascinating topics, and then vote-online-for what they want to know more
about. Teams of Chandra astronomers then interact with them in a “virtual
seminar”, using images and data to respond directly to student questions.
It will be like having today’s equivalents of Hubble, Compton or Chandra on
the other end of your Internet connection! Full details about how to
participate in this unique and informative opportunity will be published
online in January, 2001.

The P2K website will also provide additional BIOgraphies and JOURNALS from
participating astronomers, and serve as a portal to teacher-reviewed
resources from many other NASA missions and other sources. RESEARCHER Q&A
will allow students to send e-mail questions to black hole experts.


LIVE FROM THE EDGE OF SPACE AND TIME (April 3, 2001 @ 13:0 Eastern)
Originating live from Chandra’s “Operations Control Center” (OCC) in
Cambridge, MA, this interactive program will feature real-time exchanges
between students around the nation and leading Chandra researchers such as
CXO Director, Harvey Tananbaum, Project Scientist, Martin Weisskopf (NASA
Marshall), instrument builder and astronomer Stephen Murray, from the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, MIT’s Kathy Flanagan, and
others. Students will see the results of the first “Chandra Challenge”
activity. We’ll explore the “chicken and egg” riddle of whether black holes
make galaxies, or galaxies make black holes, and the role of gravity-the
primary architect of black holes-in generating all structures in the
Universe. Mike Turner from Fermilab will explain how particle accelerators,
telescopes and spacecraft combine to allow us to explore the Universe from
“Quarks to the Cosmos”. We’ll see how new missions, spacecraft and
instruments will soon bring us still more understanding of the most extreme
and fascinating environments of our Universe.


The PASSPORT TO THE UNIVERSE website will debut in January 2001, and
provide full background on the videos and online opportunities. Its 5 main
sections-“Black Holes,” “Seeing the Universe,” “The Cosmic Ecosystem,”
“Research/ers” and “New & Now”-will provide key information and images, and
direct links to additional web resources suitable for students and
teachers. Special sections for educators will demonstrate specific
correlation of program content to the National Science Education Standards
and to State Frameworks.

PASSPORT TO THE UNIVERSE and the two LIVE FROM specials are made possible,
in part, by support from NASA’s Office of Space Science and the NASA
Education Division, and through special cooperation with the Chandra X-ray
Observatory and the “Structure and Evolution of the Universe” Education
Forum. P2K also thanks NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Fermilab and the
“Connections” project (Department of Energy-NASA-NSF), the Space Telescope
Science Institute (NASA-ESA), and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

2001-it’s the perfect year for a space odyssey. But this P2K adventure is
all science fact, and offers innovative, exciting but always practical ways
to enliven the science curriculum.


For more information, send e-mail to [email protected], or
call 973.656.9403.

The PASSPORT TO THE UNIVERSE website will debut in January, 2001, but you
can already sign up now for discuss-universe (an online forum for
educators) and updates-universe (P2K’s online newsletter, to be published
weekly from January-May 2001).

Send e-mail to [email protected], and in the message body
write only (e.g. turn off any signature message):
subscribe discuss-universe (or) subscribe updates-universe

For more on past, present and future PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE Modules, check


SpaceRef staff editor.