Hubble Telescope Finds Most Distant Galaxy Visible From Earth


The Hubble Space Telescope has captured what astronomers are claiming is the oldest galaxy in the universe. Here’s some of what NASA’s Hubble website says about the discovery

“The farthest and one of the very earliest galaxies ever seen in the universe appears as a faint red blob in this ultra-deep–field exposure taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. This is the deepest infrared image taken of the universe. Based on the object’s color, astronomers believe it is 13.2 billion light-years away.

The dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the Big Bang, only four percent of the universe’s current age. It is tiny and considered a building block of today’s giant galaxies. Over one hundred such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way galaxy.”


Think of that – the light from this object we’re seeing now took 13.2 billion years to reach our eyes. That’s mind-boggling. We’re actually looking back in time. Anyway, the study which appears in the journal Nature, was led by Rychard Bouwens at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, and Garth Illingworth, of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The tiny smudge of light will be further studied and confirmed when the infrared-optimized James Webb Space Telescope is up and running in 2014.

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The Nation’s Report Card Just Released: Less Than Half Of Students Proficient In Science

Very few students have the advanced skills that could lead to careers in science and technology, according to results of a national exam released Tuesday that are alarming educators nationwide. Only 1 percent of fourth-grade and 12th-grade students, and 2 percent of eighth-graders scored in the highest group on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal test known as the Nation’s Report Card. Less than half were considered proficient, with many more showing minimal science knowledge.

“It’s very disappointing for all educators to see students performing below the level we’d like them to be,” said Bonnie Embry, an elementary school science lab teacher in Lexington, Ky. “These low scores should send a message to educators across our nation that we’re not spending enough time teaching science.” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the results mean students aren’t learning at a rate that will maintain the nation’s role as an international leader in the sciences. He and others expressed concern that more students aren’t prepared for careers as inventors, doctors and engineers in a world increasingly driven by technology. “Our ability to create the next generation of U.S. leaders in science and technology is seriously in danger,” said Alan Friedman, former director of the New York Hall of Science, and a member of the board that oversees the test.

The exam tests knowledge and understanding of physical, life, Earth and space sciences. Examples of skills students need to demonstrate to perform at the advanced level include: designing an investigation to compare types of bird food in fourth grade; predicting the sun’s position in the sky in eighth grade; and recognizing a nuclear fission reaction for those in 12th grade.

Overall, 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders and 21 percent of 12th-graders scored at the proficient level or above. Seventy-two percent of fourth-graders, 63 percent of eighth-graders and 60 percent of 12th-graders showed a basic level or above of science knowledge and skills.

The results also indicated there are significant differences between states. North Carolina had scores that were lower than the national average at fourth grade and at eighth grade. The achievement gap was also more notable in certain student groups. In 2009, male students in fourth grade had an average score that was higher than females.

The test was given to more than 150,000 students in both fourth and eighth grade, and a nationally representative sample of 11,100 high school seniors. The last time it was given was in 2005, but the test was significantly updated in 2009, making a comparison between years unreliable.  The 2009 exam tested students more on how well they understand and know how to apply scientific knowledge, rather than memorization of scientific terms and formulas. While there are too many differences between the 2005 and 2009 exams to make a comparison, the overall trend is one of stagnation. The Programme for International Student Assessment, a key international assessment, shows U.S. students trailing many other nations in science.

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Check Out What’s New For High Touch High Tech!

Happy New Year! All of us here at High Touch High Tech hope that the second half of the 2010-2011 school year has gotten off to a great start! There’s no better way to get your students out of the “holiday blues” & back on track than with a High Touch High Tech in-school workshop. Our NEW promotions & discounts make it easy and affordable to have a scientist visit your class & provide educational, hands-on, fun science for your students!

Looking for a way to learn about NEW High Touch High Tech Programs & Events?

High Touch High Tech is now on Facebook! Get access to current science news, cool fun-facts, videos of experiments, awesome teacher resources, and great discounts- available exclusively for High Touch High Tech fans!

Not on Facebook? That’s OK! You can access the NEW High Touch High Tech Blog via our website! Stay connected with the local education & science community. The High Touch High Tech blog posts about real, relevant science that is not only educational but FUN!                           

Look for the High Touch High Tech E-Newsletter – COMING SOON!

You’ve asked for more & we’ve listened! High Touch High Tech is excited to announce the launch of our NEW E-Newsletter! Starting in February, this monthly themed publication will provide feature articles, fun-science facts, take-home experiments, community events, special promotions & more.

Special Promotions & Discounts

NEW Referral Program:  Refer a new customer to High Touch High Tech and receive 20% off your next program!

Are you new to High Touch High Tech? For a limited time, new customers will receive a discount of 0.50 cents off per student!

Attention all Facebook Users! To say thank you for “liking” the High Touch High Tech of WNC Facebook page, we are offering a 15% discount for all of our customers that are fans of us on Facebook!

*All Discounts applied once programs have been booked & completed. Discounts can not be combined – Only one promotion applied per program* 

Genetics Determine Who Becomes Friends


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If you’re having trouble finding friends, blame your DNA.  According to scientists, our DNA contains markers that apparently help foster the bonds of friendship. Could your circle of acquaintances be determined by your genetic disposition?  Perhaps so.

Using two independent studies, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the Framingham Heart Study, scientists have determined that our genetics might determine just who becomes friends with who. Six genetic markers have been identified that help to determine just who becomes friends with whom, or who doesn’t become friends.  DRD2, which is a genetic marker associated with alcoholism, seems to be common in groups of friends.  A second gene, CYP2A6, seems to keep people apart as those with the marker avoid one another.

“That feeling that you get that you’re just going to like somebody or not going to like them – a lot of times we’ll have those instincts about people and we’re not sure where they come from.  We think that understanding the genotypes that underlie friendship may help us to understand more of that process,” says study leader Professor James Fowler of the University of California.  ”It’s not like I’m going to be carrying around a little spit kit and testing all my friends.  It’s those genes’ underlying characteristics which we must be able to detect in some way either consciously or unconsciously.”

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Have You Ever Wondered Why Snow is White?


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Over the past few days, snow has blanketed most of the country. Have you ever wondered why snow is white?  Bright marshmallow-colored snow blinds us with its gleaming white color because it reflects beams of white light. Instead of absorbing light, snow’s complex structure prevents the light from shining through its lattice formation.

A beam of white sunlight entering a snow bank is so quickly scattered by a zillion ice crystals and air pockets that most of the light comes bouncing right back out of the snow bank. What little sunlight is absorbed by snow is absorbed equally over the wavelengths of visible light thus giving snow its white appearance.

So while many natural objects get their blue, red, and yellow colors from absorbing light, snow is stuck with its white color because it reflects light.

Here are some fun facts about snow! Did you know?

– Snow can actually be seen in several different colors. Snow can be red if the air during the snow formation contains red dust particles. Snowflakes forming around these tainted dust particles take on a reddish color. Red snow is found in those parts of Europe where the air is filled with dust particles from the red sands of the Sahara desert. In addition, certain types of algae stain snow yellow, purple, orange, green, and red. In fact, some people believe that the red algae that taints snow red actually looks and tastes like watermelon!

– The word albedo is based on the Latin word for white. Albedo refers to the amount/percentage of light an object reflects. For instance, the albedo of water is low while the albedo of snow if high.

– No two snowflakes have exactly the same shape.

– During a snowstorm, if the air temperature rises above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the snow will melt and fall as rain.

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Supernova Discovered By 10-Year-Old!!


Age is no barrier when it comes to supernova hunting, as 10-year-old Kathryn Gray has just proven.

The Canadian schoolgirl was scanning through astronomical images on Jan. 2 when she made the record-breaking find. According to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Kathryn is the youngest ever discoverer of a supernova!

The supernova was spotted erupting to life in the constellation of Camelopardalis in a galaxy called UGC 3378, some 240 million light-years distant. Shining at a brightness of magnitude 17, the flash was imaged on New Year’s Eve. Magnitude 17 is the approximate brightness of the dwarf planet Haumea (in the Kuiper Belt) as seen from Earth.

Helped by her amateur astronomer father Paul Gray, Kathryn was taught how to look out for these transient flashes using a computer program that compares new and old images of the same portion of the night sky. Blinking between the new and old images, anything like the motion of planets, asteroids or supernovae can be spotted.

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