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EDUCATION | LAUNCH POINT

Where Homework and The Internet Meet

June 23, 1997

Rain on Jupiter? A Texas-size object past Pluto? These recent discoveries are expanding our ideas about the solar system. Astronomers now tell us that rainstorms on Jupiter go on for hundreds of years, making winter in Seattle look like a brief spell of cloudy weather, while other areas of the giant planet are as dry as Death Valley. And the piece of black rock in a wild orbit beyond Pluto suggests the existence of many other smallish bodies at the far reaches of the sun's influence, its discoverers say. What else remains to be seen out there, alive or alight? What can you learn about the space in which you live?

THE SOLAR SYSTEM

Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.

LEVEL ONE

Windows to the Universe: Easy, informative descriptions of the planets and other solar-system objects told in short bites with simple language. Also, planet mythology and the latest space news.

http://windows.engin.umich.edu/

Star Child: Another great source for short, easy descriptions, Star Child has more information about the universe beyond the solar system, and offers lots of quizzes and space games, with cartoon illustrations.

http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/

Buckman School: A is for asteroid belt. Children's drawings and one-line descriptions tell the ABCs via space objects.

http://buckman.pps.k12.or.us/room100/abcspace/spaceabc.html

LEVEL TWO

The Nine Planets: Focuses on the planets and their moons, with simply worded but more detailed descriptions than the beginner sites. Beautiful photos, tips on how to view planets without a telescope.

http://www.spacer.com/nineplanets/

Observatorium: Great game center for learning about space. A game of Concentrate has the player match space images, then tells about them. Send a space postcard to a friend.

http://observe.ivv.nasa.gov/observe.html

Yahooligans Space Index: Want to find a Web site that most of the others don't explore? Say, for example, ancient Mayan astronomy? The ultimate place for links to Web sites on very specific space topics.

http://www.yahooligans.com/ScienceandOddities/Space

LEVEL THREE

Views of the Solar System: Much like the Nine Planets, but with longer, more sophisticated and detailed discussions of the solar system's features. Great for a long report or project.

http://bang.lanl.gov/solarsys/

The Comet's Tale: Everything about comets, including how to make one for a school project.

http://www.cea.berkeley.edu/~dcs/com.html

The Space Science Institute: Explores complex subjects that go far beyond what objects you find where in space. Learn about space plasma, auroras and the nature of atmospheres.

http://www-ssi.colorado.edu/1.html

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Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine Department of Education, which reviews all these sites for appropriateness and high quality. Even so, parents should always supervise their children's site of the Internet. This week's Launch Point was designed by Anna Manring and Stan Woo-Sam.

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Jump on the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/launchpoint

EXPLORER'S QUEST

* Free Times T-shirt

The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.

How long is a day on Venus?

Clue: Use The Nine Planets

How It Works: Answer the questions correctly in four Explorer's Quest quizzes and you'll get a free Times T-shirt. So start your Quest this week with the question on Venus, and check out this column in the weeks ahead for new questions and details on how to claim your T-shirt.

The answer to this week's question will be listed here next week.

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