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Meet me in the Mesosphere

A Teaching Unit: Meet me in the Mesosphere

Investigation of Atmospheric Processes for Classroom Studies


by Jessie Cadigan and Dan Costa


created under the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program at MIT Haystack Observatory in cooperation with the National Science Foundation.


This unit utilizes data collected by the Mesospheric Ozone System for Atmospheric Investigations in the Classroom (MOSAIC) system to reinforce framework concepts within high school courses such as Earth Science, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, and Environmental Science.  Lesson plans have been created in support of understanding the science underlying the MOSAIC system, with topics including the layers of the atmosphere, Earth’s energy balance, the Greenhouse Effect, ozone creation in the atmosphere, noctilucent clouds, heat transfer, heat versus temperature, the laws of thermodynamics, radio waves in nature, and the significance of radio waves to the study of the atmosphere, astronomy, and geodesy.  Exercises using the web-based MOSIAC interface step students through the analysis of spectral plots and the diurnal and annual variation of mesospheric ozone.  The MOSAIC system provides a unique opportunity for students to participate in the analysis of ozone within the mesosphere, a very current topic, with an innovative and inexpensive Earth-based system.  In this endeavor students will also learn about radio telescopes

Table of Contents

Introduction (doc)

National and Massachusetts Educational Standards (doc)

Unit #1 – Introduction to the Atmosphere

Unit #2 – Earth’s Energy Balance

Unit #3 – The Greenhouse Effect

Unit #4 – Ozone in the Atmosphere

Unit #5 – Noctilucent Clouds

Unit #6 – Seeing the Ozone

Unit #7 – Radio Waves in Science

Unit #8 – Thermodynamics

Unit #9 – Fluid Behavior



We would like to sincerely thank the entire staff at MIT Haystack Observatory, who were our gracious hosts for the two summers we spent working on Meet Me in the Mesosphere. In particular, we thank:

Madeleine Needles, Vincent Fish, Phil Erickson, Shep Doeleman, Larisa Goncharenko, Divya Oberoi, Asti Bhatt, Lynn Matthews, Anthea Coster, Arthur Neill, Rich Crowley, Heidi Johnson, KT Paul, Janet Dutton, Michael Albu, and Haystack Observatory Director Colin Lonsdale.

We would like to give special thanks to the principal architect of the MOSAIC system and winner of the 2010 Grote Reber Gold Medal for his outstanding and innovative contributions to radio astronomy, Alan Rogers. MOSAIC is yet another example of Alan’s innovative application of fundamental radio principles to a real-world problem.

We would also thank our fellow teachers, past and future:

2008 RETs: Michael Doherty and Stephen Minnigh
2010 RETs: Chris Clements and Sara Kate May



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