Ice and Stone 2020 is a weekly series of educational material focusing on some of the small bodies of the solar system – comets and asteroids. The Earthrise Institute, a non-profit educational organization founded by Comet Hale-Bopp co-discoverer Alan Hale, is partnering with the La Cumbres Observatory and RocketSTEM to release the material for FREE online so that all teachers, students and parents worldwide have access to it.

“2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the discovery of Comet Hale-Bopp, and also marks the 50th anniversary of my first comet observation, which I made when I was still in Elementary School,” notes Hale. “Given that, together with the resurgence in interest in these ‘small bodies’ over the past couple of decades and the various spacecraft missions that have examined them, it seems especially appropriate to have a program of this nature at this time.”

Comets and asteroids are of high interest for a variety of reasons. They are “leftovers” from the formation of the planets, and thus they can provide valuable clues into our own origins. We have also learned that this process of forming the planets is not over and that comets and asteroids have played sometimes unwelcome roles in Earth’s natural history – and could do so again if we are unprepared for that. At the same time, they contain valuable resources that we can utilize both here on Earth and in space, and thus are in a position to play critical roles in the future development of our human society.

Comets and asteroids are more than just objects of scientific study, however. Comets, in particular, have long held a particular fascination in the human psyche, and both comets and asteroids continue to show up in our stories, our art, and our music. At the same time, the potential extraction of resources from these bodies not only involves the development of the necessary engineering and technology but also the examination of various economic and legal issues.

Ice and Stone 2020 will examine all these and other facets of these small worlds of the solar system via presentations on various topics, historical recaps, and projections of projected future events, all of which will be available on-line and unveiled on a weekly basis. At times it will feature guest presentations by selected experts in the various fields. When appropriate, it will incorporate observations of comets and asteroids that might be visible in the sky – including those that might be passing by Earth – and along these lines, The Earthrise Institute is collaborating with the Las Cumbres Observatory, a worldwide network of automated telescopes based at some of the top astronomical observatory sites on our planet. Some of these telescopes will be available for participating educators and students.

Via online forums, participating educators and students will be invited to share the benefits of their knowledge, be these scientific projects, spacecraft mission plans, business plans, legal analyses, stories, music, and other items, with their fellow participants from around the planet.

Each week throughout 2020, new content will be posted on RocketSTEM and at the Earthrise Institute’s web site.

The Earthrise Institute, Las Cumbres Observatory and RocketSTEM are separate 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. All contributions to each organization within the U.S. are fully tax-deductible as allowed by law.

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