From Wikipedia, "The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity.".

Quarter-sized hail after a particularly intense thunderstorm in State College, PA.

State College hail

This image with the observatory in the foreground was taken at the Grier School in Tyrone, PA on September 3, 2016.  It’s an all-girls boarding school. The image captures composite pictures (about 100) taken over the course of an hour.


Star trails at Grier School in Tyrone, PA

Artificially constructed wetlands due to ones destroyed during the construction of I-99 in Pennsylvania.

Julian Wetlands

This lightning was captured during a thunderstorm on August 13, 2016. This was the same time that the city of Philadelphia was experiencing its fifth heat wave of the summer.

Lightning storm NE of Reading, August 2016

This lightning was captured during a thunderstorm on August 13, 2016. This was the same time that the city of Philadelphia was experiencing its fifth heat wave of the summer.

Storm on 08/13/2016

My 8th grade Earth Science students requested this image from the International Space Station's EarthKAM camera during the April, 2016 EarthKAM Mission.  During the time of the photograph, a cool, clear high pressure system was situated over the northeastern United States, making for excellent viewing opportunities.  If you teach science, the EarthKAM program is a free NASA resource you really should look into.  More info can be found here:  The actual image is hosted on the EarthKAM servers, which are managed by the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  If you click the picture link, there are opportunities to download this an other images at various resolutions:  By clicking the "next image" and "previous image" buttons, you can sometimes view excellent overlapping images taken by the ISS as it orbited Earth at an astounding speed of 17,000 mph, close to 5 miles a second!  There are at least two April, 2016 EarthKAM images which caught the PSU campus and surrounding countryside.  Plenty of other excellent pictures of Earth from this and other EarthKAM missions going back nearly a decade.  Check them out in the EarthKAM image galleries.

One of the more interesting things that you can do with these EarthKAM images is to compare them with the images hosted by Google Earth to see change over time.  To make that easier, here is a Google Maps link to the EarthKAM image discussed in this post  (works best with Chrome browser).

PSU's Happy Valley From Space (ISS) EarthKAM

I've always been amazed by the beautiful star trail photos I see professional photographers make.  Apprarently, it's really not that difficult to take these, and there are tons of websites that will walk you through the process.  This one is a "stacked" image that combines 30, 2 min exposures at f/4 and iso400.  Camera was a Canon 70D with a 18-55mm lens set to 24mm.  Total photo time - 60 minutes (1hr).  Based on this, I would expect that each of the star trails, which are caused by Earth's rotation, would trace out an arc of 1/24th of a full 360 degree circle, or about 15 degrees or arc, with Polaris at the center.  Notice the pulsed light from an airplane that flew over at some point during the hour.

Aside from "stacking" the images with free software available online, the picture was not adjusted or enhanced in any other major way.  More to come once I figure out how to work the camera and intervalometer better!

Picture taken from 10:55pm-11:55pm looking due north at approximate altitude of 40 degrees, from my back yard in Pipersville, PA.


Citizen science projects present opportunities for students to engage in authentic science projects that have them learn about and engage with their local environment, then share their findings with a larger population.  One example of a citizen science project is the Picture Post project, which uses digital photography for environmental monitoring.  Learn more about this project at the Picture Post website and how you can set up a post at your own school.  You can also check out how students at Penn State Brandywine have brought the Picture Post project to their campus at their website:

The Picture Post citizen science project - a way to engage students

Signs of recovery on a once-defoliated mountainside in Palmerton, Carbon County, near the site of the New Jersey Zinc operation.  For more information, visit the EPA's Palmerton Zinc website.

Rehabilitating Mountainside in Palmerton