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Rocket Science? You Can Do That With Pi
NASA is inviting the public to celebrate Pi Day (Mar 14) by sharing a series of cosmic calculations for kids and adults to solve (CCSS Level: Grade 10, Words: 287)
Mar 14, 2018 Science & Technology

Can you use π (pi) to solve these stellar math problems faced by NASA scientists and engineers?

The "Pi in the sky" challenge was created by the Education Office of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and is now in its fifth year. To show students how pi is used at NASA and give them a chance to do the very same math, the JPL once again put together a Pi Day challenge featuring real-world math problems used for space exploration. This year's challenge includes exploring the interior of Mars, finding missing helium in the clouds of Jupiter, searching for Earth-size exoplanets and uncovering the mysteries of an asteroid from outside our solar system.

Pi is a number whose digits go on forever, but the approximation 3.14 (hence March 14 or 3/14) is often precise enough. It is a mathematical constant often denoted by the symbol π. Pi comes in handy when determining the circumference or the surface area of a round celestial body. It also helps engineers and scientists program the precise orbits of satellites and spacecraft such as the impressive spirals the Cassini spacecraft performed before its ''death dive.''

Ota Lutz, a senior education specialist at JPL, believes everyone should attempt the Pi Day Challenge, even if they aren't familiar with these math tools. Students in grades 5 through 12 are especially invited to participate, and JPL offers resources for educators who want to use the math problems in their classrooms.

"All of the problems in the 'Pi in the sky' challenge are real problems that JPL scientists and engineers love using pi," Lutz said in a statement.

Solutions to the illustrated questions will be posted on March 15, according to NASA.

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a small rocky body going around the sun



try to do something 



a call to take part in a contest



bring into being, make



discourage (someone) from doing something, usually through fear of consequences



a person who educates; a teacher



study or look closely for information



to study or look at something in a careful way to lean more about it



well known for a long time



taking an important part or place



a very light gas that does not burn



provide (a book, newspaper, etc.) with pictures



liked for its size or quality, awesome



a location equipped for scientific experiments



things that are hard to understand or explain



the path around a planet or star



the curved path of an object or spacecraft around a star, planet, or moon



take part



put on a show



something that might be harmful, needing to be solved



something not right, harmful



having an uneven or irregular surface; not smooth or level



the fluid that flows in a plant or tree  



an object in space going round the Earth to collect information



experts in science, people who study science


So-lar Sys-tem

the eight planets and their moons traveling around the sun



an answer to a problem



find an answer




a ship that flies in space



better or greater than usual



a person highly skilled in a particular field



the main body or stalk of a plant or shrub, usually rising above ground



the top, or the outer layer



a sign or thing that has meaning