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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A new University of Tennessee center that will help K-12 students in Tennessee learn about space opened Thursday.

 Dr. Lee Riedinger, head of UT-Knoxville physics department, said the Teachers Resource Distribution Center will supply educators across the state with audio, video, computer software and other learning materials about space science, astronomy and planetary exploration.

 About 35 teachers from East Tennessee schools attended Thursday’s opening.

 “The center has a wealth of material from NASA and other sources that teachers may copy and use for their classrooms,” Riedinger said. “It also gives them access to Internet connections, UT faculty expertise, study guides and other teaching materials.

 “This facility can greatly benefit astronomy and space science curricula in all state schools.”

 UT-Knoxville faculty involved with the center include Dr. Larry Taylor and Dr. Hap McSween, geology professors who have worked with NASA explorations of other planets; Dr. Bill Blass, physics professor and head of the Faculty Senate, and Tina Riedinger, physics instructor.

 Center Director Paul Lewis said NASA’s Tennessee Space Grant Consortium and UT are funding the facility, located in the Nielsen Physics Building.

 “With so much valuable data constantly coming from orbiting telescopes, spaces probes and other sources, few parts of the scientific world today are as exciting as astronomy and space science,” Lewis said. “The wonders of the universe provide an excellent basis for capturing children’s interests in science and educating the public about the benefits of technology.”

 More information on the center is available at the UT-Knoxville Planetary Geosciences Institute website at http://funnelweb.utcc.utk.edu/~pgi/ or the physics and astronomy site at http://www.phys.utk.edu.

— Contact: Dr. Lee Riedinger (423-974-7805) or Paul Lewis (423-974-7815)