Solar Flare Curriculum
This is a sample curriculum developed and tested at
San Leandro High School, San Leandro, California. This curriculum
has been successfully used in a high school sophmore general science
1. Four Forces, electromagnetic, frequency vs. wavelength
On this day, students are introduced to the four forces: strong and
weak nuclear, gravity, and electromagnetic. They will focus on light
and how it has properties of both a particle and a wave.
The relationship between frequency and wavelength will be looked at as well
as the spectrum of light
from radio to ROYGBIV to gamma rays.
2. Spectroscope Lab
The students construct spectroscopes and use various light sources to
investigate the importance of spectroscopy in determining the nature of
the Sun's composition. They will also try to figure out
what chemicals are used to make flourescent light tubes glow.
have been developed and are distributed
(free) from the Stanford Solar Center.)
3. Defract of light, why is the sunset red?, demonstration
This day includes a demonstration of why the Sun turns red as it sets.
Students will also use coins in water to explore how light it defracted
Using an aquarium, a projector, and Pinesol cleaner, a demonstration can
be performed of a sunset turning from white to red.
4. Fusion and E=MC2
How the famous E=MC2 equation relates the fusion of elements and the
proudction of the Sun's elements.
Explains why all matter in the universe except hydrogen and helium was
made inside stars and thus we are made of stars.
Students also explore the dust cloud hypothesis in a lab to see
how all matter in our solar system previously came from the death of a
blue giant star. We are all made of stars!
5. Blackbody radiation
The Sun acts as an almost perfect blackbody. Students will use
equations and Wein's law to figure out the maximum radiation of our Sun
and how much energy the Sun emits.
Can solar energy fill our energy needs?
A calculation will see.
This is a guided activity that takes the students through each
of these useful yet complex equations.
6. The color of stars (HR diagram)
Although it appears white in our sky, our Sun is classified as a yellow
dwarf star. How does it compare with other stars in the universe?
The relationship of a star's brightness or size to its color
or temperature is shown with a Hertzprung-Russell Diagram.
Students will use the data from several observable stars to reconstruct
Parallax will be discussed to explain how we can figure out
the distance from nearby stars, thus determining their actual brighness.
"Is a star's color related to its temperature?" activity. Parallax
7. The life and death of stars (using hydrogen balloons)
Not all stars are alike. Some have short intense lives and go out with
Some are dim and live an exceptionally long time.
Using balloons to represent stars of relative sizes, the teacher
will demonstrate how star size relates to an HR diagram.
Using a hydrogen-filled balloon, the teacher dramatically explains their
It is a good idea to warn Campus Security this day! Demonstration.
8. Structure of the Sun and how long for a photon to leave the Sun
Photons are born deep within the Sun. They can take millennia to
actually leave the surface and head for Earth.
The game demonstrates why the photons take so long to get there.
9. Importance of Sun to humans
The Sun historically has been very important to human civilizations.
If humans missed the planting seasons, starvation could occur.
Using the examples of Chaco Canyon, Stonehenge, and the
Mayan Indians, we look at how humans have tracked the change of the
seasons since ancient times.
The class will also explore how the tilt of the Earth governs the change
of the seasons.
Watch "The Mystery of Chaco Canyon" video, read "The First Astronomers,"
and "What causes the Seasons" worksheet.
The class is presented with a PowerPoint presentation about solar flares.
They then look at the
Sun-Earth Viewer or
SOHO website to see several views of solar activity in
different wavelengths of light.
The class will then construct a sunspot viewer with paper and aluminum
A telescope with a solar filter will be used to make telescopic
observations of sunspots.
SunSpotter telescope can also be used.
Students will also view the Sun with their own sunspot finders and
try to correlate what they observed at the SOHO site and with the
11. Solar flares and mass ejections from the Sun
The students will use a series of images of the Sun taken from SOHO
to calculate the velocity and acceleration of a solar ejection as it leaves
The teacher will then demonstrate how to calculate the total mass the
Sun loses per
second to the solar wind. "Measuring the Motion of a Coronal Mass
12. Protection from the Sun. Part 1 -- Ozone
Students will watch a short film about the ozone layer and how it protects us
from harmful UV.
UV sensitive beads and various brands and SPF factors of sunscreen, the
students complete the first part of a two-day lab on what protects us
from the Sun's harmful radiation. "Give Me Shelter" lab, part one.
[Ed. note -- Many brands of sunscreen give little or no protection
to the UV beads. Long's brand is the most effective we have found.]
13. Protection from the Sun. Part 2 -- Magnetosphere
The students will now use iron-fortified cereal and magnets to simulate
how the magnetosphere protects us from the Sun's harmful radiation.
14. History sunspot frequency over years and months; sunspot cycle
(computer lab, preferable)
Computer lab or graphing. Students will use online data to track
data of sunspots back to 1750. Each student will be given a different
12-year period and will graph it by year and by month.
Is the pattern yearly or monthly or ????
Students will then calculate the standard deviation for a year for
their data. Students can create their graph by hand if computers
are not available.
15. Solar activity from SID data
This day uses Excel and NOAA data.
Students will use data from
their SID monitor to make a graph of solar activity for a day from this
They will compare it to online data to label all solar flares.
They will have to convert from universal time and figure out why
their SID monitor only detected certain flares (the rest occurred
during the students's local nighttime).
16. Solar activity research
This activity takes about 3 days. Students collect data and produce
a poster or PowerPoint presentation and a paper. For this project, they
must predict some effect solar activity has on human life and
collect data from times of high and of low solar activity.
This study is based on reports from Russia of increased heart attacks
during periods of high solar activity.