Developed by Dr. Sten Odenwald, NASA.



Summary of Activity:
Students will learn mathematics and how they apply to the Sun, solar energy, space weather, and other space phenomena.
The problems in this activity are designed for students in grades 3 through 12. This activity contains Sunrelated problems from the
NASA Space Math Website, where you can find many other astronomyrelated math problems.

  

Revised May 2010
Numbers and Operations Problem
1  Fractions in Space
Students explore the many ways that simple fractions come
up in the study of planetary motion.
Grade: 3  5
Topics: working with fractions;
time calculations.
Problem
2  A Space Science Crossword Puzzle
Students work with positive and negative numbers to solve
a crossword puzzle. Good exercise for prealgebra review of
adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers.
Grade: 4  6 Topics:
Integer arithmetic; associative and distributive laws; positive
and negative numbers.
Problem
3  The Life Cycle of an Aurora
Students examine two eyewitness descriptions of an aurora
and identify the common elements so that they can extract
a common pattern of changes. Grade:
4  6 Topics: Creating a
timeline from narrative; ordering events by date and time.
Problem
4  Solar Activity and Satellite Mathematics
When solar storms cause satellite problems, they can also
cause satellites to lose money. The biggest source of revenue
from communications satellites comes from transponders that
relay television programs, ATM transactions and many other
vital forms of information. They are rented to many different
customers and can cost nearly $2 million a year for each transponder.
This activity examines what happens to a single satellite
when space weather turns bad! Grade:
4  6 Topics: Decimals;
money; percents.
Problem
5  Scientific Notation I
Scientists use scientific notation to represent very big and
very small numbers. In this exercise, students will convert
some 'astronomical' numbers into SN form. Grade:
5  9 Topics: Scientific
notation  conversion from decimal to SN.
Problem
6  Scientific Notation II
In this continuation of the review of Scientific Notation,
students will perform simple addition and subtraction problems
Grade: 5  9 Topics:
Scientific notation  addition and subtraction.
Problem
7  Scientific Notation III
In this continuation of the review of Scientific Notation,
students will perform simple multiplication and division problems
with an astronomy and space science focus. Grade:
5  9 Topics: Scientific
notation  multiplication and division.
Problem
8  Data Corruption by HighEnergy Particles
Students will see how solar flares can corrupt satellite data,
and create a timeline for a spectacular episode of data loss
recorded by the SOHO satellite using images obtained by the
satellite. Students will also calculate the speed of the event
as particles are ejected from the Sun and streak towards Earth.
Grade: 6  8 Topics:
Time and speed calculations; interpreting scientific data.
Problem
9  Working with rates.
Students examine mixed rates for a variety of situations and
their connections to ratios. Grade:
6  8 Topics:Ratios; scientific
notation; unit conversion.
Problem
10  The STEREO Mission: getting the message across
Students learn about how the transmission of data is affected
by how far away a satellite is for the two satellites in the
STEREO constellation. Grade:
6  8 Topics:multiplication;
division; decimal numbers.
Problem
11  The November 8, 2004 solar storm.
Students calculate the speed of a CME, and describe their
aurora observations through writing and drawing. Grade:
6  8 Topics:Time calculations;
distance = speed x time.
Problem
12  How to make faint things stand out in a bright world!
Students learn that adding images together often enhances
faint things not seen in only one image; the power of averaging
data. Grade: 6  8
Topics:Multiplication; division;
decimal numbers.
Problem
13  Unit Conversions
Students work with unit conversions and use them to solve
a series of practical problems in science and solar energy.
Grade: 6  10 Topics:
Unit Conversions.
Problem
14  Unit Conversions II
Students work with more unit conversions that are a bit tricky.
Grade: 6  10 Topics:
Unit Conversions.
Problem
15  An Interplanetary Shock Wave
On November 8, 2000 the Sun released a coronal mass ejection
that traveled to Earth, and its effects were detected on Jupiter
and Saturn several weeks later. In this problem, students
will use data from this storm to track its speed and acceleration
as it traveled across the solar system. Grade:
6  10 Topics:Time calculations;
distance = speed x time.
Problem
16  Solar Storm Timeline.
How long does a solar storm last? How fast does it travel?
Students will examine an event timeline for a space weather
event and use time addition and subtraction skills to calculate
storm durations and speeds. Grade:
7  9 Topics:Time math;
decimal math; speed = distance/time.
Problem
17  Scientific Notation  An Astronomical Perspective.
This collection of problems will have students reviewing how
to perform multiplication and division with large and small
numbers, while learning about some interesting astronomical
applications. They will learn about the planet Osiris, how
long it takes to download all of NASA's data archive, the
time lag for radio signals to Pluto, and many more realworld
applications. Grade: 8 
10 Topics:Scientific notation;
decimal math.
Problem
18  Ice or Water?
Whether a planetary surface contains ice or liquid water depends
on how much heat is available. Students explore the concepts
of Specific heat and Latent Heat of Fusion to better understand
the and quantify the energy required for liquid water to exist
under various conditions. Grade:
8  10 Topics:Scientific
notation; unit conversion.
Problem
19  Water on Planetary Surfaces
Students work with watts and Joules to study melting ice.
Grade: 8  10 Topics:Unit
conversion, rates.
Problem
20  Solar Dynamics Observatory: Working with Giga, Tera,
Peta and Exabytes.
The recent launch of SDO will bring 'high definition TV' to
the study of the sun's surface details. This also means a
HUGE amount of data will have to be processed every day to
handle the torrent of information. This activity works with
the prefixes giga, tera ,peta and exa to familiarize students
with how to interpret these quantities in a practical settion.
Students already know about 'gigabytes', but the SDO data
stream represents terabytes per day, and petabytes per year
in data storage demands. Grade:
8  12 Topics:Powers of
ten; time conversion: seconds, minutes, days, years.
Algebra and calculus Problem
1  A Bird'sEye Look at the SunEarth System
Students solve simple equations for x, (like 2x + 3 = 5)
to discover which words complete an essay on the causes
of aurora, and answer questions after reading the completed
essay.
Grade: 5  7
Topics: Solving for X; distributive
law; associative law.
Problem
2  Variables and Expressions from Around the Cosmos
Students evaluate linear equations describing a variety of
astronomical situations. Grade:
6  8 Topics: Evaluating
simple onevariable equations. Problem
3  Equations with One Variable  Part I
Students solve formulas of the form 2001 = 1858 + 11x to find
'X'. Grade: Topics:
Topics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division; solving
simple equations.
Problem
4  Equations with One Variable  Part II
Students work with equations like '4.3 = 3.26D' to solve for
D in a number of simple astronomical problems involving distances,
speed and temperature conversion. Grade:
6  8 Topics:Equations in
one variable; multiplication; division; decimals.
Problem
5  Can You Hear me now?
Students learn about how the transmission of data is affected
by how far away a satellite is, for a variety of spacecraft
in the solar system. Grade:
6  8 Topics:Multiplication;
division; decimal numbers.
Problem
6  Magnetic Forces and Kinetic Energy
Students use the formula for the Kinetic Energy of a charged
particle to calculate particle speeds for different voltages,
and answer simple questions about lightning, aurora and Earth's
radiation belts. Grade:
6  8 Topics:Square root;
time=speed x distance; decimal math; significant figures.
Problem
7  Superfast solar flares!
Students will analyze consecutive images taken of an erupting
solar flare, and use the information provided to calculate
the speed of the flare. Grade:
6  9 Topics:Image scales;
time calculations; speed calculations.
Problem
8  Rates and Slopes: An astronomical perspective.
Students determine the slopes for two linear graphs and make
the connection to rates with mixed units. Grade:
7  9 Topics:Finding the
slope of a linear graph.
Problem
9  The Last Total Solar EclipseEver!
Students explore the geometry required for a total solar eclipse,
and estimate how many years into the future the last total
solar eclipse will occur as the moon slowly recedes from Earth
by 3 centimeters/year. Grade:
7  10 Topics:Simple linear
equations.
Problem
10  The Comet Encke Tail Disruption Event
On April 20, 2007 NASA's STEREO satellite captured a rare
impact between a comet and the fastmoving gas in a solar
coronal mass ejection. In this problem, students analyze a
STEREO satellite image to determine the speed of the tail
disruption event. Grade:
8  10 Topics:Time calculation;
finding image scale; calculating speed from distance and time.
Problem
11  Stellar Temperature, Size and Power
Students work with a basic equation to explore the relationship
between temperature, surface area and power for a selection
of stars. Grade: 8  11
Topics:Algebra; derivatives.
Problem
12  The Heliopause...a question of balance
Students will learn about the concept of pressure equilibrium
by studying a simple mathematical model for the Sun's heliopause
located beyond the orbit of Pluto. They will calculate the
distance to the heliopause by solving for 'R' and then using
an Excel spreadsheet to examine how changes in solar wind
density, speed and interstellar gas density relate to the
values for R. Grade: 8 
10 Topics:Formulas with
two variables; scientific notation; spreadsheet programming.
Problem
13  Systems of Equations in Space Science
This problem has students solve two problems involving three
equations in three unknowns to learn about solar flares, and
communication satellite operating power. Grade:
8  10 Topics:Decimals,
solving systems of equations, matrix math, algebraic substitution.
Problem
14  Magnetic Energy From B to V
Students will use formulas for the volume of a sphere and
cylinder, and magnetic energy, to calculate the total magnetic
energy of two important 'batteries' for space weather phenomena
solar prominences and the Earth's magnetotail. This requires
scientific notation, a calculator, and experience with algebraic
equations with integer powers of 2 and 3. Grade:
8  10 Topics:Algebra I;
volumes; decimal math; scientific notation.
Problem
15  The Distance to Earth's Magnetopause
Students use an algebraic formula and some real data, to calculate
the distance from Earth to the magnetopause, where solar wind
and magnetosphere pressure are in balance. Grade:
8  10 Topics:Evaluating
a function with two variables; completing tabular entries.
Problem
16  Seeing Solar Storms in STEREO  I
Students work out the details of stereoscopic vision using
elementary properties of triangles and the Law of Cosines
to determine the distance from earth of a solar storm cloud.
Grade: 8  10 Topics:Geometry,
Law of Cosines, V = D/T
Problem
17  Seeing Solar Storms in STEREO  II
Students explore the geometry of stereo viewing by studying
a solar storm viewed from two satellites. Grade:
10  12 Topics:Geometry;
Trigonometry.
Problem
18  Oscillating Spheres
Many astronomical bodies have a natural period of oscillation.
In this problem, students will use a simple mathematical model
to calculate the period of oscillation of a star, a planet,
and a neutron star from the estimated densities of these bodies.
Grade: 9  11 Topics:Algebra;
calculating with a formula.
Problem
19  Solar Flare Reconstruction
Students will use data from a solar flare to reconstruct its
maximum emission using graphical estimation (prealgebra),
powerlaw function fitting (Algebra 2), and will determine
the area under the profile (Calculus). Grade:
9  11 Topics:Plotting tabular
data; fitting functions; integration.
Problem
20  The Pressure of a Solar Storm
Students will examine three mathematical models for determining
how much pressure a solar storm produces as it affects Earth's
magnetic field. They will learn that magnetism produces pressure,
and that this accounts for many of the details seen in solar
storms. Grade: 9  11
Topics:Substituting numbers into
equations; filling out missing table entries; data interpretation;
mathematical models.
Problem
21  Monster Functions in Space Science
This problem has students employ a pair of complicated algebraic
equations to evaluate the strength of the Sun's magnetic field
near Earth's orbit. The equations are a model of the Sun's
magnetic field in space based on actual research by a solar
physicist. This introduces students to a realworld application
of mathematical modeling, and extracting predictions from
theoretical models that can be tested. Students are provided
the values for the relevant variables, and through substitution,
calculate the numerical values for two 'vector' components
of the Sun's magnetic field near Earth's orbit. Grade:
9  11 Topics:Decimals,
scientific notation, significant figures.
Problem
22  Parametric Functions and Substitution
The relationship between the strength of a solar storm and
the resulting magnetic disturbance on Earth is given as a
series of equations. Students are asked to create new formulae
based on these parametric these equations using the method
of substitution. Grade:
10  11 Topics:Algebraic
manipulation, integer exponents, scientific notation, significant
figures and rounding.
Problem
23  Differentiation
Students explore partial derivatives by calculating rates
of change in simple equations taken from astrophysics.
Grade: 11  12 Topics:Differentiation;
algebra.
Problem
24  Finding Mass in the Cosmos
Students derive a simple formula, then use it to determine
the masses of objects in the universe from the orbit periods
and distances of their satellites. Grade:
9  12 Topics: Scientific
Notation; Algebra II; parametric equations.
Problem
25  The Internal Density and Mass of the Sun
Students use a simple, spherically symmetric density profile
to determine the mass of the Sun using integral calculus.
Grade: 11  12 Topics:Algebra
II; Polynomials; integral calculus.
Geometry, Area and Volume Problem
1  Solar Eclipses and Satellite Power
Students will create a scaled drawing of the orbits of three
satellites around Earth, and calculate how long each satellite
will be in the shadow of Earth. They will be asked to figure
out how to keep the satellites operating even without sunlight
to power their solar panels.
Grade: 5  8
Topics: Geometry, decimal math.
Problem
2  Solar Power and Satellite Design
Students perform simple surface area calculations to determine
how much solar power a satellite can generate, compared to
the satellite's needs. Grade:
5  8 Topics: Area of irregular
polygons.
Problem
3  How high is an aurora?
Students use the properties of a triangle to determine how
high up aurora are. They also learn about the parallax method
for finding distances to remote objects. Grade:
5  8 Topics: Geometry;
measuring angles.
Problem
4  Solar Surface Details
Students will analyze a picture of a sunspot to learn more
about its size, and examine the sizes of various other features
on the surface of the Sun that astronomers study. Grade:
6  8 Topics: Finding the
scale of an image; metric measurement; decimal math.
Problem
5  Hinode Satellite Power
Students will study the design of the Hinode solar satellite
and calculate how much power it can generate from its solar
panels. Grade: 6  8
Topics: Area of rectangle,area
of cylinder, unit conversion.
Problem
6  Solar Flares and Sunspot Sizes
Students compare sunspot sizes to the frequency of solar flares
and discover that there is no hard and fast rule that relates
sunspot size to its ability to produce very large flares.
Grade: 6  8 Topics:
Interpreting tabular data; percentages; decimal math.
Problem
7  How fast does the Sun spin?
Students will analyze consecutive images taken by the Hinode
satellite to determine the Sun's speed of rotation, and the
approximate length of its 'day'. Grade:
6  9 Topics:Image scales;
time calculations; speed calculations, unit conversions.
Problem
8  Observing the Sun's rotation
Students use a 'Sunspotter' telescope to track sunspots during
the week of November 7, 2004, and calculate the rotation period
of the Sun.
Note: This was meant as a lab exercise, and is provided
here just as an example of how to do this when sunspots can
be observed. For more information on how to observe the Sun
safely, read the Observing
the Sun section.
Alternatively, you can do this exercise with archived solar
images. One way to find them is to go to MDI
Intensitygrams, and browse the GIF images by month and
year. Either way, you will need to superimpose a solar
coordinate grid on your images! Grade:
6  8 Topics: Lab exercise
using a 'Sunspotter' telescope to measure Sun's rotation.
Problem
9  Hinode Sees Mysterious Solar Microflares
Students will analyze an image taken by the Hinode solar satellite
to determine the scale of the image in kilometers per millimeter,
then use this to determine the sizes of solar microflares.
From the number of microflares that they count in the image,
the area of the image in square kilometers, and the surface
area of a spherical sun, they will calculate the total number
of microflares on the solar surface. Grade:
6  9 Topics: Image scales;
area calculation; unit conversions.
Problem
10  Satellite Surface Area
Students calculate the surface area of an octagonal cylinder
and calculate the power it would yield from solar cells covering
its surface. Grade: 7 
9 Topics: Surface areas;
hexagon; decimal math.
Problem
11  Angular Size and velocity
Students study a spectacular photo of the ISS passing across
the face of the Sun, and work out the angular sizes and speeds
of the transit to figure out how long the event took in order
to photograph it. Grade:
8  10 Topics: Geometry;
measuring angles.
Problem
12  An Application of the Parallax Effect
The STEREO mission views the Sun from two different locations
in space. By combining this data, the parallax effect can
be used to determine how far above the solar surface various
active regions are located. Students use the Pythagorean Theorem,
a bit of geometry, and some actual STEREO data to estimate
the height of Active Region AR978. Grade:
8  10 Topics: Pythagorean
Theorem; squareroot; solving for variables.
Problem
13  A Lunar Transit of the Sun from Space
One of the STEREO satellites observed the disk of the moon
pass across the Sun. Students will use simple geometry to
determine how far the satellite was from the moon and Earth
at the time the photograph was taken. Grade:
8  10 Topics: Geometry;
parallax; arithmetic.
Problem
14  Getting an Angle on the Sun and Moon
Students explore angular size and scale by comparing two images
of the sun and moon which have identical angular size, but
vastly different scales. Grade:
8  10 Topics: Geometry;
angle measure; area; proportion.
Problem
15  The Transit of Mercury
As seen from Earth, the planet Mercury occasionally passes
across the face of the Sun; an event that astronomers call
a transit. From images taken by the Hinode satellite, students
will create a model of the solar disk to the same scale as
the image, and calculate the distance to the Sun. Grade:
9  11 Topics: Image scales;
angular measure; degrees, minutes and seconds.
Problem
16  Loopy Sunspots!
Students will analyze data from the Hinode satellite to determine
the volume and mass of a magnetic loop above a sunspot. From
the calculated volume, based on the formula for the volume
of a cylinder, they will use the density of the plasma determined
by the Hinode satellite to determine the mass in tons of the
magnetically trapped material. Grade:
9  11 Topics: Image scales;
cylinder volume calculation; scientific notation; unit conversions.
Problem
17  Seeing Solar Storms in STEREO  I
Students work out the details of stereoscopic vision using
elementary properties of triangles and the Law of Cosines
to determine the distance from earth of a solar storm cloud.
Grade: 8  10 Topics:Geometry,
Law of Cosines, V = D/T
Problem
18  Seeing Solar Storms in STEREO  II
Students explore the geometry of stereo viewing by studying
a solar storm viewed from two satellites. Grade:
10  12 Topics:Geometry;
Trigonometry.
Measurement, scale, and speed calculation
Problem
1  The relative sizes of the Sun and stars
Students work through a series of comparisons of the relative
size of the Sun compared to other stars, to create a scale
model of stellar sizes using simple fractional relationships.
( e.g if Star A is 6 times larger than Star B, and Star
C is 1/2 the size of Star B, how big is Star C in terms
of Star A?)
Grade: 4  6
Topics: Working with fractions;
scale models.
Problem
2  The Auroral Oval
Students learn that the aurora are observed as two 'halos'
of light encircling the North and South Poles. Students use
measurements made from two satellite images of the 'auroral
ovals' to determine the diameter of the rings, and their approximate
geographic centers  which are not at the geographic poles!
Grade: 5  7 Topics:
Finding the scale of an image; measurement; decimal math.
Problem
3  Measuring the Speed of a Solar Tsunami!
Recent data from the Hinode satellite is used to measure the
speed of a solar explosion on the surface of the Sun using
a series of images taken by the satellite at three different
times. Students calculate the speed of the blast between the
first pair and last pair of images, and determine if the blast
wave was accelerating or decelerating in time. Grade:
5  8 Topics: Finding image
scale; calculating time differences; calculating speed from
distance and time.
Problem
4  Monster Sunspots!
Some sunspots are so big that they can be seen from Earth
without a telescope. In this problem, students will use images
of three superspots and calculate their sizes from the image
scaling information. They will then order the images from
the smallest superspot to the largest superspot. Grade:
5  9 Topics: Multiplication;
calculating length from image scale.
Problem
5  Hinode: Closeup of a Sunspot
Students will determine the sizes of sunspots and solar granulation
cells from a recent image taken by the Hinode solar observatory.
Grade: 6  8 Topics:
Image scales, metric units, unit conversion.
Problem
6  The Hinode satellite views the Sun
Students will use a fullSun image from the new Hinode satellite
to sketch the locations of magnetic fields on the Sun's surface
using information in the introductory article as a guide.
Grade: 6  8 Topics:
Image interpretation; handeye coordination; reading to be
informed.
Problem
7  Moving Magnetic Filaments Near Sunspots
Students will use two images from the new, Hinode (SolarB)
solar observatory to calculate the speed of magnetic filaments
near a sunspot. The images show the locations of magnetic
features at two different times. Students calculate the image
scales in kilometers/mm and determine the time difference
to estimate the speeds of the selected features. Grade:
6  8 Topics: scaling, estimation,
speed calculations, time arithmetic.
Problem
8  Measuring Speed in the Universe.
In this activity, students measure the speed of astronomical
phenomena using the scaling clues and the time intervals between
photographs of three phenomena: A supernova explosion, a coronal
mass ejection, and a solar flare shock wave. Grade:6
 8 Topics: Measuring, scaling,
speed calculations.
Problem
9  SDO: Measuring the Speed of an Eruptive Prominence.
Students use recent First Light images of the Sun from SDO
to calculate the speed of a prominence using a sequence of
scaled images and computing position shift over the time interval
of the images. Grade:6 
8 Topics: Measuring, scaling,
speed calculations.
Problem
10  SDO Reveals Details on the Surface of the Sun.
Students use a spectacular colored image of the Sun to calculate
the scale of the image in kilometers per millimeter, and then
search for the smallest features relative to the size of Earth.
Grade:6  8 Topics:
Measurement, scale, proportion.
Problem
11  Changing Perspectives on the Sun's Diameter.
Students compare two images of the Sun taken by the SOHO satellite
to measure the apparent diameter change from different Earth
orbit locations in the winter and summer. Grade:6
 8 Topics: Measurement;
parallax; metric units; percentage change.
Problem
12  STEREO Watches the Sun Kick Up a Storm.
Students use images from the STEREO observation of a 'solar
tsunami' to estimate its speed and kinetic energy. Grade:9
 11 Topics: metric measurement;
scaling; speed calculation; evaluating a simple energy equation.
Data Analysis and Probability Problem
1  Cosmic Bar Graphs
Students interpret simple bar graphs taken from astronomical
data.
Grade: 3  5
Topics: Finding maxima and
minima; fractions; extrapolating data.
Problem
2  Solar Storms: Sequences and Probabilities  Part I
Students work out the probabilities for various combinations
of solar storms during a given week. Grade:
4  7 Topics: Probability;
numerating possible outcomes.
Problem
3  Solar Storms: Sequences and Probabilities  Part II
Students continue their study of a stormy week on the Sun
by working out the probabilities for joint events. Grade:
4  7 Topics: Probability;
numerating possible outcomes.
Problem
4  Solar Storms  Fractions and Percentages
Students create a Venn Diagram to summarize data on a series
of solar storms, and determine how often solar flares occur
when a solar plasma eruption happens. Grade:
4  7 Topics:Precentages;
fractions; Venn Diagramming.
Problem
5  Aurora Power!
Students use data to estimate the power of an aurora, and
compare it to common things such as the electrical consumption
of a house, a city and a country. Grade:
5  7 Topics: Interpreting
tabulated data.
Problem
6  Solar Flares, CME's and Aurora
Some articles about the Northern Lights imply that solar flares
cause them. Students will use data to construct a simple Venn
Diagram, and answer an important question about whether solar
flares cause CME's and Aurora. Grade:
5  7 Topics: Venn Diagramming.
Problem
7  The Space Station Orbit Decay and Space Weather
Students will learn about the continued decay of the orbit
of the International Space Station by studying a graph of
the Station's altitude versus time. They will calculate the
orbit decay rates, and investigate why this might be happening.
Grade: 5  8 Topics:
Interpreting graphical data; decimal math.
Problem
8  Do Fast CMEs Produce SPEs?
Recent data on solar proton storms (SPEs) and coronal mass
ejections (CMEs) are compared using Venn Diagrams to see
if the speed of a CME makes solar proton storms more likely
or not. Grade: 5  8
Topics: Venn Diagrams; counting;
calculating percentages and odds.
Problem
9  Solar Storm Energy and Pie Graphs
Students study two Pie graphs describing solar flares and
draw conclusions about percentages and their various forms
of energy. Grade: 6  8
Topics: Interpreting Pie Charts.
Problem
10  Solar Storms: Odds, Fractions and Percentages
Students will use actual data on solar storms to learn about
the different kinds of storms and how common they are. This
is a basic science activity that professionals do in order
to look for relationships between different kinds of events
that might lead to clues about what causes them. Can your
students come up with something new that no one has thought
about before? The Venn Diagramming activity is a key element
of the activity and is reasonably challenging! Grade:
6  8 Topics: Averaging;
fractions; percentages; odds; Arithmetic Operations; Venn
Diagrams.
Problem
11  A Magnetic Case for 'What Came First?
Students create a timeline for events based on several data
plots from the THEMIS program, and use their timeline to answer
questions about the causes of magnetic storms. Grade:
6  8 Topics: Time calculations.
Problem
12  Satellite Failures and the Sunspot Cycle
There are over 1500 working satellites orbiting Earth, representing
an investment of 160 billion dollars. Every year, between
10 and 30 of these reenter the atmosphere. In this problem,
students compare the sunspot cycle with the record of satellites
reentering the atmosphere and determine if there is a correlation.
They also investigate how pervasive satellite technology has
become in their daily lives. Grade:
6  8 Topics: Graphing tabular
data; decimal math.
Problem
13  The Sunspot Cycle  endings and beginnings
Students will examine a plot of the sunspot cycle and extract
information from the plotted data about the previous sunspot
cycle, and make predictions about the next one about to start
in 2007. Grade: 6  9
Topics: Graph reading; extrapolation;
time calculations.
Problem
14  Supersized Sunspots and the Solar Cycle.
Students compare the dates of the largest sunspots since 1900
with the year of the peak sunspot cycle. They check to see
if superspots are more common after sunspot maximum or before.
They also compare superspot sizes with the area of Earth.
Grade: 6  8 Topics:
Interpreting tabular data; decimal math
Problem
15  Magnetic Storms I
Students learn about magnetic storms using real data in the
form of a line graph. They answer simple questions about data
range, maximum, and minimum. Grade:
7  9 Topics: Interpreting
a graph; time calculations.
Problem
16  Magnetic Storms II
Students learn about the Kp index using a bar graph. They
use the graph to answer simple questions about maxima and
time. Grade: 7  9
Topics: Interpreting a graph;
time calculations.
Problem
17  Solar Proton Events and Satellite Damage
Students will examine the statistics for Solar Proton Events
since 1996 and estimate their damage to satellite solar power
systems. Grade: 7  9
Topics: Interpreting tabular
data; histogramming.
Problem
18  Solar Insolation Changes and the Sunspot Cycle
Students compare changes in the amount of solar energy reaching
earth with the 11year sunspot cycle to predict the impact
on designing a photovoltaic system for a home. Grade:
8  10 Topics: Graph analysis,
correlations, kilowatt, kilowatthours.
Problem Solving Problem
1  Solar Activity and Tree Rings  What's the connection?
Trees require sunlight to grow, and we know that solar activity
varies with the sunspot cycle. Can an average tree sense
solar activity cycles and change the way it grows from year
to year? This activity uses a single tree to compare its
growth rings to the sunspot cycle. This is also an interesting
suggestion for science fair projects!
Here is the Completed
Excel Spreadsheet for the teacher's guide.
Grade: 4  6
Topics: Spreadsheets and technology;
decimal math.
Problem
2  Solar Storm Timeline
Students read a narrative about the events involved in a solar
storm, creates a chronology for the sequence of events, and
answer some simple timerelated questions. Grade:
6  8 Topics: Time calculations.
Problem
3  Airline Travel and Space Weather
Students will read an excerpt from the space weather book
'The 23rd Cycle' by Dr. Sten Odenwald, and answer questions
about airline travel during solar storms. They will learn
about the natural background radiation they are exposed to
every day, and compare this to radiation dosages during jet
travel. Grade: 6  8
Topics: Reading to be informed;
decimal math.
Problem
4  Solar Storms in the News
Students will use a newspaper archive to explore how reporters
have described the causes of aurora since the 1850's. They
will see how some explanations were popular for a time, then
faded into oblivion, as better scientific explanations were
created. Grade: 6  10
Topics: Online research; tallying
data.
Problem
5  Solar Energy in Space
Students will calculate the area of a satellite's surface
being used for solar cells from an actual photo of the IMAGE
satellite. They will calculate the electrical power provided
by this one panel. Students will have to calculate the area
of an irregular region using nested rectangles. Grade:
7  10 Topics: Area of an
irregular polygon; decimal math.
Problem
6  A Mathematical Model of the Sun
Students will use the formula for a sphere and a shell to
calculate the mass of the Sun for various choices of its density.
The goal is to reproduce the measured mass and radius of the
Sun by a careful selection of its density in a core region
and a shell region. Students will manipulate the values for
density and shell size to achieve the correct total mass.
This can be done by hand, or by programming an Excel spreadsheet.
Grade: 8  10 Topics:
Scientific notation; volume of a sphere and a spherical shell;
density, mass and volume.
Problem
7  CME Kinetic Energy and Mass
Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are giant clouds of plasma released
by the Sun at millions of kilometers per hour. In this activity,
students calculate the kinetic energy and mass of several
CMEs to determine typical mass ranges and speeds. Students
will use the formula for kinetic energy to fillin the missing
entries in a table. They will then use the completed table
to answer some basic questions about CMEs. Grade:
8  10 Topics: Time calculation;
evaluating a simple equation; solving for variables.


 