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(Teacher Lesson Plan)

Tracking Sunspots (grades 5-8)

Time: 5 to 10 minutes per day for five days

Introduction:  In this activity, we will make observations similar to those of Bernedetto Castelli and Galileo Galilei but instead of projecting an image of the Sun onto paper, we will use photos from Big Bear Solar Observatory (http://www.bbso.njit.edu).

Objective:   to observe sunspots and make inferences about solar rotation.  Students will study images of the sun for five days (with the archived data, you could do this for a maximum of ten days), looking for day-to-day changes of sunspot position on the disk of the sun.  This exercise may be performed by the whole class or, if you wish, students can work in small groups or pairs.  Charting is done by marking the position of the sunspots on a piece of transparency material which will overlay the image of the Sun.

Materials:

A minimum of 6 pieces of transparency material (there are 10 images provided in the archive, so a maximum of 11 pieces of transparency material), five for the white light images and 1 for charting,

Internet access, to download the images provided on this web page   or, download an image per day from the Big Bear Solar Observatory ( http://www.bbso.njit.edu/cgi-bin/LatestImages ). Be aware though, there may be days with no data, since the Big Bear Observatory is subject to Earth's weather.

A grease pencil or transparency marker,

Student worksheet.

Procedure:

  1. Print each of the solar images. You can print directly onto transparency material or, load transparency material into the copy machine and copy the paper printouts.  (If students are performing this activity themselves, paper copies are fine.)
  2. Cover the image with a piece transparency material. Mark the sunspots "A1", "B1", "C1", and so on. For later alignment, you might also want to trace the outer edge of the Sun (called the limb) and the orientation box (North, South, East, West) in the upper left corner of the solar image.
  3. Ask students to write on their activity sheets the letter of the sunspots they've observed.
  4. Repeat this procedure each day for at least five days. Label old sunspots with their original letter plus a number which corresponds to the day of your observations (i.e., 2-5).  You should see sunspots changing their position, perhaps growing, splitting apart, and disappearing. 
  5. Ask students to answer the questions on the student worksheet.
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Last Updated: January 03, 2007