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Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

Space Weather Education Kit

Overview of Topics and Resources in the Space Weather Education Kit

The following eight module units and related materials that are part of a “kit” being piloted for the Math, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) program in the St. Vrain School District in Colorado. The learning activities have been used in a semester long class for English Second Language learners, augmented with field trips, presentations and skill-building sessions. They have also been used in an eight-week MESA after school program.

The actual “kit” includes a notebook with activities and assessment tools, and supplemental materials including a DVD featuring a tour of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and background information about the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE). A limited number of these kits are available for evaluation purposes. Contact Mark McCaffrey at 303.735.3155 for additional information about obtaining a kit.

Here are the highlights of the content and links to online resources. They begin with an overview of space weather in general and culminate in the deployment of a “Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance” (SID) Monitor which allows students to measure the ionization of the Earth’s upper atmosphere and thereby gain insight into the variability of Extreme ultraviolet radiation (EUV).

These materials are primarily from existing learning activities and resources from LASP, UCAR, and the Stanford Solar Center and we thank their creators for their use in this kit.


Overview and Introduction

What is space weather and why is it important?
What is space weather? (Overview from NOAA)
Spanish language version

  • Student introductions
  • Statistics gathering (including background, computer mastery, content understanding, etc.)
  • Introduction with guest speaker and/or presentation

Electromagnetism and Radiation

What is the Electromagnetic Spectrum and why is it important?
What is radiation and radioactivity
Build Your Own Spectroscope (Stanford Solar Center)

  • Hands on activity using spectroscope
  • Introduction to the use of computers including login, powerpoint, Internet if needed
  • Where does Extreme UV (EUV) radiation fit into the spectrum?
  • Why is it important?

Solar Dynamics

What are the Sun’s basic features?
Dynamics of the Sun (PDF)
Sun Features (PDF)
Solar Beads Activity

  • Basic facts including description, size, distance and other characteristics
  • States of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma)
  • Hands on activity with UV beads and/or use of UV meter and EPA Sun Wise materials
  • Why don’t EUV reach Earth’s surface?

Solar Cycle

What is the 11 year solar cycle and why is it important?
Solar Cycle(minimum / maximum)
Sunspots (Stanford Solar Center)

  • Graphing sunspot cycles (UCAR)
  • Solar rotation
  • Use of spreadsheet and graphs on computer
  • Does EUV vary during the 11 year cycle?

Magnetic Field

What are Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and how do they influence space weather?
Magnetism and the Sun (Stanford Solar Center)
Earth as a Magnet (PDF)
Earth’s Magnetic Field (PDF)

  • The Sun’s magnetic field
  • Relationship to other solar features such as sunspots, prominence, corona
  • Measuring and working with angles
  • Trajectory and impacts of CMEs
  • Do CMEs impact EUV?

Sun-Earth Connections

How does solar energy interact with the Earth’s magnetosphere and atmosphere?
Auroras: Paintings in the Sky (Exploratorium)
AM Radio Waves (PDF)
What is the ionosphere? (University of Alaska at Fairbanks)

  • Auroras- how scientists study them
  • Overview of ionosphere and role of EUV in ionization process
  • Begin to build SID antennae (See SID web site at Stanford Solar Center for more)
  • Computer skill-building- use of tables for SID data

Tools to Observe the Sun

What do different tools tell about the Sun and how its energy varies on Earth?
Solar Observatories – NASA
US Naval Observatory Data Tools
Pinhole Camera activity
World Time Zone

  • Review ways of observing the sun, modern and ancient
  • Visit a planetarium or use solar telescope
  • Begin to collect SID data and notice daily changes in ionization

SID Monitor

What do data from the Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance Monitor tell us about the Sun-Earth connection?

  • Visit the SID Blog
  • Visit the SID Data site and contribute and compare data
  • Additional activities can include rocketry
  • Final presentation by students about project
  • Post-test to compare with pre-test and evaluate cognitive gains, technical skills enhancement and attitudes about science and technology

Additional Links