Teacher's Corner

Upon completion of this SOLAR ASTRONOMY unit, students will be able to;

    1. Acquire daily SOLAR IMAGES from the Internet from various sources

    2. Recognize a variety of SOLAR SURFACE FEATURES such as sun spots and magnetic storms.

    3. Keep track of  DYNAMIC PROCESSES AS THEY HAPPEN, on the surface of the sun and in the solar corona.

    4. Determine the how long it takes for the SUN TO ROTATE ON ITS AXIS.


    6. Choose and carry out at least one SOLAR LAB.

Suggested  activities:

Lab Grade Level
Solar lab #1 9-12
Solar Lab #2 10-12
Solar Lab # 3 4-8
Chasing the sun 4-8
Prism Lab 6-9
Diffraction Lab 6-9
Other Labs 2-10
Teacher suggestions G


As often as possible ( every day?)
visit your favorite solar site( check out the RESOURCES in this unit)
choose one or more image type
select the image(s)) for that day
print the highest quality images you can.
save your pictures in a note book.

Once you have acquired a lot of images,  start to compare them to see changes in the features you are observing. Look for trends
and patterns. You can use your image processing software to select and clarify the features you are interested in.

back to table

Choose a prominant feature on the surface of the sun in your picture.
Identify one which is the furthest to the left side of your picture.
In the next picture( a day or so later), look for your feature and see if it has moved to the right.
When you examine your third picture, you will notice that your feature has moved even farther to the right.
Try to predict when the feature will hit the far right side of the sun.
Verify your prediction by continually taking images, till the feature goes off the right side. This means that the sun has rotated from left to right and your feature has rotated around behind the sun!
Try to estimate when your feature will reappear on the left side, after it has made it all the way around the back of the sun.(To help you in your estimation, remember that, if the feature was in the middle of the sun when you took your first feature, the sun had to rotate one fourth of the way to get the feature to disappear. If the feature was all the way to the left when you started, the sun had to rotate half way around to make it disappear on the right.  Motion at the very edge is slow because you are looking at the object as it goes away from you, not as it crosses your field of view.)
The period of rotation of the sun is the time it takes your feature to travel all the way around and back to where it started.

 back to table

Chose a sunny day and go outside
Find the shadow of a pointed object, like a big flag pole and mark the end of the shadow with a stick.
Wait about half an hour and mark the shadow again.
Continue as long as possible ( perhaps sending a student out each half  hour after everyone comes back in side) marking the shadow's position with a stick.
At the end of the day, have the class observe the shadow's path across the yard.
Repeat and compare the next day.
Wait a month or two and try it again, comparing the old with the new.
 Point out that the longer shadows later in the year are due to the sun's getting lower  in the sky.

 back to table

Inside the classroom on a sunny day, tape a small mirror on a window sill in the sun so that the light from the sun is reflected on the wall.
With a 'sticky paper' marked  SUN SPOT!, mark where the sun hits the wall
Wait 10 min and mark the next location, where ever it may be.
Continue marking the 'sun spot' every ten minutes for the next hour or so.
Observe the path of the sun as it travels across your classroom.

back to table

With the sunlight shining off of the mirror, use a prism to create a rainbow or spectrum on the wall by shining the sunlight
from the mirror onto the prism and turning the prism so that the spectrum is on the wall.
Each student can;
Record all the colors in order, on a piece of paper
Trace the colors off of the wall
Describe what they see in a paragraph
Make a diagram tracing the path of the light from the window through the prism to the wall for each color

back to table

Send the light  reflected from the mirror through a diffraction grating held by a clamp on a ring stand and observe  the colors on the wall.
Make a diagram of the colors and write an essay comparing the color pattern on the wall from your grating ,to the pattern from the prism.

back to table

Obtain a blue print paper solar imaging kit from your local Nature stor
Take solar blue prints of leaves and rocks
Make a pin hole camera out of a shoe box, using tissue paper for your image screen.
Aim it at the sun and look at the image on the tissue paper.
The bigger the box, the larger the image of the sun. These images tend to be very small and hard to see. The larger the distance from the pin hole to the screen, the larger the image and the dimmer the image.
If you replace the tissue paper with some blue print paper, you can get an image of the sun on the 
paper. The longer you wait, the brighter the blue print. The problem is that the sun moves while you are recording your image, so you must move the box so as to keep the sun in the same place on the paper.

 back to table


You must practice extreme caution to make sure no one looks into the sun. Build shades around the sides of the pin hole cameras and repeat frequently the phrase;


Setting up a SOLAR CENTER is great fun. You will find that the interest it generates in science is worth the trouble. Also, the pictures you get justify the expense of a new color printer!

Making contact with a solar observatory is also worth your time. Solar Astronomers can really enjoy working with your school, coming to talk about their work and maintaining e-mail and or video conferencing contact. Getting a sponsor may result in a lot of benefits.

top of page

Back to SCORE Science