Sun-Earth Days 2014

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Goddard Space Flight Center

Sun-Earth Days 2014

6th-8th Grade Lesson Plans

Featured Activity

Tracking a Solar Storm Challenge

Join the Tracking a Solar Storm challenge and guide students as they learn about the Sun's anatomy, the space weather it generates, and why studying our star is important.

This challenge is designed around NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission. Scheduled to launch in April 2013, the IRIS spacecraft will study the dynamics of the interface region of our Sun's atmosphere using an ultraviolet telescope and imaging spectrograph. As students participate in the challenge, they will learn about the IRIS mission and the instruments scientists use to gather solar data.

An educators' guide to the IRIS challenge is available on the Tracking a Solar Storm website and includes key information for helping students study the sun's weather, track a solar storm, and predict its effect on Earth. Students will demonstrate what they have learned by collecting data and producing a space weather report.

Timing: February – May 2013

Space Math@NASA

Math in Press Releases

NASA press releases are a great source of topics that highlight how mathematics is used in the process of discovery. Here are the titles and links to recent news announcements in chronological order, together with their related math problems. The press releases appear on the front page of the NASA Home Page, and are frequently covered the same day by news organizations such as or This collection does not include numerous other discoveries made by NASA missions, which are published in technical journals.

Transit Mathematics

This problem book allows students to explore astronomical eclipses, transits and occultations to learn about their unique geometry, and how modern observations by NASA's Kepler satellite will use simple transit math to discover planets orbiting distant stars. A series of Appendices reveal the imagery and history through news paper articles of the Transits of Venus observed during the 1700 and 1800s. Contains 44 math problems, 250 pages, 120 illustrations 14.6 Mby PDF file.

Astronomical Data to Inspire Your Curiosity:

This archive provides a sampling of various kinds of data that can lead to answering very interesting questions. All you have to do is provide the question, and then work with the data to come up with your own answers. How you choose to analyze the data, or which data set or combination of them you choose to work with, is entirely up to you. SpaceMath@NASA, through its hundreds of math problems has provided many examples of how data can be investigated to extract new information. Among these 'worked' problems you may come up with new questions for you to research using these data sets. Great Inquiry Activity

Solar Math (2008)

Solar Math (2008) 15 Problems Exploring solar storms and solar structure using simple math activities. Calculating speeds of solar flares from photographs, and investigating solar magnetism.

Lunar Math (2008)

17 Problems An exploration of the moon using NASA photographs and scaling activities. Mathematical modeling of the lunar interior, and problems involving estimating its total mass and the mass of its atmosphere.

Magnetic Math (2009)

37 Problems Six hands-on exercises, plus 37 math problems, allow students to explore magnetism and magnetic fields, both through drawing and geometric construction, and by using simple algebra to quantitatively examine magnetic forces, energy, and magnetic field lines and their mathematical structure.

Space Weather Math (2010)

96 Problems Students explore the way in which the sun interacts with Earth to produce space weather, and the ways in which astronomers study solar storms to predict when adverse conditions may pose a hazard for satellites and human operation in space. Six appendices and an extensive provide a rich 150-year context for why space whether is an important issue.

Electromagnetic Math (2010)

84 Problems Students explore the simple mathematics behind light and other forms of electromagnetic energy including the properties of waves, wavelength, frequency, the Doppler shift, and the various ways that astronomers image the universe across the electromagnetic spectrum to learn more about the properties of matter and its movement.

Remote Sensing Math (Draft:2011)

103 Problems This book covers many topics in remote sensing, satellite imaging, image analysis and interpretation. Examples are culled from earth science and astronomy missions. Students learn about instrument resolution and sensitivity as well as how to calibrate a common digital camera, and how to design a satellite imaging system.

General Sun-Earth Days Lesson Plans

Eclipsing the Sun

Use this physical model to demonstrate how an eclipse occurs.

Mapping Magnetic Influence- Middle

This is a complete teachers guide on magnetism. It is designed for students to explore magnets and to develop an operational definition of a magnetic "field" and an operational definition for magnetic "pole."

Exploring Magnetism- Grades 7-9

Students will act as scientists discovering magnetic fields and electromagnetism through inquiry and measurement. Included at the beginning of each session is a summary of the session, a list of national education standards that the session covers, and a list of materials required for the session. Each session is broken into several activities, with each activity outlined for the teacher. In the Background Material section, you can find science background for the lessons. A glossary can be found after the background section. At the end we recommend different resources to help you teach and learn more about magnetism.

Ancient Observatories, Timeless Knowledge Activity

Students will make sun shadow plots by marking ends of shadows made by the Sun and a gnomon (a stick used to cast shadows). After students have made their sun shadow plot, they will use it to determine the direction of true north.

Technology Through Time Bulletin Board Activity

This bulletin board activity is designed to focus student attention on the role that sun watching has played in humankind's survival through time. As part of this display you may wish to use your own world map or download one we have created for you.

Ancient Observatories: Timeless Knowledge Activities

These activities are designed to help you make connections between events in your life and the seasons of the year. One major connection relates the concept of the seasons to past observations.

Making a Sun Clock

Let the Exploratorium show you how to build a working Sun Clock.

Sunbeams and Sundials

Enjoy this unit based on the Space and Time gallery at the Liverpool Museum, with both formal and informal activities.

The Maya Astronomy Page

"Learn about these accomplished early astronomers. This site is concise, clearly written, and easy to navigate. It's a great starting point for exploration into the fascinating culture of the Maya." (Selected by the Exploratorium as a Cool Site in Feb. 1998)

Astronomy of the Americas: Volume 11 Planetarium Activities for Student Success (Pass)

There are hundreds of Native American cultures, each with distinctive views of the heavens. In this program, students visit five cultures: the Hupa people of Northern California, Medicine Wheel in Northern Wyoming, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the Mayan people and the Incan people.

All About the Sun

From NASA's Quest's Learning Technologies Channel (at NASA Ames) and the Stanford Solar Center, learn more about the sun from this impressive archive of video clips and materials from past webcasts.

Solarscapes: Sunspots and Rotation

You and your middle-school students will open up the Sun and explore phenomena most people have never seen before. Your students will calculate the period of the solar cycle and predict its shapes, and calculate the rotation period of the Sun.

Solar Flip Book

Students will make a flip book that shows the progression of two solar events on reversible sides of the flip book. Event choices include the sunspot cycle, differential rotation of the sun using sunspots, a total solar eclipse, progression of a coronal mass ejection, and a sungrazing comet.