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published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science
This is a standards-based experiment designed to promote deeper understanding of the sun's role in powering our planet. Students build a simple device to measure the amount of solar radiation the Earth receives from the sun. Using data from the experiment, they will then calculate the solar constant -- the amount of energy the earth receives from the sun per square meter per second. As a related extension, learners also evaluate the power of sunlight closer to the Sun--at the distance of Mercury.

This package includes comprehensive content support, student worksheets with answer keys, and links to pedagogical information that addresses common student misconceptions. This item is part of a larger collection of lessons developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Inquiry Learning
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electromagnetic Radiation
= Electromagnetic Spectrum
Thermo & Stat Mech
- First Law
= Heat Transfer
- Thermal Properties of Matter
= Temperature
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Problem/Problem Set
= Student Guide
- Assessment Material
- Reference Material
= Nonfiction Reference
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Safety Gloves Must be worn   Minimal Danger  

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© 2004 American Association for the Advancement of Science
EM spectrum, electromagnetic radiation, planetary temperature, solar constant, solar energy, solar power, solar radiation, spectrum, standards-based lessons, sunlight, temperature
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created October 25, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
October 25, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
January 31, 2009
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M3. Thermal energy is transferred through a material by the collisions of atoms within the material. Over time, the thermal energy tends to spread out through a material and from one material to another if they are in contact. Thermal energy can also be transferred by means of currents in air, water, or other fluids. In addition, some thermal energy in all materials is transformed into light energy and radiated into the environment by electromagnetic waves; that light energy can be transformed back into thermal energy when the electromagnetic waves strike another material. As a result, a material tends to cool down unless some other form of energy is converted to thermal energy in the material.
  • 6-8: 4E/M6. Light and other electromagnetic waves can warm objects. How much an object's temperature increases depends on how intense the light striking its surface is, how long the light shines on the object, and how much of the light is absorbed.

8. The Designed World

8C. Energy Sources and Use
  • 6-8: 8C/M5. Energy from the sun (and the wind and water energy derived from it) is available indefinitely. Because the transfer of energy from these resources is weak and variable, systems are needed to collect and concentrate the energy.
  • 9-12: 8C/H8. Sunlight is the ultimate source of most of the energy we use. The energy in fossil fuels such as oil and coal comes from energy that plants captured from the sun long ago.

11. Common Themes

11C. Constancy and Change
  • 6-8: 11C/M4. Symbolic equations can be used to summarize how the quantity of something changes over time or in response to other changes.

12. Habits of Mind

12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • 6-8: 12C/M3. Make accurate measurements of length, volume, weight, elapsed time, rates, and temperature by using appropriate devices.
  • 9-12: 12C/H1. Follow instructions in manuals or seek help from an experienced user to learn how to operate new mechanical or electrical devices.
12D. Communication Skills
  • 9-12: 12D/H3. Choose appropriate summary statistics to describe group differences, always indicating the spread of the data as well as the data's central tendencies.
  • 9-12: 12D/H6. Participate in group discussions on scientific topics by restating or summarizing accurately what others have said, asking for clarification or elaboration, and expressing alternative positions.
  • 9-12: 12D/H7. Use tables, charts, and graphs in making arguments and claims in oral, written, and visual presentations.
  • 9-12: 12D/H8. Use symbolic equations to represent relationships between objects and events.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Number and Quantity (9-12)

Quantities? (9-12)
  • N-Q.3 Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities.

High School — Algebra (9-12)

Seeing Structure in Expressions (9-12)
  • A-SSE.2 Use the structure of an expression to identify ways to rewrite it.
Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (9-12)
  • A-REI.3 Solve linear equations and inequalities in one variable, including equations with coefficients represented by letters.

High School — Functions (9-12)

Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models? (9-12)
  • F-LE.1.b Recognize situations in which one quantity changes at a constant rate per unit interval relative to another.
  • F-LE.5 Interpret the parameters in a linear or exponential function in terms of a context.

High School — Statistics and Probability? (9-12)

Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data (9-12)
  • S-ID.4 Use the mean and standard deviation of a data set to fit it to a normal distribution and to estimate population percentages. Recognize that there are data sets for which such a procedure is not appropriate. Use calculators, spreadsheets, and tables to estimate areas under the normal curve.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.
  • RST.9-10.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.10 By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 11—CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

NSES Content Standards

Con.A: Science as Inquiry
  • K-4: Understandings about Scientific Inquiry
Con.B: Physical Science
  • K-4: Properties of Objects & Materials
  • 5-8: Transfer of Energy
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AIP Format
(American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC, 2004), WWW Document, (
Science NetLinks: Discovering the Power of Sunlight, (American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC, 2004), <>.
APA Format
Science NetLinks: Discovering the Power of Sunlight. (2009, January 31). Retrieved July 28, 2016, from American Association for the Advancement of Science:
Chicago Format
American Association for the Advancement of Science. Science NetLinks: Discovering the Power of Sunlight. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science, January 31, 2009. (accessed 28 July 2016).
MLA Format
Science NetLinks: Discovering the Power of Sunlight. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2004. 31 Jan. 2009. 28 July 2016 <>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Science NetLinks: Discovering the Power of Sunlight}, Publisher = {American Association for the Advancement of Science}, Volume = {2016}, Number = {28 July 2016}, Month = {January 31, 2009}, Year = {2004} }
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%T Science NetLinks: Discovering the Power of Sunlight
%D January 31, 2009
%I American Association for the Advancement of Science
%C Washington, DC
%O text/html

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%0 Electronic Source
%D January 31, 2009
%T Science NetLinks: Discovering the Power of Sunlight
%I American Association for the Advancement of Science
%V 2016
%N 28 July 2016
%8 January 31, 2009
%9 text/html

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