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Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots
written by Rebecca E. Vieyra
written by Ramon Lopez
written by Shannon Willoughby
written by Janelle M. Bailey
This activity for introductory physics introduces authentic sunspot data from NASA's Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) to promote understanding of period and frequency in the context of cyclical patterns on the sun. Students will use time-stamped images to identify and analyze patterns in sunspot activity, then apply their findings to calculate the period of a solar cycle. This resource was developed with the support of a Cooperative Agreement from the NASA Heliophysics Education Consortium granted to Temple University and the AAPT. It is appropriate for lower-level undergraduate courses in conceptual physics and algebra-based physics. It can be easily adapted for high school physics courses as well.
Editor's Note: This activity explicitly meets NGSS standards relating to Wave Properties, Space Science, and Instrumentation. It can also serve as a cross-disciplinary lesson that blends data analysis with physical science. The mathematics is accessible to beginners who have not yet completed Algebra I, which allows students at varying levels to engage in the primary task of analyzing authentic data to form valid conclusions.

NGSS Standards (12)

1 supplemental document is available
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Instrumentation
= Observatories
- The Sun
= Magnetic Activity
= Solar Structure
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
- Reference Frames
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Problem/Problem Set
= Student Guide
- Assessment Material
- Dataset
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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May 24 - Jun 24, 2024