NASA/ESA Class Activity: Tracking Sunspots Using Real Data from SOHO
Many students are unaware that the Sun rotates (spins). They believe it is fixed in space. This 30-minute activity will help dispel this common misconception. It provides everything you need to use real SOHO images and sunspot position(s) to roughly calculate the Sun's rate of rotation at its equator. But remember! You'll have to account for Earth's orbit around the sun to get a good estimate.
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European Space Agency: Differential Rotation of the Sun & Its Chromosphere
For more advanced courses or AP High School Physics, this robust lesson from the European Space Agency (ESA) tackles the sun's differential rotation. The sun isn't a rock, like the Earth. It's a gaseous body, resulting in different rotation speeds on its surface. The sun moves faster at the equator; slower at its poles. This activity places students in the role of scientists:  1) View the images from the given web pages; 2) Locate two sunspots with the greatest difference in latitude and track these sunspots at two times separated by 24 hours; 2) Use a free tool to obtain the exact "Grid of the Sun" for the days the images were taken; 3) Calculate the angular velocity (differential rotation) with one of two methods given in the lesson.
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Science Netlinks: Tracking the Movement of Sunspots
This comprehensive lesson plan features real data from NASA's Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) for tracking the "movement" of sunspots by using images from a Michelson Doppler Imager instrument. Working in pairs, students will examine "intensitygrams", which show light intensity, and "magnetograms", which show images of the sun's magnetic field. Which imaging technique is best for showing sunspot location? Each has advantages/disadvantages. The key takeaway is for students to think like scientists as they explore authentic data to learn more about Earth's sun. Note:The SOHO code infrastructure is being updated. Some images may not be available.
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