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CME Science: Measuring the Velocity of a Coronal Mass Ejection
written by Rebecca E. Vieyra, Alice Flarend, and Ramon Lopez
edited by Caroline Hall
This lesson for high school physics blends kinematics and space science as students analyze authentic data from the NASA/ESA SOHO space observatory to determine the speed of a coronal mass ejection (CME). Learners will closely examine and measure coronagraph images of CME events to construct graphs of position vs. time and velocity vs. time. The lesson is designed to promote understanding of three key ideas: 1. Relationships between p-t and v-t graphs; 2. The laws of classical physics are consistent throughout the universe; and 3. Earth's sun is an ever-changing star that produces phenomena which can be observed, imaged, and accurately measured.

Note: This AAPT Lesson Plan is based on a Lecture Tutorial written for the NASA Space Science Education Consortium. See "Supplemental Document" below to download the original CME Speed Lecture Tutorial in its entirety.
Editor's Note: This lesson is most appropriate for the early phase of a unit on kinematics in a high school algebra-based physics course. It can be adapted for use in Physics First or Conceptual Physics courses by revising or simplifying the math calculations.
1 supplemental document is available
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Instrumentation
= Optical Astronomy
- The Sun
= Space Weather
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in One Dimension
= Position & Displacement
= Velocity
Education Practices
- Pedagogy
= Multidisciplinary
Other Sciences
- Mathematics
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Problem/Problem Set
= Student Guide
- Reference Material
= Article
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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Access available to members of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).
© 2018 American Association of Physics Teachers
LASCO, coronagraph, plasma physics, position graph, space weather, spectrometry, velocity graph
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created October 8, 2018 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 13, 2022 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
September 25, 2018

Next Generation Science Standards

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Analyze data to support the claim that Newton's second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration. (HS-PS2-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • Newton's second law accurately predicts changes in the motion of macroscopic objects. (9-12)
The Universe and its Stars (ESS1.A)
  • The star called the sun is changing and will burn out over a lifespan of approximately 10 billion years. (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Patterns (K-12)
  • Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural systems. (6-8)
  • Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns. (9-12)
Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (3-12)
  • Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth). (9-12)
Stability and Change (2-12)
  • Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible. (9-12)
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems (1-12)
  • Science assumes the universe is a vast single system in which basic laws are consistent. (9-12)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
    • Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Use mathematical representations of phenomena to describe explanations. (9-12)

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Functions (9-12)

Interpreting Functions (9-12)
  • F-IF.6 Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.
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.

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

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • RST.11-12.8 Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.
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Record Link
AIP Format
R. Vieyra, A. Flarend, and R. Lopez, , 2018, WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14744&DocID=4897).
R. Vieyra, A. Flarend, and R. Lopez, CME Science: Measuring the Velocity of a Coronal Mass Ejection, 2018, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14744&DocID=4897>.
APA Format
Vieyra, R., Flarend, A., & Lopez, R. (2018). CME Science: Measuring the Velocity of a Coronal Mass Ejection. Retrieved May 22, 2024, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14744&DocID=4897
Chicago Format
Vieyra, R, A. Flarend, and R. Lopez. "CME Science: Measuring the Velocity of a Coronal Mass Ejection." Edited by Caroline Hall.. 2018. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14744&DocID=4897 (accessed 22 May 2024).
MLA Format
Vieyra, Rebecca E., Alice Flarend, and Ramon Lopez. CME Science: Measuring the Velocity of a Coronal Mass Ejection. 2018. 22 May 2024 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14744&DocID=4897>.
BibTeX Export Format
@techreport{ Author = "Rebecca E. Vieyra and Alice Flarend and Ramon Lopez", Title = {CME Science: Measuring the Velocity of a Coronal Mass Ejection}, Month = {September}, Year = {2018} }
Refer Export Format

%A Rebecca E. Vieyra %A Alice Flarend %A Ramon Lopez %T CME Science: Measuring the Velocity of a Coronal Mass Ejection %E Caroline Hall, (ed) %D September 25, 2018 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14744&DocID=4897 %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Report %A Vieyra, Rebecca E. %A Flarend, Alice %A Lopez, Ramon %D September 25, 2018 %T CME Science: Measuring the Velocity of a Coronal Mass Ejection %E Hall, Caroline %8 September 25, 2018 %U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14744&DocID=4897

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