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Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots
written by Rebecca 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.
1 supplemental document is available
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Astronomy
- Instrumentation
= Observatories
- The Sun
= Magnetic Activity
= Solar Structure
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
Relativity
- 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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Intended Users:
Educator
Learner
Format:
application/pdf
Access Rights:
Free access
Restriction:
© 2019 Temple University and American Association of Physics Teachers
Keywords:
Butterfly Effect, data analysis, frequency, lecture tutorial, period, periodicity, solar cycle, solar maximum, solar minimum, solar rotation, solar system, wave properties
Record Creator:
Metadata instance created March 24, 2019 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
April 9, 2019 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 6, 2019

Next Generation Science Standards

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (HS-PS4)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling in various media. (HS-PS4-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Wave Properties (PS4.A)
  • The wavelength and frequency of a wave are related to one another by the speed of travel of the wave, which depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing. (9-12)
Information Technologies and Instrumentation (PS4.C)
  • Multiple technologies based on the understanding of waves and their interactions with matter are part of everyday experiences in the modern world (e.g., medical imaging, communications, scanners) and in scientific research. They are essential tools for producing, transmitting, and capturing signals and for storing and interpreting the information contained in them. (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)
  • 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)
Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined. (9-12)
Stability and Change (2-12)
  • Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable. (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 support claims. (9-12)

NGSS Nature of Science Standards (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)
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)
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
R. Vieyra, R. Lopez, S. Willoughby, and J. Bailey, , 2019, WWW Document, (https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14987&DocID=5038).
AJP/PRST-PER
R. Vieyra, R. Lopez, S. Willoughby, and J. Bailey, Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots, , 2019, <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14987&DocID=5038>.
APA Format
Vieyra, R., Lopez, R., Willoughby, S., & Bailey, J. (2019). Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14987&DocID=5038
Chicago Format
Vieyra, R, R. Lopez, S. Willoughby, and J. Bailey. "Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots." 2019. https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14987&DocID=5038 (accessed 23 October 2019).
MLA Format
Vieyra, Rebecca, Ramon Lopez, Shannon Willoughby, and Janelle Bailey. Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots. 2019. 23 Oct. 2019 <https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14987&DocID=5038>.
BibTeX Export Format
@techreport{ Author = "Rebecca Vieyra and Ramon Lopez and Shannon Willoughby and Janelle Bailey", Title = {Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots}, Month = {March}, Year = {2019} }
Refer Export Format

%A Rebecca Vieyra
%A Ramon Lopez
%A Shannon Willoughby
%A Janelle Bailey
%T Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots
%D March 6, 2019
%U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14987&DocID=5038
%O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Report
%A Vieyra, Rebecca
%A Lopez, Ramon
%A Willoughby, Shannon
%A Bailey, Janelle
%D March 6, 2019
%T Sunspot Science: Measuring the Frequency and Period of Sunspots
%8 March 6, 2019
%U https://www.compadre.org/Repository/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=14987&DocID=5038


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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

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