How Do the Sun and Earth's Magnetospheres Interact to Cause Aurora by Rachel Geiter

Project:     NASA Heliophysics Teacher-Developed Lessons

To engage students, the teacher demonstrates the aurora using a plasma ball and fluorescent light and provides students with a teacher-made seven-minute presentation about the magnetosphere and solar wind. During the presentation students write key vocabulary onto doodle notes (provided by the teacher partially filled out). Students watch a NASA video (Space Weather and Earth’s Aurora). Then students make the magnetosphere out of pipe cleaners and model a solar wind bubble interacting with the pipe cleaner magnetosphere.


For a formative assessment, students will answer ‘What causes aurora?’ by creating a short video under 30 seconds long to demonstrate solar wind and the magnetosphere. Students may compile videos to share with the school on the weekly news video.


Students will learn about the Kp index, and look at the last several months Kp values to investigate the question, When could we have seen an aurora in our town? Students will look at the forecast for this month to answer the question, How does the magnitude of a geomagnetic storm affect the visibility of an aurora in our town?

Teachers can also show this NASA solar cycle video so they can realize that in two years people will see more frequent aurora.