Our Sun as a Natural System by Tom N. Tomas

Project:     NASA Heliophysics Teacher-Developed Lessons

Students will learn about the Sun’s spectral lines that include hydrogen, helium, argon, neon, and sodium using DIY spectroscopes to understand how scientists use high-tech spectroscopes to study distant stars and exoplanets. Geissler tubes will provide access to the five elements listed above. Then we will hold the Sun in our hands with the Merge Cube (a free educational trial is available). Students will also develop systems thinking by studying the Sun as a natural system and spacecraft such as satellites as human-designed systems.

Students will learn how to create a spectroscope to identify elements in a gas cloud while using gas discharge lights:  hydrogen, helium, argon, neon, and sodium.  Plus, we will use the DIY spectroscope to study the streetlights around our homes and surrounding community. We will learn how each gas cloud provides a unique set of spectral lines, like a fingerprint, and that scientists use high-tech spectroscopes to ‘read’ the Sun, and distant stars.

Satellites such as the Parker Solar Probe, Solar Orbiter, and the Solar Dynamics Observatory are human-designed spacecraft that gather data about our closest star. Students will study data from those satellites, etc. to understand and learn how to live with our closest star.