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Discovering the Sun

 

Introduction:  
  The Mission:

Friendly aliens have recently contacted NASA and have communicated that the sun in their solar system is beginning to crash. Once our scientists got over the shock of communicating with aliens, they found out why they were speaking so urgently: they want to relocate to our solar system and want to know all about our sun. NASA has determined that this is low on their priority and so has asked our class to help the aliens. It will be your mission to gather as much information about the sun and report to the aliens as soon as possible.
Task:  
  Working in groups of 4, you will use the Internet to search at least 5 websites that give information about the sun. You will do this over the course of 2-3 class sessions. Each team is to have a captain (who will be responsible for time management and will oversee the organization of the material), navigator (who is responsible for searching the web), recorder (who is responsible for documenting the information once the team determines level of importance), co-pilot (who is responsible for assessing validity of the information). Roles may be switched on the different days. On the fourth day, your team will complete an analysis paper that utilizes the information that you gathered and prepare for a presentation that will happen on the fifth day. You must be prepared to answer questions that the aliens will ask! You should include images that represent your data, when appropriate.
Process:  
  Your group will go to the computer lab and search the five sites together to gather information about the sun.

The aliens have a list of questions that you must answer in your quest.
1. How old is the sun?
2. What is the temperature of the sun?
3. How far away is the sun from the Earth?
4. What is the difference in temperature between the core and the surface of the sun?
5. What is the chemical make up of the sun?
6. What are the percentages of those chemicals?
7. What are sunspots?
8. When were sunspots first discovered and who discovered them?
9. How are magnetic storms on Earth related to sunspot activity?
10. What is the sunspot number for each of the days you did your research?
11. How does the number of sunspots change over time?
12. How are each of the following related to the sun: prominences, solar flares, corona, solar wind, chromospheres, photosphere,
13. How does the sun get its energy?
14. What is nuclear fusion?
15. How can you safely observe the sun?
16. What is an eclipse?
17. When will the next eclipse occur?

Afterwards, be sure to come up with a list of questions you would like to ask the aliens. Your list should be at least 10 questions long and should include a hypothesis on why their sun no longer exists.

The final part of your mission is to write a 500 word essay that defines the benefits and downfalls of our sun. Use the answers to the questions to assist you in this process.
Resources:  
  Below you will find a list of websites that will assist you in this process.

http://www.spaceweather.com/java/sunspot.html
http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/whsun.html
http://zebu.uoregon.edu/~imamura/122/lecture-1/chem.html
http://www.astro.uva.nl/demo/od95/
http://www.telescope.org/btl/lc1.html
http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html

If you use any additional resources, be sure to list them in your resource list.
Evaluation:  
  At the end of the presentation, the groups will be graded using a rubric. This will be handed out the day before the presentations begin.
 

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