Notes for Group Leaders: The Solar Cycle

Part One:  General Appearance
Overview of Activity  
Students will look at the features of the sun using an image of the sun today.  They will then make a sketch of the sun including the features.

Grade Level
Grade 5 and up

Materials Needed
* Image of today's sun        
* Paper for drawing

Pre-requisite Knowledge Needed
None  

Part Two:  A Changing Look, or a Constant Face? Overview of Activity    
Students observe images of the sun on several dates.  They then plot the number of active regions vs. time and the distance of active regions from the solar equator versus time.

Grade Level
- Plot One:  Grade 5 and up
- Plot Two:  Grade 7 and up

Materials Needed     
* Image of today's sun      
* Image of sun from other days      
* Graph paper       
* Ruler        
* Printer and image processing program (optional)

Prerequisite Knowledge Needed
Students need to understand what an active region looks like. Basic graphing skills are important in this activity.

Recommendation
If the students count the number of active regions for each day and record this information on a chart, plotting the data will be easier.    

Part Three:  Long Term Cycles
Overview of Activity    
Students compare their graphs from Part Two to graphs that show sunspot data for the last 250 years.  Then they make predictions about what the Sun will look like in the future.

Grade Level
Grade 7 and up

Materials Needed        
* Plots from Part Two        
* Graph of sunspot data over last 250 years        
* Graph of solar latitude of sunspots over 125 years
* Image of today's sun
* Image from Test Yourself section of activity OR See Activity

Pre-requisite Knowledge Needed
Students need to have completed Part Two in order to complete this activity.  
 
Part Four:  Connection to the Visible Sun
Overview of Activity    
Students compare images of the sun from the same date and time but made in different wavelengths.  They then make predictions about today's sun and compare them with today's white-light picture.

Grade Level
Grade 6 and up

Materials Needed
See Activity

Pre-requisite Knowledge Needed
Students should be able to identify a sunspot.  

Useful Information
A description of the solar cycle can be found in our Solar Tour.

Useful Links
The Solar Surface : A brief description of the solar surface and sunspots from YPOP's Structure of the Sunsection.

Active regions and sunspots : An mpeg movie (226 kB) showing the relationship between sunspots and active regions using data from the yohkoh spacecraft.

The Sunspot Cycle : An excellent introduction from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Solar Influences Data Center : An up-to-date monitoring of the current solar cycle. Click on Recent sunspot data in navigation bar then click on GRAPHICS in frame to get to images of the recent solar behavior. 


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