Sun-Earth Day 2008: Space Weather Around the World
A red and orange image of the sun's corona with hotter areas of plasma shown in yellow

This image of the Sun's corona was taken with the Yohkoh Soft X-Ray Telescope and shows the complex, hot plasmas that make up the corona. Image Credit: NASA

What does a spot on the sun have to do with everyday life on Earth?

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Scientists say the January appearance of a sunspot in the sun's Northern Hemisphere marks the beginning of what is expected to be an 11-year period of increased solar activity, which could have an important impact around the world.

Sunspots are localized areas of strong magnetic fields on the surface of the sun and are often signs of solar storms to come. Solar storms are powerful explosions of energy that erupt from the sun, blast through space and sweep past Earth. Such events can cause power outages and disrupt communications on Earth, and they can harm astronauts in space.

These connections and others between the sun and Earth are the focus of NASA's Sun-Earth Day, a series of programs and events culminating with a celebration on the first day of spring, March 20. On that day, the center of the sun crosses directly above Earth's equator.

The theme of this year's Sun-Earth Day is "Space Weather Around the World." NASA has a variety of resources to help educators introduce and explain space weather and the sun-Earth connection to students.

NASA's Sun-Earth Day Web Site (Grades K-12)

The Web site is home to educational resources for varying grade levels, including the following:
--Podcasts featuring a celebration of the polar sunrise, a creepy story about the aurora, and other Sun-Earth Day news and events.

--Technology Through Time, a series of articles and images through which students learn from scientists about topics including where the sun's magnetic field comes from and why the sun's corona is so hot.

--Calendar of events related to Sun-Earth Day, including Solar Week (March 17-21) and a total solar eclipse webcast (Aug. 1).

--Space weather facts.

--Images of eclipses and videos on solar storms.

--Listing of NASA CONNECT episodes about eclipses, auroras and solar storms.

--Desktop wallpaper featuring views of Earth and the setting sun from the International Space Station.

--Promotional materials, including a space weather folder, flier and poster.

--Links to other resources, including online children's books about the sun and auroras.
> View Sun-Earth Day Web Site   →

A desktop computer surrounded by a display about auroras

This is an example of a Space Weather Action Center that might be set up in the classroom. Image Credit: NASA

Space Weather Action Center (Grades 5-12)

The Space Weather Action Center is a computer-based activity that allows students in grades 5-12 to track, from their classroom, the development and progress of solar storms. The activity incorporates online NASA data and addresses national education standards in science, technology and math.

> View Site   →

Traditions of the Sun (Grades 5-12)

Traditions of the Sun, an educational Web site for students and adults, explores the desire shared by past civilizations and today's society to observe and study the sun. The site features two interactive modules, which include satellite images, aerial photographs, panoramic pictures, time-lapse videos and other multimedia.

> View Site   →

A screenshot of the Sun-Earth Viewer showing colorful images of the sun

The Sun-Earth Viewer displays images of the sun taken at various wavelengths. Image Credit: NASA

Sun-Earth Viewer (Grades 5-12)

NASA's Sun-Earth Viewer provides current images of the sun taken by satellites and ground-based observatories.

> View Site   →

Extra-Credit Problems in Space Science (Grades 7-9)

This PDF document contains a collection of mathematics and reading activities in which students explore the sun-Earth system and space weather. Student worksheets, teacher guides and answer keys are provided.

> View Site

Related Resources
Our Very Own Star the Sun (Grades K-4)   →
Our Very Own Star the Sun (In Spanish)   →
Windows to the Universe: Space Weather (Grades K-4)   →
Windows to the Universe: Space Weather (Grades 5-8)   →
Windows to the Universe: Space Weather (Grades 9-12)   →

Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies