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ONLINE PHYSICAL SCIENCE II
The NASA SDO and STEREO satellites are designed to
study the sun and the space weather it produces. This lab
activity makes use of the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly
web site which displays the amazing information gathered
by these satellites.
1. To understand and explore the purpose of the SDO and
2. To track sun flare alerts and solar news over several
months using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly web
3. View the sun at different wavelengths using real-time
satellite date via the web site.
4. Estimate a solar day using SDO data.
The Sun is an average star, similar to millions of
others in the Universe. It is a tremendous, dynamic
energy machine. If the total output of the Sun was
gathered for one second it would provide the U.S. with
enough energy for the next 9,000,000 years! The basic
energy source for the Sun is nuclear fusion, which uses
the high temperatures and densities within the core to
fuse hydrogen, producing energy and creating helium
as a byproduct.
Understanding the changing Sun and its effects on the
solar system, life, and society is a main goal of
NASA's Heliophysics research program which
includes the STEREO and SDO missions. Space
weather happens when a solar storm from the Sun
travels through space and impacts the Earth’s
magnetosphere. Studying space weather is important
to our national economy because solar storms can
affect the advanced technology we have become so
dependent upon in our everyday lives. Energy and
radiation from solar flares and coronal mass ejections
Harm astronauts in space
Damage sensitive electronics on orbiting spacecraft
Cause colorful auroras, often seen in the higher latitudes
Create blackouts on Earth when they cause surges in power grids.
To make sure you understand the key concepts essential to this lab, answer the following questions based
on the references videos:
SDO video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSSs7-O5IqY&feature=relmfu
1. Briefly describe how space weather affects the earth.
Space weather affects the earth in several ways. Firstly, space weather can disrupt and spoil current
electrical systems. Exposure to radiation influences the work of astronauts as well as other commercial
air travelers. In addition, space weather storms affects the functioning of modern technology and can
result to errors to the accuracy of compasses.
2. What is helioseismology?
Helioseismology is a process that refers to the study of dynamics and the structure of the sun by
analyzing its movements.
3. What is SDO designed to do?
The SDO is designed to observe the changes which take place in the sun and its major goal is to
understand the effect of the sun on the earth. SDO thus studies the solar system in diverse scales and in
many wavelengths as well to establish its influences on the earth.
STEREO video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qLB5ma2Yz1I
4. Describe the current orientation of STEREO satellites A and B (go HERE for updated position).
Stereo A and B were launched by NASA in 2006 and the prior advanced ahead while B advanced
behind. The two stereos are almost opposite to each other, thus offering a view of the entire sun.
5. How is studying sunspots useful?
Studying sunspots is crucial because it helps in understanding how the sun as well as the stars produce
6. How long is a solar day?
24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds.
Extreme Solar Flares video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmDZhQAIeXM
7. How many years occur between maximum solar activity?
8. Briefly describe what a solar flare is and what causes it.
Solar flares are blasts that occur as a result of crossing or reorganizing of magnetic field lines wit hin
9. For how many years could a large flare power t...
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