3D Sun Lab Activity

3D Sun Lab Activity

ONLINE PHYSICAL SCIENCE II                               .

 Lab Activity

”3-D Sun”


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 STEREO satellites.
  2. To track sun flare alerts and solar news over several months using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly web site.
  3. View the sun at different wavelengths using real-time satellite date via the web site.
  4. Estimate a solar day using SDO data.


3D Sun Theory:

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 can:

  • 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.


3D Sun Lab Activity Review Questions

To make sure you understand the key concepts essential to this lab, answer the following questions based on the references videos:


SDO video


  1. Briefly describe how space weather affects the earth.



  1. What is helioseismology?



  1. What is SDO designed to do?



STEREO video 


  1. Describe the current orientation of STEREO satellites A and B (go HERE for updated position).



  1. How is studying sunspots useful?



  1. How long is a solar day?



Extreme Solar Flares video 



  1. How many years occur between maximum solar activity?



  1. Briefly describe what a solar flare is and what causes it.



  1. For how many years could a large flare power the United States?



  1. List the 4 classes of solar flares, from weakest to strongest.



  1. What is the most powerful flare on record?



  1. What sort of effects can a strong X-class flare cause?



Navigate to the following web site:
  1. Explore several of the color images of the sun on the web page. Note that you are seeing live satellite data of the sun taken today! You have the option to see an image of the sun in four different wavelengths, or colors, as seen by the satellites. Mousing over the wavelength labels underneath the set of images will change the thumbnail image being displayed. Pay particular attention to sun spots, and look for any coronal holes. Which color image seems to give the most detailed view of sun spots? Which color image shows the most granular texture or detail of the sun? Use your observations to justify your answer.



  1. Scroll down on the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly web page to the iSolSearch Here you can explore solar events recorded by satellite. Major solar events are mapped out on the solar disk image. Note that when you click on an event a description appears in the far right column. The events shown are for today only. If you go back to the top of the web page and click the PREV DAY tab, you can view events for other dates.

ONLINE PHYSICAL SCIENCE II              3D Sun                 .

Explore 6 events, one for each of the six types of events listed in the table below. Note that images and videos are available for most events. The flare videos are particularly impressive! Record information (if given) for each event in the table below, including a brief description based on your observations. Add more rows as needed.


coronal hole (CH)
filament (FA)
filament (FE)
Flare (FL)
active region (AR)
Sigmoid (SG)



  1. Estimate the length of a solar day. If you click the “prev day” button you can see the sun as it was the day before. Choose one of the color images and locate a prominent sunspot or feature on the sun. Begin clicking the “prev day” button repeatedly and observe the movement of this sunspot or feature as the sun rotates backward in time. Use this tool to calculate the length of a solar day. Explain your results and the method you used. How close was your calculation to the actual length of a solar day?



This lab is observational based and non-quantitative, so there is no Analysis section.

3D Sun Lab Activity

The Motion and Phases of the Moon

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Last Updated on October 26, 2019

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