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May. 13, 2015

Spot the Sunspots

by Lawrence Hall of Science

Click to enlarge images
In this activity from Lawrence Hall of Science, you'll use binoculars or a telescope to identify and track sunspots. You’ll need a bright sunny day to complete this activity. Download the printable version of this activity, with associated visuals, here
 
Be sure to share what you've learned about sunspots with Science Friday's Science Club using the hashtag #ExplainTheSun.
 
Age Level: 10 and up 
 
Time
Preparation: 5 minutes 
Activity: 15 minutes
Cleanup: 5 minutes
 
Safety:
Do not look directly at the sun with your eyes, through binoculars, or through a telescope! Do not leave binoculars or a telescope unattended, since the optics can be damaged by too much sun exposure. 
 
Materials
• two sheets of bright white paper
• a book
• tape
• binoculars or a telescope
• tripod
• pencil
• piece of cardboard, roughly 30 cm x 30 cm
• scissors
• thick piece of paper, roughly 10 cm x 10 cm (optional)
• rubber bands (optional) 
 
Materials Notes:
• Do not use binoculars whose larger, objective lenses are 50 mm or wider in diameter.
• Binoculars are usually described by numbers like 7 x 35; the larger number is the diameter in mm of the objective lenses.
• Some binoculars cannot be easily attached to a tripod, so you might need to use rubber bands or tape to safely hold the binoculars on the tripod. 
 
Step 1
If you’re using binoculars, cover one of the objective (larger) lenses with either a lens cap or thick piece of folded paper (use tape, attached to the body of the binoculars, to hold the paper in position). If using a telescope, cover the finderscope the same way. This ensures that only a single image of the sun is created. Next, tape one piece of paper to a book to make a stiff writing surface.   
 
Step 2 
If using binoculars, trace both of the objective (larger) lenses in the middle of the piece of cardboard. Cut out the circles. Tape the cardboard onto the binoculars to create a shield around the binoculars. This cardboard shield will help block sunlight so it doesn’t obscure the sun’s image coming through the binoculars. 
 
Step 3 
Place the binoculars or telescope on a tripod. Without looking at the sun, point the binoculars or telescope toward the sun. Hold the book/white paper about 8 cm behind the eyepiece. You should see a bright circle of light on the white paper. This feature is the disk of the sun! Focus the binoculars or telescope to produce a crisp image.  
 
Step 4
Experiment with moving the paper closer to or farther away from the binoculars or telescope. What happens to the brightness of the image? Sketch the disk of the sun directly on the piece of paper, noting any dark spots. These are sunspots. Remember not to leave binoculars pointed at the sun for too long!
 
Step 5 
If you want to compare your sketch to NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, click here to visit their website. How does this image compare to the sketch you made in the previous step? 
 
What's Going On? 
Sunspots are temporary dark spots that appear on the Sun’s surface. They are caused by intense magnetic activity, and are cooler than the areas of the sun that surround them. Sunspots can be as small as 16 km across (the size of a big city) or as large as 160,000 km across (about 13 times the size of Earth).  
 
The Sunspot Cycle  
A sunspot can appear on the sun’s surface for a few days to a few weeks. Sunspot activity follows an 11-year solar cycle, where more sunspots appear during the sun’s “solar maximum” and fewer sunspots appear during the sun’s “solar minimum.” 
 
 
This activity is featured in DIY Sun Science, an iPhone/iPad app that allows you to investigate the Sun at home, at school, or anywhere you go! Download the free DIY Sun Science app at lawrencehallofscience.org/diysunscience
 
 
 
About Lawrence Hall of Science

The Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley's public science center, has been providing parents, kids, and educators with opportunities to engage with science since 1968. Learn more at www.lawrencehallofscience.org

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.
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Code:
line 1: package tmpevalpackage;
line 2: sub doEval { 
line 3: 	my($parent);
line 4: 	
line 5: 	if($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'SEGMENT.nickname'}) {
line 6: 		$parent = $LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'SEGMENT.nickname'};
line 7: 	}
line 8: 	elsif($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'VIDEO.nickname'}) {
line 9: 		$parent = $LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'VIDEO.nickname'};
line 10: 	}
line 11: 	elsif($LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'DOCUMENT.nickname'}) {
line 12: 		$parent = $LayoutManager::url_resolved_values{'DOCUMENT.nickname'}
line 13: 	}
line 14: 	
line 15: 	if($parent) {
line 16: 		my(@books) = &Database::SelectClause('BOOK',"parent = $parent");
line 17: 		if(!@books) {
line 18: 			$parent = '';
line 19: 		}
line 20: 	}
line 21: 	
line 22: 	if(!$parent) {
line 23: 		my(@sel) = &Database::SelectClause('GLOBAL','record all ""');
line 24: 		if(@sel) {
line 25: 			$parent = 'GLOBAL.' . $sel[0];
line 26: 		}
line 27: 			$main::ENV{'reading_header'} = "FEATURED READING";
line 28: 	}
line 29: 	
line 30: 	 = '';
line 31: 	
line 32: 	if($parent) {
line 33: 		my(@books) = &Database::SelectClause('BOOK',"parent = $parent");
line 34: 		0 = 0;
line 35: 		my $dots;
line 36: 		foreach(@books) {
line 37: 			my(%data);
line 38: 			&Database::GetRow($_,'BOOK',\%data);
line 39: 			my($status,$title,$author,$url,$image,$width,$height) = &SciFri::Schema::getAmazonItem($data{'isbn'});
line 40: 			if($data{'title'}) {
line 41: 				$title = $data{'title'};
line 42: 			}
line 43: 			if($data{'author'}) {
line 44: 				$author = $data{'author'};
line 45: 			}
line 46: 			if($status eq 'ok') {
line 47: 				 .= "<div class=\"box-2x1-item box-slide\" data-href=\"$url\">";
line 48: 				 .= "	<div class=\"box-2x1-item-photo\">";
line 49: 				 .= "		<div class=\"image-wrapper\" data-jsclass=\"imageWrapper\" data-align=\"right\">";
line 50: 				 .= "			<img src=\"$image\" data-width=\"$width\" data-height=\"$height\">";
line 51: 				 .= "		</div>";
line 52: 				 .= "	</div>";
line 53: 				 .= "	<h4>$title</h4>";
line 54: 				if($author) {
line 55: 					 .= "	<p>by $author</p>";
line 56: 				}
line 57: 				 .= "	<div class=\"box-2x1-more-button\"><a href=\"$url\"><img src=\"/images/v1/icon_text_more_white.png\" width=47 height=15 border=0></a></div>";
line 58: 				 .= "</div>";
line 59: 				++0;
line 60: 			}
line 61: 		}
line 62: 	}
line 63: 	if($parent eq "GLOBAL.1") { $main::ENV{'reading_header'} = "FEATURED READING"; }
line 64: 	else { $main::ENV{'reading_header'} = "RELATED READING"; }
line 65:  };
line 66: &doEval();
line 67: 1;

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