Living and Working in Space: Energy
The Solar Cycle and Space Weather!
The first of two Web Seminars on the topic of Living
and Working in Space: Energy was held on Thursday, December 14, 2006, from 6:30
p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Dr. Terry
Kucera, Solar Physicist, at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Maryland. The seminar focused on the solar cycle and space weather.
Thirty-three (33) participants were present in addition to the presenter and the
NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of California, Florida,
Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina,
Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and
Wisconsin. Some of the participants attended the symposium on the same topic at
the Area Conference in Baltimore.
In this presentation educators had the opportunity to learn about the solar cycle
and space weather. Dr. Kucera started the presentation sharing a few facts about
the Sun. For example, the Sun is so big that you could fit 109 Earths across the
disk. The solar cycle, she explained, is 11 years long. During this time, the Sun
changes from solar maximum to solar minimum. The amount of solar activity increases
during the solar maximum period. Solar scientists monitor the number of sunspots
on the surface of the Sun to learn about solar activity and for forecasting purposes.
Solar physicists use ground-based telescopes and instruments aboard spacecraft pointed
at the Sun to learn about space weather. Coronal mass ejections, solar flares, and
the solar wind can affect life on Earth and those living and working in space. Solar
activity can affect life on Earth by disrupting the operation of Earth satellites
and power systems on the ground. In space, astronauts living on the Space Station
watch closely the space weather forecasts and avoid EVAs during solar storms. Another
effect of solar activity on Earth is the aurorae. During past solar maximum periods,
aurorae have been seen as far south as Arizona. At the end of the seminar all participants
received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide about the Solar System, grades 5-8.
Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:
- "I'll be teaching about this in the spring and this information was
beyond what the students will get from the book."
"I teach astronomy as part of my 8th grade Earth Science. The topic was
very relevant to what I do for part of the school year."
"I do outreach programs on astronomy for a science center. Children are
always asking questions about the sun. Lots of good material in this
"I am in the process of writing a NASA Grant to become a NASA [Explorer}
school. The topic we are pursuing is energy. I wanted to see how a NASA
web seminar would relate to what is being taught in the classroom. I am
Thanks to the participants and the presenter for the learning opportunity, the interactions,
and a job well done!
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