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FRAMING PATHWAYS TO ANSWERS: THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS IN ACTION
STAYING COOL

Dangers of Radiation Exposure

Grade Level: 9-12
Duration: About 1 hour

Link to the complete lesson

Solar activity cycle as followed by the number of sunspots on the surface of the Sun. The 11-year cycle has major effects on the radiation environment on Earth as well as for spacecraft venturing into the inner Solar System.

Lesson Summary

Radiation can affect living and mechanical things on Earth as well as in space. In the first part of the lesson, students calculate their yearly exposure rate to harmful high-energy radiation and cumulative effects over time, and use the information to evaluate the various sources of radiation that are of greatest concern for them. In the second part of the lesson, students learn that spacecraft and other objects in space must be concerned with the same kinds of radiation that humans are exposed to. The MESSENGER spacecraft will orbit Mercury and be subjected to much more intense solar radiation than it would near Earth. Students discuss the notion that even though some of the radiation is needed to study the properties of the planet, too much of it can be quite damaging.

Essential Question

What sources of high-energy radiation do we need to be concerned with in our daily lives?

Concepts

MESSENGER Mission Conncection

MESSENGER will use radiation of various kinds to study the planet Mercury and its space environment. However, since Mercury receives more than 20 times the amount of radiation from the Sun that we receive on the surface of Earth, exposure to too much radiation is a concern for the mission.

Standards & Benchmarks

NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

Standard F5: Natural and human-induced hazards

BENCHMARKS FOR SCIENTIFIC LITERACY (AAAS PROJECT 2061)

Benchmark 10G5

Benchmark 1C6