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

Star Power!
Discovering the Power of Sunlight

Grade Level: 9-12
Duration: About 2 hours

sunstar The Sun seen in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. The surface of the Sun shows the granular structure of convective cells, while a few prominences erupt on the surface at the right-hand side of the picture. (Picture credit: NASA/SOHO; http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov)

Lesson Summary

Students estimate the energy output of the Sun using a simple device and discover how much power sunlight provides to Earth; they learn that the Sun is the main source of energy on Earth. Students also evaluate the power of sunlight closer to the Sun at the distance of Mercury. They also learn that sunlight and the electromagnetic spectrum are the main tools with which we study objects in the Solar System.

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Essential Question

How much energy does sunlight provide to Earth and what is its role in Earth’s energy resources?

Concepts

MESSENGER Mission Conncection

Sunlight is essential for the MESSENGER mission to Mercury. Many of the instruments study sunlight reflected off Mercury’s surface or the infrared radiation emitted by Mercury’s surface heated by sunlight. The properties of particle radiation from the Sun around Mercury are also investigated. But because Mercury receives up to 22 times as much sunlight as Earth’s surface, mission designers have had to come up with ways to keep the spacecraft and its instruments from heating up significantly.

Standards & Benchmarks

NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

Standard B6: Interactions of energy and matter

Standard D1: Energy in the earth system

Related Standards

Standard B5: Conservation of energy and increase in disorder

BENCHMARKS FOR SCIENTIFIC LITERACY (AAAS PROJECT 2061)

Benchmark 4E3

For Teachers
 
MESSENGER Education