Counting Sunspots. Parent Prompts: Are there years with lots of sunspots? Are there years with very few sunspots?

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1 Counting are magnetic storms on the Sun these dark areas are a little cooler than the rest of the Sun s atmosphere. They can be easily seen when the Sun s image is projected onto a white surface, using a telescope or binoculars. (Warning do not look through binoculars or a telescope directly at the Sun!) Scientists have observed sunspots for centuries, and kept records of the numbers of sunspots seen in a month or a year. They have noticed a distinct pattern in the numbers of sunspots called the Sunspot Cycle. What You Need: Circular stickers Sunspot data Slips of paper, each with a year and the number of sunspots for that year Bowl for holding the drawing slips Large graph drawn on brown butcher paper with the: o x-axis marked in years from the first observation to the last o y-axis marked in 10 s of numbers of sunspots What to Do: Have your child draw one slip from the bowl. Help them determine the year and the number of sunspots for that year from the slip. Gather enough stickers so that each sticker represents 10 sunspots (for example, if there were 81 sunspots that year, collect 8 stickers) Find the year on the bottom of the graph. Fill in the graph vertically for that year with the appropriate number of dots. Discuss whether you can see a pattern to the graph. Is too much data missing? If so, return to look at it again later in the day. Parent Prompts: Are there years with lots of sunspots? Are there years with very few sunspots? Do you see a pattern to the numbers of sunspots increasing and decreasing? (It takes 11 years to go from low numbers to high numbers and back down again.) What do you predict will happen in the next year? Five years? Ten years? This activity was adopted from the activity at

2 Parents, this may be advanced for your child, but in case inquiring minds want to know: are dark, planet-sized regions that appear on the "surface" of the Sun. are "dark" because they are colder than the areas around them. A large sunspot might have a temperature of about 3,700 Coloring C or 6,700 F. Sheets This is much and lower Games than the 5,500 C or 10,000 F temperature of the rest of the Sun s atmosphere. Coloring are Sheets only dark in contrast to the bright face of the Sun. If you could cut an average sunspot out of the Sun and place it in the night sky, it would be about as bright as a full moon. have a lighter outer section called the penumbra, and a darker middle region named the tml umbra. are caused by the Sun's magnetic field welling up to the photosphere, the Sun's visible "surface". The powerful magnetic fields around sunspots produce active regions on the Sun, which often lead to solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). The solar activity of flares and CMEs are called "solar storms". can last for weeks or even months. The average number of spots that can be seen on the face of the Sun is not always the same, but goes up and down in a cycle. Historical records of sunspot Games counts show that this sunspot cycle has an average period of about eleven years. The 11 year sunspot cycle is related to a 22 year cycle for the reversal of the Sun's magnetic field. While the cycle has been relatively uniform this century, there have been large variations in the past. From about 1645 to 1715, a period known as the Maunder minimum, apparently few sunspots were present on the Also during that period, the Earth was much cooler than was before or is now. Our shtml Sun isn't the only star with spots. Just recently, astronomers have been able to detect "starspots" - "sunspots" on other stars. Although the number of sunspots is the most easily observed feature, essentially all aspects of the Sun and solar activity are influenced by the solar cycle. Because solar activity (such as coronal mass ejections) is more frequent at solar maximum and less frequent at solar minimum, geomagnetic activity also follows the solar cycle. Why is there a solar cycle? No one knows the answer to this question. A detailed explanation of the solar cycle is a fundamental physics problem still waiting to be solved. Adapted from Windows to the Universe at

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