Space Math Problems — Solar Storms

How do NASA scientists use geometry and measurement to predict the behavior of dangerous solar storms?

Use the problems in the NES featured lesson, Geometry: Space Math Problems — Solar Storms, to bring relevance to your classroom by connecting your lesson to recent solar activity. In these problems, students analyze images of a solar tsunami and use geometry and measurement skills to find the speed of the wave. They step into the shoes of a NASA scientist and use geometry to find the speed of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, also known as a solar storm. CMEs can have hazardous effects on the International Space Station and astronauts.

To see how you can use Space Math Problems with your students, take a look at the NES video collection for teachers.

The solar flare (upper-left) on 7 March 2012 seen by the SWAP
instrument on ESA’s Proba-2 satellite.

NASA's Terra and Aqua Satellites Capture Disaster in Japan

Satellite image showing JapanThe Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, on NASA’s Aqua satellite and the MODIS sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite took photos of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. Images were made with infrared and visible light to highlight the presence of water and other features on the ground.
To find out more about the images, read the article in NEON.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Satellites Pinpoint Drivers of Urban Heat Islands: Extension to the Satellite Meteorology Module

Urban heat islands are urban areas that are hotter than surrounding rural areas. New research shows the summer land surface temperatures of cities in the northeastern United States were an average of 7° to 9° Celsius warmer than surrounding rural areas over a three-year period. The complex phenomenon that drives temperatures up is called the urban heat island effect. But thanks to satellites, scientists are making progress in understanding the effect. Satellite data have been used to compare various urban settings.

Find out what the researchers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., are reporting on the urban heat islands in the article in NEON.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Ratio of Snow to Water Activity

NASA Explorer Schools educator Haia Spiegel, a teacher at the Greater Hartford Academy for Mathematics and Science, created an inquiry-based activity called Ratio of Snow to Water after attending a Ice and Snow presentation at last year’s NES Winter’s Story research experience. 

Students analyze the layers of a snow pack and look at the individual snow crystals. Based on their analysis, they then calculate the ratio of snow to water. This is a way to connect science and mathematics.

You will find this activity in NEON in the Satellite Meteorology forum including a PowerPoint presentation.

Lunar Nautics: Newton’s Laws of Motion Activities

Isaac NewtonTeachers, if you are looking for a way to demonstrate Newton’s Laws of Motion in a NASA context, the NASA Explorer Schools module Lunar Nautics may be just what you’re hoping to find. The three featured activities in this module focus on a real-world understanding of Newton’s laws. In the activity Rocket Staging: Balloon Staging, students learn how rockets achieve greater distances through rocket staging. The Lunar Landing: Swinging Tray activity shows students how gravity is responsible for keeping satellites in orbit. The purpose of Lunar Base Supply Egg Drop is for student teams to design a method of packaging “supplies” and getting them safely to a “lunar base.”

Share your experiences with these three modules by posting on NEON. Register, log in, join the NASA Explorer Schools group and find the forum Lunar Nautics –Designing a Mission for Living and Working on the Moon. In your post, be sure to include your students’ problem-solving techniques for the design challenge and pictures.

My NASA DATA: Tropical Atlantic Aerosols

Satellite image of clouds off western coast of AfricaHere’s an extension activity from the MY NASA DATA project that you might want to use in your meteorology class. In the lesson Tropical Atlantic Aerosols, students use real satellite data to determine where the greatest concentrations of aerosols are located during the course of a year in the tropical Atlantic region and their source of origin. They explore data and draw conclusions about aerosol transport and learn about the radiation budget’s effects of aerosols.

For more information about this activity, go to NEON. Register, log in and join the NASA Explorer Schools group. The MY NASA DATA: Tropical Atlantic Aerosols activity is posted in the Satellite Meteorology forum.

Build a Solar Oven

Cartoon drawing-sun and solar panelsHere is a great idea for the Messenger: Staying Cool — My Angle on Cooling Effects of Distance and Inclination module. Your students can create solar “cookers.” One of the variables is choosing how the sun enters the cooker, either directly or at an angle. Share with us on NEON your students/ results.

Read more about the activity Build a Solar Oven in NEON. Register, log in, join the NASA Explorer Schools group and find Messenger: Staying Cool — My Angle on Cooling Effects of Distance and Inclination forum. The solar oven lesson is available in that forum.

Spacesuits Protect STS-133 Astronauts

STS-133 astronaut conducting a spacewalk outside the ISSAstronauts aboard STS-133 are wrapping up a series of scheduled spacewalks, or extravehicular activities. When astronauts venture outside of their spacecraft, they need spacesuits to protect them from the solar radiation, the cold temperatures of space and fast-moving particles called micrometeoroids.

Check out a great activity called Potato Astronaut: Spacesuit. Students investigate the effects of high-speed simulated micrometeoroid impacts and penetration depth. They also learn how layered materials protect astronauts. You will find the activity in the Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon Educator Guide on Page 133.

See additional activities in NEON. Register, log in, join the NASA Explorer Schools group, and find Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon. The activity is available in that forum.

Water Vapor Satellite Imagery

In the Water Vapor Satellite Imagery lessons, your meteorology students learn how to identify and analyze jet streams using water vapor imagery from weather satellites. There is a jet stream tutorial if you need a better understanding of “jet stream.” Then your students can complete each of the learning scenarios in the order listed below.water vapor image
  1. The Meteorologist’s Challenge: A TV meteorologist challenges you to locate the jet stream axis using water vapor imagery.
  2. A Crisis in the Air: An airline pilot needs your help in analyzing data from water vapor imagery and weather models to plot a new flight path to take advantage of a jet stream.
  3. Launching and Tracking a Weather Balloon: A team of weather researchers needs you to decide whether or not to launch a weather balloon by analyzing water vapor imagery and other weather data.
Read more about these activities in NEON. Register, log in, and join the NASA Explorer Schools group and Satellite Meteorology forum. The complete write-up on the lessons is available in that forum.

NASA Now-STS-133 — Engineering Challenge: From Earth to Orbit and Return

In this episode of NASA Now, George Hatcher, guidance, navigation and controls engineer at Kennedy Space Center, explains why the upcoming launch of the space shuttle Discovery is mind-boggling from a physics perspective, even for a guidance, navigation and flight controls engineer. He will speak about the extreme accelerations and velocities involved in launching a spacecraft from Earth to orbit and return.


After 38 missions to date, and more than 5,600 trips around Earth, Discovery has flown more missions than any other shuttle — more than any other spacecraft. At the conclusion of STS-133, 180 people will have flown aboard Discovery, including the first female shuttle pilot and the first female shuttle commander, who happen to be the same person — Eileen Collins; the first African-American spacewalker, Bernard Harris; and the first sitting member of congress to fly in space, Jake Garn. Discovery will be the first of the shuttle fleet to retire.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Now Preview Video

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