The Sun

          The Sun is our nearest star. The Sun provides us with light and heat. It also gives out dangerous ultraviolet light which causes sunburn and may cause cancer. Without the Sun there would be no daylight, and our planet would simply be a dark, frozen world, with no oceans of liquid water and no life.
          This huge ball of superhot gas is 1.4 million kilometres across, equal to 109 Earths set side by side. With a mass of 2 million-trillion-trillion-trillion kilograms, it weighs as much as 330 000 Earths. About 1 300 000 Earths would fit inside the Sun.Although it seems small when seen at sunrise or sunset, this is only because the Sun lies about 150 million km away from us. At this distance, it takes about 8 minutes for sunlight to reach us – even when it is travelling at about 300 000 km/s. This means that we see the Sun set eight minutes after the event has actually taken place!

Research Assignment: Alien Web Search 

The Mission:

Friendly aliens have recently contacted NASA and have communicated that the sun in their solar system is beginning to crash . Once our scientists got over the shock of communicating with aliens, they found out why they were speaking so urgently: they want to relocate to our solar system and want to know all about our sun. NASA has determined that this is low on their priority and so has asked our class to help the aliens. It will be your mission to gather as much information about the sun and report to the aliens as soon as possible. 

The Task: 

Working in groups of 4, you will use the Internet to search at least 5 websites that give information about the sun. You will do this over the course of 3 class sessions. Each team is to have a captain (who will be responsible for time management and will oversee the organization of the material), navigator (who is responsible for searching the web), recorder (who is responsible for documenting the information once the team determines level of importance), co-pilot (who is responsible for assessing validity of the information). Roles may be switched on the different days. On the fourth day, your team will complete an analysis paper that utilizes the information that you gathered and prepare for a presentation that will happen on the fifth day. You must be prepared to answer questions that the aliens will ask! You should include images that represent your data, when appropriate.

The Questions:

The following is a list of questions that the aliens require answers to, though they may present you with new ones on the presentation day, so be prepared. Using the websites and their links listed below, find the answers to the questions. (Standards 4, 5 and 9)
    1. How old is the sun? 
    2. What is the temperature of the sun?
    3. How far away is the sun from the Earth?
    4. What is the difference in temperature between the core and the surface of the sun?
    5. What is the chemical make up of the sun?
    6. What are the percentages of those chemicals?
    7. What are sunspots?
    8. When were sunspots first discovered and who discovered them?
    9. How are magnetic storms on Earth related to sunspot activity?
    10. What is the sunspot number for each of the days you did your research?
    11. How does the number of sunspots change over time?
    12. How are each of the following related to the sun: prominences, solar flares, corona, solar wind, chromospheres, photosphere, 
    13. How does the sun get its energy?
    14. What is nuclear fusion? 
    15. How can you safely observe the sun?
    16. What is an eclipse?
    17. When will the next eclipse occur?

The Rest of the Assignment:

Create a list of questions that you would like to ask the aliens. Your list should be at least 10 questions long and should include a hypotheses on why their sun no longer exists. (Standard 9) You are also assigned to create a 500 word essay in which you define the benefits and downfalls of our sun. You may use the answers to the questions to assist you in writing the essay.