So Many Solar Missions! 

Who Else Is Studying the Sun from Space?  A Student Activity

This lesson will give students a wider perspective on the many different ways the sun is being studied.

RHESSI is not the only strange acronym for a solar mission.  There are many other missions, including ACE, TRACE, SOHO, and SIRTS.   There are however, some solar missions with names that are not acronyms, like Yohkoh, Ulysses, and Genesis.

Activity:  Assign a different solar mission to each group of  2-4 students. 

Using our links page, students will research their assigned mission to find the information requested in the student worksheet which includes questions such as:

  1. What does the acronym of the mission stand for (if there is one), or what is the meaning of the mission name?
  2. Make a drawing of the mission patch (traditionally, every space mission has an artistically designed patch, like the RHESSI patch design).
  3. Make two sketches of the spacecraft for the mission (make each sketch on a separate square 3"x3"  "post-it" note--it is important to use small pieces of paper because many must fit on the final display later).  Include the name of the mission on the post-it.
  4. What the is the mission is supposed to do or accomplish? (What science questions are supposed to be answered?)
  5. What wavelengths of electromagnetic energy from the sun are being studied?
  6. When was the mission launched or when will it be launched?
  7. Where in space is the mission located (What type of orbit?)

When a group has completed their worksheet, then they will stick their two post-it notes with drawings to two large classroom displays, one showing the mission's location in space, and another graphing its position on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Display 1   This display will not be to scale, but it will give students an idea of where each mission operates (low earth orbit, a million miles away and so on).  On one side of a large piece of butcher paper (about 1.5 meters long), draw an Earth 10 centimeters in diameter.  On the opposite edge of the paper, draw a portion of the sun as a large arc.  Each group should stick one of their drawings in the appropriate location relative to the Earth and Sun.

Display 2    On another large piece of graph paper, draw a horizontal line that will be the scale of a large spectrum.  A good model for this graph is located at Remote Sensing of the Global Environment site ( except we recommend that you put radio waves at the left and have the frequency increase to the right.  Each group of students will insert their second small drawing at the appropriate place on the graph.

Lesson Finale    Each group will give a short presentation to the class, giving the basic information about the mission that they studied.