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Television In The Sky: A Cathode Ray Tube and Aurora Creation Analogy

This lesson makes the connection between Auroras and what is occurring in a cathode ray tube. Many of the processes at work in the creation of the aurora are similar to those which create the images you see on a television or computer monitor screen. Therefore, the viewing of the aurora is merely the observing of the face of a giant television tube in the sky.

Key Questions
1. What are the similarities between auroras and cathode ray tubes?

2. How do solar wind particles interact with the earth’s magnetosphere?

3. How do electron particles interact with a phosphorescent screen?

Learning Objectives
1. Students will be able to compare auroras and cathode ray tubes.

2. Students will be able to make the connection between auroras and the processes occurring in a cathode ray tube.

General Subject Areas
Space Science, Physics

Author: CSE @ SSL


Student Activities
Viewing the aurora is like looking at a giant television screen in the sky. The colorful shimmering, shifting curtains of light produced on the Earth's atmospheric screen are similar to the images produced on the screen of a television or computer monitor. You will explore through the information presented on web and make connections between auroras and cathode ray tubes.

Student Prerequisites
Familiarity with auroras and the concept of the cathode ray tube.

Student Worksheet

Extended Learning

Time Requirements
About 1 hour for the web activity and 45-60 minutes for class discussion. The following lab activity requires about 1 prep time and 1 hour activity time.

Materials Required
-Browser enabled computers with Internet connection
-Copies of student worksheets
-Iron fortified cereal
-Medium viscosity clear oil
-Two strong magnets
-400 mL beaker or larger

Required Plugins

Additional Resources

Best For Grades
high school

National Science Education Standards (NSES)
grades 9-12

State Science Standards
Grades 9-12 Earth Sciences
Grades 9-12 Physics

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