Teacher's Page

Stellar temperature measurement: 
How Hot is that Star?




    Space science students can often find it difficult to comprehend the extreme temperatures that are reported about the sun and other stars.
    Once students have been given the procedure, teachers should serve as technicians; answering individual student needs and assisting in keeping students on task. After a reasonable amount of time, students should then share their responses verbally with the group to reinforce and validate the information.

Return to the Table of Contents

Unit Features:
  • NASA Internet Data
  • On-Line Quiz
  • Interactive H-R Diagram
  • We hope this activity can serve as a guiding structure for other science topics,
    such as solar physics, thermal dynamics, structure of stars and

Grade Levels: 8th-12th grade earth / space science.
Prerequisites: General knowledge of the sun and stars
Time Requirements - 1 hour/lesson

Return to the Table of Contents


    The purpose of these lessons are to help students gain a better understanding of the concept of solar temperature. Using up-to-date data resources available on the World Wide Web, teachers will help students learn about the Earth's closest star; the Sun. The teacher should help the student to come away from this lesson with a better understanding of some of the processes astronomers go through while doing their measurement of solar temperature.

Return to the Table of Contents

The objectives of these lessons are to:

Understand sun facts and solar information.
Discover how the temperature of a star is measured.
Investigate the various scales used to measure temperature.
Observe: images of the sun.
Classify: stars according to their temperature.
Construct a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram using the interactive Java applet.
Gain an understanding of the kinetic theory of matter.
Predict stellar temperatures based on the use of an H-R Diagram.
Compare the temperature of various stars.

Return to the Table of Contents 


Teacher Component

    Teachers should familiarize themselves with all the all the pages of this unit.  You should have a very good feel for using the Internet style of teaching and confidence in their ability to browse the WWW.  You should have a mastery of the space science content and be able to assist learners in dealing with the problems they may encounter using Internet/WWW technology.

    While instructing, it is important for the teacher to focus on the objectives and not the technology.  Assist the learner to make them feel at ease with browsing and help them to see the technology is just a tool to get the information and make the learning more enjoyable and interesting.  This will help students to see the larger goal that learning about space science is fun and very worth while.

    You should guide the learners into the first lesson.  Explaining and demonstrating for the students how the lesson is designed.

    You should then break the lesson into specific time segments according to your schedule so as to allow student to explore the various links and questions found throughout each.  Once students have been given the procedure, teachers should serve as technicians; answering individual student needs and assisting in keeping students on task.  After a reasonable amount of time, students should then share their responses verbally with the group to reinforce and validate the information.

There are many terrific links to this subject that we have found. See the related Web Sites below on this page.    Related Web Sites.

Return to the Table of Contents

Lesson Plan Assessment:

     Students will maintain an Internet Science Notebook to record their learning. Students will log answers to specific questions or concepts therein.  This should help give students a focus to their learning and provide a tool for teachers to assess the effectiveness of the instruction while using the internet-style of education.

     Students will address each of the above stated objectives as measured by their performance on the quiz found within the context of each lesson.  These on-line evaluations require Java enabled browsers.  The interactive quizzes are designed to reinforce learning and give the student a real time sense of their progress.  It provides them immediate feedback about the information they should be learning.  It may help them to understand how well they have mastered the objectives.  The quizzes can also be used effectively to help assure that students stay focused on their lesson - learning about the sun.
Return to the Table of Contents 
Lesson Plan Ties To Science Framework:
Earth Science Standards of Learning for Virginia

Project 2061: Benchmarks for Science Literacy: Recommendations of what all students should know and be able to do in science, mathematics, and technology by the time they graduate from high school. This nationwide study is one of the major frameworks and we include specific references from that study below for grades 5-9:

National Science Education Standards

The lessons are rich in the science content and procedures set forth in the National Science Education Standards. According to these guidelines, the fundamental abilities and concepts that underlie the science standards include the ability to identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations:
  • to design and conduct a scientific experiment;
  • to use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data;
  • to develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence;
  • to think critically and logically in order to identify relationships between evidence and explanations;
  • to recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions;
  • to communicate scientific procedures and explanations;
  • to use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry;
  • to develop understandings about the scientific inquiry.
The physical science standards for grades 5-8 focus on the characteristic properties of substances, such as boiling and melting points; thus, the concept of temperature must be included. The Earth and Space Science content standards for grades 5-8 stress the development of an understanding of earth and the solar system as a set of closely coupled systems. "How Hot Is That Star" clearly incorporates elements of the quantitative study of the temperature of stars with associated solar physics.
The Science and Technology Science standard for grades 5-8 suggests that students investigate simple, familiar objects (in the case of "How Hot Is That Star", it is a thermometer or digital imagery) through which students can develop powers of observation and analysis. In "How Hot Is That Star", the technology is introduced only as needed to aid a specific lesson. The students can see the value of technology in providing instruments, techniques, and communication capabilities that help them master their investigations. The pedagogy of the "How Hot Is That Star" lessons are consistent with the Science Teaching Standards that call for inquiry-based science programs.

Return to the Table of Contents  
Lesson Plan References:

A useful resource for specific information about solar science is the book
Guide to the Sun, by K. J. H. Phillips, Cambridge University Press, 1996.  It contains extensive information on the Sun, particularly current knowledge about the physics and astronomy of the Sun.  It is written at the level of popular science magazines. Mathematics has been kept to a minimum.
Another valuable source of information on the Sun and astronomy in general is Exploring the Cosmos by L. Berman and J. C. Evans, HarperCollins College Press, 1987.  This is an introductory text that is well organized, well written, and easy to follow and understand.

Return to the Table of Contents  
Related Lesson Plans

Take a Spin through the Solar System
. An investigation of rotation rates of different planets and the Sun.

Spectra From Space For grades 9-11. Meet four different astronomy satellites and do hands-on activities illustrating different spectral wavelengths. [Exploratorium]

Electromagnetic Radiation - On Trial by Nellie Levine For grades 9-12. Gather evidence of beneficial or nefarious properties of various types of EM radiation. [CEA]

SUNSPOTS by the exploratorium and CSE@SSL. High school level. Explore the history and mystery of sunspots and complete an interactive research exercise on the relation between visible and x-ray light associated with them.

Return to the Table of Contents

Related Web Sites 
from NASA / NOAA and other great places. In particular, if you find this lesson has broken links, you may be able to find the information you or your students need using these sites and lists.

*This question started it all. Thank you - Mr. Sunspot !!
This page contains answers to questions Mr. Sunspot received about temperature.
The questions Asked by Jim Meunier of Richmond, Virginia. 15 September 1996.
*Our Sun and Its Structure. This set of notes by Nick Strobel covers: The Sun, interiors of stars, and nuclear fusion. Parts of these notes will be in outline form to aid in distinguishing various concepts. As a way to condense the text down I'll often use phrases instead of complete sentences. The vocabulary terms are italicized.

Solar Oscillations Investigation (SOI) and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) data. This site presents a collection of fun educational activities. Students can explore the Sun's tangled magnetic field, its turbulent surface motions, the dramatic sunspot cycle, and even what magic happens in the solar interior, where instrumental eyes cannot penetrate.


*The Sun and Solar Physics on the Web This page lists web sites that contain information on the Sun. Excellent resource page.

About the Sun/solar physics   from the Stanford Solar Center; we've chosen the section on solar physics research 
List of Solar Resources at NSO/NOAO includes print as well as a number of good Web sites.

Welcome to the Solar Data Analysis Center at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland USA.

Links to sites related to Solar Physics: Solar Web Guide YOHKOH

The Sun Yohkoh public outreach site hosted at Montana State University

*What is a spectrum?

How is the Solar Corona Heated?

Classified search tool for amateur astronomy: 523.7 - Sun 

*NASA Observatorium Some Interesting Facts about the Sun

How to get Solar data from NGDC
The Solar and Upper Atmosphere group at NGDC has worked
extensively to bring many datasets to you free of charge. We
are also exploring ways to most effectively bring these data
to you. We offer data via FTP, and through our interactive
database, SPIDR. SPIDR will allow users to search and plot
data. We are continually adding new and recent data to our
on-line archives. The ability to retrieve data from SPIDR has
just recently been added.

Taken from the SESC Glossary of Solar-Terrestrial Terms. DOC/NOAA/ERL/SEL

Solar Physics Glossary from Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)

*Spectral Types Also from Nick Strobel's astronomy notes.  How spectral types of stars relate to temperature through the H-R diagram.

Return to the Table of Contents
Go To The Lesson Tour Progression

The Science Museum of Virginia
 outreach@cea.berkeley.edu for permission.

Mail comments, questions or suggestions to: Web Curators 

1997-2001 The Regents of the University of California
This page last updated January 30, 2001