Undergraduate Materials

These materials were developed by undergraduate faculty who attend the Heliophysics Summer school. The materials use heliophysics and space physics examples to illustrate fundamental concepts in standard undergraduate courses such as:

  • Introductory Astronomy
  • Introductory Earth Science
  • Introductory Physics
  • Upper Division Physics

General Principles

Solar

Solar Wind

Impacts

Astronomy


 

General Principles

STEREO Orbital Kinematics

Author: Anand Balaraman
Audience: Undergraduate Science Majors
Courses: Introductory Physics Courses on Mechanics
Type of Activity: In Class Activity
Abstract: This lab involves using the STEREO Orbit Tool to find the angular positions of the STEREO space crafts on a start date and use the rotational kinematic equations to predict the evolution of these quantities with time. Using the fundamental equations the students are asked to predict when the phase difference between the satellites reach certain mission milestones.

  STEREO Orbital Kinematics

  STEREO Orbital Kinematics Solution

What’s the Difference between Energy and Power?

Author: Frederick A. Ringwald (Department of Physics, California State University, Fresno)
Audience: Undergraduate General Education Students
Courses: Introduction to Astronomy, Science for Elementary Educators
Type of Activity: In-class activity, homework
Abstract: This module will show the difference between energy and power. It will do this with
examples from the Sun and in the deep Universe, and also with examples from everyday life.

  What's the Difference between Energy and Power?

 

Solar

Solar Flare Energy Source Homework Problem

Author: M.M. Montgomery
Audience: Upper Division Undergraduate
Courses: Upper Division Physics
Type of Activity: In-class activity or homework
Abstract: White light solar flares are observed to have energy E~10^32 ergs. These flares occur in localized, transient regions through the chromosphere and corona. The goal of this exercise is to determine if the source to the energy is from gravitational, electrical, nuclear, and/or magnetic field sources.

PowerPoint Solar Flares, CMEs, and Satellites, Oh My!

  Solar Flare Energy Source Homework w/Solution

Solar Flare and CME Hands-On Lab

Author: M.M. Montgomery
Audience: Undergraduate General Science Students
Courses: General Science Courses, Astronomy 101
Type of Activity:  Lab Report or In-class Activity
Abstract: In this activity students use a kinesthetic model (an orange and straws) to simulate plasma flow along field lines, and reconnection of field lines to illustrate a CME eruption. Students will learn what a CME is, and how its eruption is connected to magnetic field reconfiguration. Other concepts include: solar flares, frozen-in flux, time scales, and size scales.

  Solar Flare & CME Hands On Lab

Using the NASA iSWA (Integrated Space Weather Analyzer) application to explore solar atmospheric features

Author:  Paula Turner, Kenyon College
Audience:  Upper Division Undergraduates
Courses:  Upper Division Observational Astronomy or Solar Physics Class
Type of Activity:  Lab Activity using NASA Data
Abstract:   Students will learn to use iSWA interface to view full-disk images of photosphere, chromosphere, corona to:

    • relate wavelength and temperature,
    • understand differences in observing cadences across different observing platforms and image types,
    • observe timescales for changes in size/shape/appearance of features (including flares).

  Active Sun Lab

Sunspot Observations and Cycles on the Sun

Author:  Robert Swanson, Itawamba Community College
Audience:  General Education Undergraduates
Courses:  Astronomy 101, General Science
Type of Activity:  Lab Activity using NASA Data
Abstract:   This activity consists of three parts in which students explore the cycles on the Sun using NASA Data.  In the first part students measure the rotation of the sun using sunspots. The second activity focuses on the variations in the latitudes where the sunspots appear through out the solar cycle.  In the third activity student explore the sunspot activity over a number of cycles and find the average period of the sunspot cycle.

  Sunspot Observations Student Guide

  Sunspot Observations Student Guide Key

  Sunspot Observations Online Quiz

Activity Tutorials (YouTube Videos)

Video Sunspot Video Tutorial - Part I

Video Sunspot Video Tutorial - Part II

Video Sunspot Video Tutorial - Part III & IV

What are Stellar Flares, and How Do They Compare to Solar Flares?

Author:  M.M. Montgomery
Audience: Science General Education Undergraduates
Courses:  Astronomy 101
Type of Activity:  Lecture Presentation with associated quiz questions
Abstract:  In this module, a quiz is given to test your knowledge of the solar and stellar flare information given in the associated power point presentation. Also, a lab is provided to help you locate flares in images, to determine the sizes of flares, and to determine whether stellar flares can be observed on stars using today's telescopes. This lab involves algebra.

  • Coming Spring 2015

 

Solar Wind

CME Propagation

Author: Anand Balaraman
Audience: Undergraduates
Courses: Introductory Level Physics and General Education Courses
Type of Activity: Lab Activity or In Class Activity
Abstract: This lab activity involves calculating the speed of plasma released in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) event and examine how CME affects the structure of Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF).

  CME Propagation

  CME Propagation Instructor Solution

Structure Of Interplanetary Magnetic Field

Author: Anand Balaraman
Audience: Introductory or upper division physics majors
Courses: Introductory Physics with Calculus, Upper Division Mechanics or Electrodynamics
Type of Activity: In Class Activity
Abstract: Students will discover the structure of IMF on the equatorial plane and discover the connection between its geometry and the kinematic quantities such as the solar wind velocity and the angular rotational speed at the solar equator. Using this understanding, the students will predict the angle made by the IMF with the Earth-Sun line when it strikes Earth, predict how the number density of solar wind particles would change with distance and verify their predictions in the ENLIL model simulation.

  Structure Of Interplanetary Magnetic Field

  Structure Of Interplanetary Magnetic Field Instructor Solution

Solar Wind

Author: Thomas Bensky
Audience: General Science Undergraduate
Courses: General Science Courses, Astronomy 101
Type of Activity: Homework Assignment
Abstract: Students will explore the general structure and variations in the solar wind flow.  Students will explore the Parker Spiral structure of the solar wind and look closely at the velocity vectors of the solar wind to see that the flow is generally radial.

  Solar Wind Extra Credit Assignment

 

Impacts

Understanding our Ionosphere

Author:  Nicole Hastings, Bates College
Audience:  Undergraduates STEM majors
Courses:  Introductory Astronomy or Planetary Science
Type of Activity:  Lab activity
Abstract:   This activity uses the NASA  iSWA (interactive Space Weather Application) to determine different properties of the Earth’s Ionosphere and to witness how a change in the output from our sun affects the Ionosphere, and subsequently us here on Earth.

  • Available TBD

Impacts of Space Weather on our Electric Grid

Author:  Nicole Hastings, Bates College
Audience:  Undergraduates STEM majors
Courses:  General Physics, Algebra Based
Type of Activity:  Lecture presentation and Lab activity
Abstract:   This lecture covers the formation Ground Induced Currents (GIC) that result from strong solar storms, how GIC affects our electric grid, as well as current US grid vulnerabilities. The included exercises use basic E & M principles of inductance to calculate an estimate of GIC from historic geomagnetic storms. The included lab activity uses the NASA iSWA (interactive Space Weather Application) to study what a solar storm is and what its effect is on our planet.

  • Available TBD

 

Astronomy

How are Cosmic Rays Related to Heliophysics?

Author:  M.M. Montgomery, Univ. of Central Florida
Audience: Science General Education Undergraduates
Courses:  Astronomy 101
Type of Activity:  Lecture Presentation with associated quiz questions
Abstract:  Cosmic rays are fast-moving subatomic particles. Some lower energy cosmic rays come from the Sun, but the highest energy cosmic rays come from space. A cosmic ray can strike Earth's outer atmosphere and generate secondary ray showers, some of which can pass through Earth's atmosphere to reach ground. As such, cosmic rays may inflict damage to anything on the ground (or anything in their path). In this module, a quiz is given to test your knowledge of the cosmic ray information given in the associated power point presentation. This lab does not involve math.

  • Available TBD

How Do We Find Exoplanets??

Author:  M.M. Montgomery 
Audience: Science General Education Undergraduates
Courses:  Astronomy 101
Type of Activity:  Lecture Presentations
Abstract: Of the many different ways astronomers can use to find planets not in our own Solar System, the lab in this module walks you through the two most successful methods -- Doppler shift and Transits. Using simulated data, you will numerically find the center of mass of a two-body system, the mass of an exoplanet using the Doppler shift technique, and the semi-major axis of an exoplanet's orbit using the transiting technique. The associated power point presentation discusses all the ways to find exoplanets, including these two most successful techniques. This lab involves algebra.

  • Available TBD