A Look at Sunspots

A Look at Sunspots Photo Credit: NASA


The sun is the source of all life on earth, providing light and warmth to the organisms that inhabit our planet. As a result, the sun has fascinated humans throughout history. This fascination has led scientists to study the sun, and they often have to use technology to aid them in doing so. Use the resources on this sheet to help you learn more about the types of technology use to help scientists collect information about the sun.


To begin, go to the Soft X-Ray Telescope: Most Recent Image site to view the Full Sun Image. As you look at this image, answer these questions on your A Look at Sunspots student sheet:

  • Describe the features of the sun as seen in this image.
  • What are sunspots?
  • How do you think they are produced?
  • Why do you think scientists study sunspots?
  • How do you think scientists study sunspots?
  • What are some barriers to sudying sunspots using technology?

Now go to and read page 2 of Sunspots: History. As you go through this resource, answer these questions on your student sheet:

  • Are sunspots visible to the naked eye?
  • What problems did astronomers face by viewing the sun with the naked eye?
  • How do you think the telescope changed the study of astronomy and, specifically, sunspots forever?
  • What is visible light?
  • If white light were exposed to a prism, what colors would emerge?

Next go to Microworlds: Exploring the Structure of Materials to view an image of the electromagnetic spectrum. Review these questions at the Microworlds site using the image:

  • What kind of electromagnetic radiation has the shortest wavelength? The longest?
  • What kind of electromagnetic radiation could be used to "see" molecules? A cold virus?
  • Some insects, like bees, can see light of shorter wavelengths than humans can see. What kind of radiation do you think a bee sees?

Then go to Sunspots: Modern Research. Read pages 1, 2, 4, and 5 and answer these questions on the Modern Research on Sunspots student sheet:
  • The sun emits visible light that we can see. Describe the types of non-visible light emitted by the sun.
  • Describe the difference between the telescopes of Galileo’s time and the telescopes used today.
  • How is a sunspot formed?
  • Are sunspots cooler or warmer than the rest of the sun’s surface?
  • How long is the sunspot cycle?
  • Describe how the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) are produced by the action of sunspots.

Knowledge Check

In this section, you should use Sunspots to help you answer these questions:

  • Describe the types of solar imaging used to visualize the sun and its features.
  • How do the different types of solar imaging differ from one another in terms of what they tell us about the sun?
  • How does the use of technology aid in our understanding of the sun?
  • Why is the study of the sun and its features important to our life on earth?

This esheet is a part of the Sunspots 1: A Look at Sunspots lesson.

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