Learning Exercise: Ulysses Solar Observation from Pole to Pole: Maunder Mystery Story
Compare the historical data of number of sunspots to the Earth's climate. Also has links to literature, art and history.
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Maunder Mystery Story JPL 400-1133 Rev.1 12/05 Objective The completion of the following activities will allow students to see how a theory develops from inception through various studies where supporting evidence is found and how current technology might be used in supporting the theory. We will be looking at the theory set out by E. W. Maunder concerning the correlation between numbers of sunspots and Earths climate. Maunder believed that the low sunspot activity observed during the 17th18th centuries was a major cause for the climate change that occurred during a period known as the Little Ice Age, when temperatures became signifi cantly cooler. Grade Levels The activities are keyed to Grades 58. Setup for Classroom Students will be assigned to detective teams of four persons each. They will be provided with three clues to complete their research. Overview There are three activities in this mystery. They are set up in the same order in which the theory progressed. First, the students will learn about E. W. Maunder and his wife Annie. Then the student teams will follow the clues. The fi rst two activities have to do with Maunder and his predecessors and their explorations of sunspots (clue #2 has three parts). The third activity introduces students to what tree rings tell us about sunspot history. The Internet links provided will give you supplemental information or back up activities that are presented here. What Is the Maunder Minimum? Temperatures in northern Europe became cooler beginning about 1300, and became very cold about 15601850. The period from about the mid-14th century to the mid-19th century is known as the Little Ice Age. The Maunder Minimum refers to a period of time during the mid-1600s to the early 1700s (about 16451715) when solar observers noted a virtual absence of sunspots, corresponding to very cold temperatures during northern European winters, when normally ice-free bodies of water froze. The Maunder Minimum period was the coldest part of the Little Ice Age. Background Information Why are we studying the Sun? It has become important to us here on Earth to understand the solar activity that occurs during solar minimum and solar maximum. The activity appears to affect the solar wind, which in turn affects radio transmissions and satellite communications. Solar activity is determined by the number of sunspots present. Sunspots are related to the active areas of the Sun where eruptions like solar fl ares originate. The Ulysses Discoveries Ulysses is on an exploration mission to study our star, the Sun. What has the Ulysses mission discovered? How has the mission interpreted the observed sunspots and their minimum and maximum cycles? Ulysses has investigated a solar minimum heliosphere, passing by both poles during the minimum. (The term heliosphere refers to the Suns environment.) In recent years (20002001), Ulysses has been sending back information while the Sun is in a solar maximum cycle. The primary objective of the Ulysses Solar Maximum Mission was to study the Sun over the poles at or near maximum solar conditions. The most recent information (2003) shows a decline in solar activity; however, sometimes powerful storms can occur as the cycle ends. Ulysses, having studied the Sun during solar minimum and solar maximum years, has allowed scientists to create a three-dimensional picture of the Sun and its heliosphere. Although the Ulysses space probe does not have imaging instruments on board, it has been able to gather and transmit a great deal of useful information about the Suns environment. Using this information, scientists have created a map of the Suns heliosphere. Using instruments to fi gure out something we dont have pictures of is the way scientists mapped the ocean fl oor and Earths interior. Information is used to create a picture of what the actual model might look like. The Ulysses map of the Suns heliosphere includes magnetic fi elds, energized particles, solar storms, and solar winds. We depend on satellites that orbit Earth for communications via telephone and television and for weather forecasts. These communications can be interrupted by events happening on the Sun. These events infl uence space weather, including solar storms that affect the solar wind. It is this wind and its magnetic forces that affect our communication systems. It is important to understand how these storms occur and possibly learn how to predict them. Other Information A picture of Ulysses can be found at http://ulysses.jpl.nasa.gov or at http://helio.estec.esa.nl/ulysses. Sunspot activity during the Ulysses mission can be seen on the NASA lithograph, Sunspot Activity, JPL 400-819C 3/99. Defi nitions Sunspot: A dark spot on the Suns surface that indicates a concentration of magnetic forces. Sunspots are actually about 2000 degrees Celsius cooler than the solar surface, and only look dark because they emit light faintly. Sunspot Cycle: The change in the number of sunspots from one period of its maximum to the next, over the course of about 11 years. (Defi nitions from Solar Storms and You: Exploring Sunspots and Solar Activity Cycles, NASA EG-2000-03-002-GSFC.) Extensions Question to explore: How do the solar wind and magnetic fi eld change during sunspot maximum conditions? http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov http://sunearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/edask.htm T E A C H E R S . D I R E C T I O N S Educators Please take a moment to evaluate this product at http://ehb2.gsfc.nasa.gov/edcats/educational_wallsheet Your evaluation and suggestions are vital to continually improving NASA educational materials. Thank you.
Additional Information: http://ulysses.jpl.nasa.gov/pdfs/UlyssesPosterFinal.pdf
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