Exploring Space Science Mathematics

We live next to a very stormy star, the Sun, but you would hardly notice anything unusual most of the time. Its constant sunshine hides spectacular changes. But unless you lived in the Arctic and Antarctic regions of Earth, you would have no clue. Only the dazzling glow of the Northern Lights suggests that invisible forces are clashing in space. These forces may cause all kinds of problems for us, and our expensive technology (Activity 1).

It doesn't take long for a 'solar storm' to get here, either. Once they arrive, they change Earth's magnetic field (Activity 2), and these changes lead to the displays of the Northern Lights (aurora), which humans have marveled at for thousands of years. Aurora light up the sky with billions of watts of power (Activity 3) and cover millions of square kilometers (Activity 4). Why does all this activity happen? It has a lot to do with Earth's magnetic field and how it is disturbed by solar storms and the solar wind.

The solar wind, a flow of matter from the sun's surface, carries its own magnetic field with it (Activity 5), and travels at speeds of millions of kilometers per hour (Activity 6). Scientists keep track of this interplanetary storminess using numbers that follow its ups and downs (Activity 7) just like meteorologists follow a storm's speed, pressure and rain fall. Periods of increased and decreased solar activity (Activity 8) come and go about every 11 years. Solar flares also have their own story to tell (Activity 9) just like flashes of lightning in a bad storm.

Scientists have to keep track of many different kinds of phenomena in the universe, both big and small. That's why they have invented a way to write very big and very small numbers using 'scientific notation' (Activity 10, 11, 12). They also have to master how to think in three-dimensions (Activity 13) and how to use mathematical models (Activity 14). Once they find the right models, they can use them to make better predictions (Activity 15) of when the next solar storm will arrive here at Earth, and what it will do when it gets here! - Many different areas in solar and space science are covered in these individual, stand-alone exercises. This series of math activities will help students understand some of the real-life applications of mathematics in the study of the Sun and Earth as a system. Through math and reading activities, students will learn:

• How to search for trends and correlations in data
• How to extract the average, maximum and minimum from data
• How to use scientific notation to work with very large and small numbers
• How to use a scale drawing to estimate the sizes of an aurora
• How to use simple equations to convert raw data into physical quantities