The Sun

An exhaustive, but not exhausted range of resources and activities centered on our star, The Sun. Please feel free to send me a link on any other worthy activities.

The Sun and sunspots taken at Taylors Lakes on 31st July

The Sun and sunspots taken at Taylors Lakes on 31st July

  1. Viewing the Sun

 Please note that looking at the Sun is extremely dangerous and constant care must be taken when using the following methods. While these methods are generally safe, they do have potential dangers so please read the following carefully.

      CAUTION: Looking directly at the Sun will damage your eyes.

  • Pinhole Projector

There are many types of pinhole cameras from a piece of paper with a hole to a black box with a screen. All of these methods do not require looking in the vicinity of the Sun, but the urge is there to look up to grab your bearings. Try using your shadow to find out the direction of the Sun. If your shadow is the smallest, then you know the Sun will be right behind you. A sundial is another useful tool (or just a stick in the ground!)

  • You may like to design your own or try a colander.
Lots of Eclipse images from the colander

Lots of Eclipse images from the colander

Note: This method is particularly effective during an eclipse as you can then appreciate that what you are seeing is really an image of the Sun. Or maybe on a partially cloudy day – which way do the clouds move?

  • Solar Glasses

Another cheap and simple method are Solar Glasses. These can be purchased from many Science shops and online. They use a special filter which needs to be checked before each use for holes or scratches. They are great for eclipses and transits.

Using the Solar glasses to view the eclipse at Footscray City College

Using the Solar glasses to view the eclipse at Footscray City College

Welding glass is also possible to use according to some people, although unless you know the grade of the glass is greater than #14, it is not recommended.

SUNGLASSES are not safe for looking at the Sun

  • Telescope projection

If you have a small telescope (less than 6” in diameter) then this is a great method for lots of people to observe the Sun. Sunspots will be prominent as will an eclipse. You could also use the same method for a pair of binoculars.

CAUTION: Use the shadow of the telescope to align the telescope with the Sun, at no time look through the telescope. Also be aware of overheating the optics. As the lenses and mirrors will concentrate the light, things can heat up quite quickly.

  • Telescope and Filter

The final method for directly viewing the Sun is placing an appropriate filter over the telescope. There are two types of filters you can use:

i.    Store bought Solar filters – nominate the size and type of telescope and there will be a filter available for most telescopes. These come in a range of wavelengths as well, depending on how you want to view the Sun.

ii.    Homemade solar filter with Baader film. These films allow only 0.0001% of white light through and the Sun appears white.

Be sure to check your filter before each use and discard if there are holes or significant scratches.

Aligning the telescope needs to be done with making the telescope shadow as small as possible. Alternatively, if your telescope has a finderscope attached, remove the finderscope (so it doesn’t burn your shoulder!) and align the shadows of the brackets. Ingenious!

There are also solar telescopes available that have filters permanently fitted. The disadvantage being you are only able to view the Sun.

So now you have the Sun in view – what can you do now?

  1. Image the Sun
  • Take a full image of the Sun through the telescope, with a telephoto lens on a DSLR or a digital video camera.
  • Take an image of the projected Sun
  • Zoom in on a sunspot
  • Take an image of the Sun every day or every second day for a month to investigate how the surface of the Sun changes.
  • Take images with different Solar filters if you have the equipment

A few suggestions and tutorials on the best ways to image the Sun

  • From bizibuilder on Stargazer’s Lounge using your telescope with filter, including how to process the images;
  • Using your DSLR or digital camera on a long focal length and another homemade Baader filter from the Photography Blogger.

Now what to do with these images?

  1. Investigate Sunspots
  • Differential Rotation from SOHO – you will need to take an image of the Sun every day for a week at the same time (or you can download SOHO’s images)


  1. Electromagnetic Spectrum
  • Examine Sunlight with UV beads from Stanford;


  • Make a Spectroscope

-Investigate the colours of the Sun and other light sources with a Spectroscope.

-Perhaps make a variety of Spectroscopes and see which ones work the best!

Spectroscopes are available commercially, as kits and here are some DIY versions which can be done with a blank DVD or blank CD


  • Look at the Sun in different wavelengths

The solar satellites all image the Sun in different wavelengths.

  • Explore which wavelengths are used
  • Why are different wavelengths used?
  • What does each wavelength tell us?
  • Combine different wavelengths to develop new views of the Sun or understand how different wavelengths are connected.
  • NASA’s SOHO activity


  1. Solar Weather and Magnetic fields

 Real data forecasting and exploration with;


  • Predict CMEs



  • Explore how the Sun’s weather effects us on Earth

Aurora at The Sun Today;


  1. Properties of the Sun


  1. Sun as a clock

a)    Seasons

  • NAAP Labs have this fantastic simulator for the seasons
  • Range of activities including another Analemma on the classroom roof


b)    Sun Dials

  • Make your own Sun Dial from Sky and Telescope
  • Create an Analemma by photographing the Sun at noon everyday, recording the Sun’s shadow at noon everyday or using Stellarium – a year long project!


  1. Solar Power
  • Solar panels – plenty of kits around using solar panels as a power source.


  1. Solar Satellites


      10.  Other Resources

  • Solar Week 17-23 March 2014 – A week of activities
  • NASA Space Weather Media Viewer has a full range of current views of the Sun in all wavelengths, illustrations, animations and videos explaining various features.
  • SOHO activities using data taken from SOHO satellite

  • Hands on Activities using data from the Yohkoh solar satellite from Montana State University
  • Sun|trek, a UK Astronomy Outreach program has put together these activities and resources;
  • The NOVA LABS by PBS uses NASA data with some great activities and challenges in their Sun Lab;

Equipment resources in Australia



One comment on “The Sun

  1. Pingback: Taylors Lakes Sun Projects 2014 | Telescopes in Schools

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