Space Science Outreach
The northern lights are awe inspiring and beautiful, which makes them a great hook to get students excited about heliophysics- the study of the sun/Earth system and the effects of the sun on the Earth. The UA Museum of the North has many resources for teaching students about our place in the universe.
Check out our frequently updated Astronomy Calendar for upcoming celestial events!
Photo: Stephane Vetter
DIY Space Science Activities
Each theme has multiple lessons, downloadable guides & worksheets, plus tips & tricks to modify the hands-on activities!
Sizing Up The Solar System
Learn how far apart things are in our solar system. Discover the scale of the planets!
Explore how charged particles create the colors of the aurora. Make your own display of the northern lights.
Survey your community about the northern lights and create a group graph. Be an aurora forecaster. Explore crowd source reporting of your aurora sightings.
Inupiaq Knowledge of the Northern Lights
Discover Inupiaq cultural knowledge that illuminates the northern lights with vocabulary, stories, and dance.
Check Out Learning Kits
Borrow kits and teaching objects to teach about how solar flares cause northern lights on earth. Click to learn more about any of these kits:
The Geophysical Institute has developed a program called Cultural Connections that brings together aurora science and Inupiaq culture and language. The two kits contain teaching objects, lesson books for students, a teacher’s guide and a USB drive with multimedia lessons and pronunciation guides. The lessons blend visual, auditory and hands-on experiential learning styles. For 4th-6th & 7th-8th grades.
The Sunspotter is an object that uses lenses and mirrors to show a projection of the sun’s image. It gives students the chance to gather data about the sun like scientists have throughout the centuries. Predict how the sun will look, observe how sunspots change over time, and draw observations. Track sunspots as a class and learn how scientists who study the aurora use solar flares to predict the northern lights. For all ages.
A program in six stages where students learn about the different aspects of studying the aurora. Calculate the altitude of the aurora using triangulation, explore the basics of light and color, build a magnetometer, and learn how magnetic deflection works on charged particles. This kit contains a teachers manual, a PowerPoint presentation including video and animations, and materials for the activities. For 7th-12th grades.
Click here to borrow kits, make an online request, or purchase a kit pass.
More Learning Links
- Quick FAQ cards about the aurora. These make great review cards or can be provided as a quick summary.
- Aurorasaurus is a citizen science project that gathers real-time data about aurora sightings and sends out notifications to users when the Northern Lights are likely visible in their area. Aurorasaurus was built by scientists to improve forecasting of the aurora using citizen science reports and crowd-sourced (Twitter) ground observations of aurora.
- NASA Afterschool resources provide a series of programs exploring the universe that can be done in short sessions for afterschool care. The first 6 Sessions are particularly related to heliophysics.
- Solar Week was October 23-27, 2017! You can still use this resource for a weeks worth of facts, activities, and games about the sun's relationship to the earth. Get to know your sun with resources from UC Berkeley. Click here to learn more.
Aurora Viewing Links
- Check the Aurora Forecast to see how strong the aurora will be in the upcoming days.
- The All-sky camera at Poker Flat shows the sky above in real time, so if you aren't in a good aurora viewing area you can look at their sky.
This project was funded under NASA Heliophysics Education Consortium cooperative agreement NNX16AL65A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.