We know our Sun is there every morning. We can feel the heat it provides. However, our Sun does not produce just heat and light. Once thought to be unchanging, the Sun is now known to vary constantly. Changes in the activity of the Sun occur in eleven-year cycles. Sunspots can appear and disappear over days or weeks. Flares and large ejections of mass (coronal mass ejections) occur in time spans of minutes to hours. The energy of the Sun constantly blows out a 'solar wind' of electrified particles; the extended atmosphere of the Sun. The Earth and all of the planets exist within the extended atmosphere of the Sun called the Heliosphere. The energy from the Sun is responsible for life on Earth. Conditions on Earth, including climate, seasons, and weather, are driven by the Sun.
Abrupt changes on the Sun can create flares and coronal mass ejections that blast brief but powerful 'solar storms' into space. Earth is surrounded by a magnetic field (magnetosphere) that protects us from the worst effects of solar storms. However, solar storms can cause fluctuations in the magnetosphere called magnetic storms. These magnetic storms have disabled satellites and burned out transformers shutting down power grids. These storms also can endanger astronauts. These magnetic storms contribute to more intense auroras that can be seen closer to the equator than is usual.
Imagine the excitement your students can have and the skills they will gain through a Space Weather Action Center in your classroom. Students analyze data, the same data used by scientists to monitor the Sun, students make predictions, summarize the data and create a Space Weather broadcast using green screen technology.