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Experiment 9

Sun as a Star

Experiment 9 Sun as a Star Which one of the images above is our Sun? They

Which one of the images above is our Sun?

They are, of course, all images of our Sun and they were all taken on the same day. The one on the upper left is an image taken in visible light. The sunspots on the surface can clearly be seen. The image in the upper right is a magnetogram. This image sho ws regions of magnetic field. Magnetic fields coming out of the Sun are white and magnetic fields going back into the Sun are shown as black.

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Can you see any correlation between the sunspots and magnetic fields?

The image in the lower left shows only light emitted by iron that has gotten so hot that not only has it melted, heated to a gas, but has also lost 14 of its electrons as well! The light given off is in the ultraviolet, too energetic for your eye to see. The last image shows even hotter materia l that is emitting in X-rays. Each image looks different from the last but can you see any similarities?

Can you see any correlation between the sunspots and magnetic fields? The image in the lower

Sunspot Structure

Details show the black umbra, the heart of the sunspot, surrounded by the lighter penumbra.

The surrounding background structure is called granulation. These are the tops of plasma cells that bubble to the solar surface carrying energy via the process called convection.

The Earth is to scale.

New data, like the images on the previous page, show that the Sun is a dynamic structure with many different layers, each of which behaves in different ways. Considering how important the Sun is to life on Earth (i.e. without the Sun there would be no life) and how small changes in the Sun can cause drastic changes in our fragile biosphere, it is easy to see why the study of our Sun has expanded to include dozens of satellites and ground based observatories, and thousands of scientists from many different countries.

Activity I: Solar Rotation

In this Activity you will be investigating one of the most prominent features of our dynamic Sun, SUNSPOTS. You will take measurements of the sizes of different sunspots and see how they change over time. The images you will be using are real data from the SOHO (Solar Heliospheric Observatory) satellite.

First we are going to measure the angular velocity of different sunspot groups. When things move in a circle they have a certain amount of angular velocity. What you normally think of as

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velocity is the amount of time it takes an object to move a certain distance. Angular velocity is similar but measures the amount of time it takes an object to move through an angle. The formula for angular velocity is given below:

=

For example if you had an object that completed one full circle in an hour then it’s angular

velocity would be:

=

  • 360 or 360° per hour (since a circle contains 360 degrees).

1

You can covert this into degrees per minute by using the following:

360

1

=

1 . 60

360

=

60

6

1

This process of unit conversion should be familiar to you now. It uses the fact that for every one hour there are 60 minutes and that if you have hours on the top and bottom of an equation they cancel out. When you have numbers on the bottom of a fraction that means to divide

  • 1. Take the transparency on your desk and look at it. It is marked with solar latitude (up and down) and longitude (left and right) lines. You will use these lines to determine the positions of sunspots on different pictures.

  • 2. Look at the visible light images on your table. Each one should have a date on it. Put these in order from the first date to the last and then put the transparency over the first one. On your answer sheet, in the first table, mark the date of the image, the longitude and latitude of the largest sunspot. Use the ruler to measure the size of the sunspot in centimeters.

  • 3. Choose two additional large sunspots and list their properties in the tables provided. You may want to name each one so that you don’t get them confused later on.

  • 4. Repeat the above for each date. For every date, except the first one, record how many degrees the sunspot is moved in longitude from the previous day. (ex. Absolute value of today’s longitude – yesterday’s longitude)

  • 5. Once you have filled out the tables for the sunspots in your images you can start answering the questions. Compute the average angular velocity by taking the total degrees moved and divide it by the number of days it took to move that far.

  • 6. Question 5 is self-explanatory. Question 6 requires you t o average all of the velocities of your sunspots.

  • 7. Using the answer from question 6 you can determine about how long it takes the Sun to complete one rotation. Remember: time=distance / velocity and there are 360° in a circle.

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Activity II Sunspot Size

In this activity you will use the data collected to measure the size of the largest sunspot that you have recorded.

  • 1. Write the size of the largest sunspot that you measured, in cm, for question #1.

  • 2. Measure the size of the Sun and put your measurement in question #2

  • 3. Now we need to create a conversion factor to change from cm on the image to actual miles.

The first thing we need is the actual size of the Sun in miles, which is provided in part 3

  • 4. Follow the directions on the answer sheet to give you a conversion factor. Be sure to put the units of the conversion factor in your answer.

  • 5. Multiply your measurement of the sunspot to get its actual size in miles.

  • 6. Follow the directions on the answer sheet to compare the size of the sunspot to the size of the Earth. A value of one means that they are the same size, value of less than one means that the sunspot is smaller, a value greater than one means the sunspot is larger than the Earth.

Activity III Solar Energy Flow

Activity II – Sunspot Size In this activity you will use the data collected to measure

All life on earth originates from the flow of

energy out of the Sun. This energy provides plants, animals, and us with light and food. Some of the light energy within the Sun can take a million years to actually exit the body of the Sun. This Activity is designed to introduce

you to how light produced in the Sun’s core

travels to the surface and how this light, made up of photons, interacts with matter on its way out into space.

Photons interact in two general regions of the Sun the interior and the atmosphere. The photons generated in the core of the Sun travel through the solar interior in what is called a random walk pattern. This random walk is a zigzag pattern produce by photons being scattered around by particles in the Sun. The solar atmosphere is the outer layer of gas, which is much less dense than the interior. It consists of three main layers called the photosphere, the chromosphere and the corona. However, some photons are absorbed by atoms in the atmosphere and then re -emitted in some random direction. This produces absorption lines in the Sun’s spectrum, which appear as dark lines on a bright background.

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The CLEA computer program will demonstrate the processes occurring in each of the above -

mentioned regions of the Sun and hopefully give you a better understanding of what is happening to photons in each region. Before you start though, you should be familiar with the conditions under which the different types of spectra occur. These are summarized in what are

called Kirchhoff’s Laws:

Law 1 --- A hot object or hot, dense gas produces a continuous spectrum in which emission appears at all wavelengths. This is a complete “rainbow” of colors without any spectral lines.

Law 2 --- A thin gas seen against a cooler background produces an emission line spectrum. This is a series of bright spectral lines seen against a dark background.

Law 3 --- A thin gas in front of a hotter, continuous source of light produces an absorption line spectrum. This is a series of dark spectral lines among a continuou s background.

The CLEA computer program will demonstrate the processes occurring in each of the above - mentioned

The Sun’s surface emits a continuous spectrum, but there is a cooler thin layer of gas between

the Sun and you. It is the solar atmosphere. Kirchhoff’s third law then explains why you see an

absorption line spectrum.

This Activity is split into two major components: The Solar Interior and The Solar Atmosphere. These two major components will be subdivided as well. Read the accompanying material for each subdivision, then perform the lab exercise, and answer the questions for each subdi vision. Then move to the next subdivision.

The Solar Interior

  • A. In this part of the lab you will see how a photon (a particle of light) tries to escape from the center of the Sun. The interior of the Sun is a hot dense gas and as a photon makes its way

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outward, different mechanisms affect its path. The basic result from the different mechanisms is essentially the same: every time a photon interacts with matter, it is re -directed in a new and random direction producing the zigzag pattern called a random w alk. The Sun is composed of layers upon layers of atoms, and the number of layers, n, affects the amount of time it takes for the photon to escape the Sun. In this exercise you will see why it can take so long for a photon to escape the Sun.

  • 1. Double Click on CLEA_SUN Software.

    • i. Click on File on the top menu,

      • 1. Select Login and Fill out your group’s information here.

      • 2. Click OK.

  • 2. Click on Simulation on the top menu

    • i. Select FLOW, Select 1 PHOTON

ii.

A new window would pop-up

  • 3. Click on Parameters (on the top menu of the new window)

    • i. Select # OF LAYERS, set to 10 and click OK)

ii.

  • 4. To start the simulation, press the RUN SIMULATION button.

  • 5. Record the number of interactions the photon had in the data table. Repeat two more times.

  • 6. Calculate the average.

  • 7. Repeat steps 4-6 for layers of 20, 30, and 40 layers and record your results.

  • 8. Answer the questions for The Solar Interior -Part A.

  • 9. Exit the Flow simulation by hitting RETURN

You just watched a single photon escape from the Sun. The process was a statistical one and you had to repeat the experiment a few times to determine an estimate in the average number of interactions a photon experienced to make it to the surface. Answer q uestions 1 & 2 on the worksheet. In the next part of the lab, you will watch several photons simultaneously try to make their way out of the Sun.

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  • B. Next, you release 1 to 1000 photons at the same time from the center and watch as they collectively make their trip to the surface. This illustrates the phenomenon called diffusion, which is basically (as applied to the Sun) the “leakage” of photons through the solar interior. You can get a reliable estimate of how many interactions occur for a photon as it makes its way through n layers to the surface. It takes less time than running the earlier experiment many times.

    • 1. Again Click on Simulation

      • a. Select Flow

      • b. Select Diffusion To bring up a model image of the solar interior.

  • 2. To Assign the number of layers Click on Parameters

    • a. Select # OF LAYERS,

    • b. set to 30, and click OK)

  • 3. To Assign a number of photons Click on Parameters:

    • a. Select # OF PULSE PHOTONS,

    • b. set to 100, and click OK)

  • 4. To start the simulation, press the RUN SIMULATION button.

  • 5. Record the number of interactions each photon experienced before it reached the surface on your data sheet and answer all the questions for The Solar Interior -Part B.

  • 6. Exit the Flow simulation by hitting RETURN

  • Answer questions 3 & 4 on the worksheet.

    The Solar Atmosphere

    • A. Now we move outward to the Solar Atmosphere. In this portion of the experiment you will run a simulation showing you how photons and atoms interact. The gases of the solar atmosphere are made up of atoms with a nucleus and electron orbits/clouds. The photons emitted from the solar interior interact with this gas. In this simulation you will see that there can be two types of photons interacting with the atoms of the gas: Line Photons and Continuum Photons. Line photons have exactly the right energy to be absorbed by the atoms. They are held for a brief period of time and then set fre e again-into a random direction. Continuum photons do not have the right amount of energy to interact easily with the atoms. Therefore they mostly pass through the gas without interacting at all. Occasionally a continuum photon may scatter off an electron.

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    1.

    Select a simulation for photon-atom interaction: (SIMULATION, INTERACTION,

    PHOTON TYPE, LINE)

    • 2. Simulate an interaction for 20 photons (You will want to stop the process after the number of photons emitted equals 20): (RUN… STOP)

    ..

    • 3. Record the number of scattered photons on your answer sheet.

    • 4. Repeat the experiment for 20 Continuum Photons: (PHOTON TYPE, CONTINUUM, RUN…STOP)

    • 5. Record your results and hit RETURN.

    Answer questions 5 & 6 on the worksheet.

    • B. Now that you have seen the basic concept of how photons interact with atoms, let’s go a step further and see how this can lead to spectral line formation. In this simulation, photons are sent through a cloud of gas. The photons enter the cloud from the left after being emitted by a source like the Sun. There is a detector on the right for you to try and detect the photons. With this setup, you are viewing the “Sun” through this cloud of gas. In this scenario you will be sending line photons through the gas. They get their name from t he fact that they are responsible for the lines in a spectrum. As photons pass through the cloud they may interact with the atoms in the gas. If the photon makes it through the cloud and is picked up by your detector, you will see the detector record this. However the photon may interact and get redirected in a direction such that your detector will not record it. In this case it is counted as non-detection.

      • 1. Simulate an aspect of line formation for line photons: (SIMULATION, LINE FORMATION.)

      • 2. Start the simulation (PARAMETERS, # OF PHOTONS, set to 20, OK, RUN.)

      • 3. Record your results and hit RETURN

    Answer questions 7 & 8 on the worksheet.

    • C. Continuum photons give rise to the continuous rainbow of colors in a spectrum. This time the program will send photons through the gas cloud, which have various energies and do not easily interact with the electrons of the gas, except the occasional scattering. Most photons, therefore, pass right through the gas without interacting.

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    1.

    Send Continuum photons through the gas: (SIMULATION, CONTINUUM.)

    • 2. Start the simulation (PARAMETERS, # OF PHOTONS, set to 20, OK, RUN.)

    • 3. Record your results and hit RETURN

    Answer question 9 on the worksheet.

    This next section relates to experiments that are beyond the scope of this class. However, it is

    beneficial to explain a few concepts briefly; The Sun’s atmosphere contains certain gases. These

    gases can absorb photons if they have a certain amount of energy. The photons that are absorbed

    by a particular gas are the Line Photons mentioned previously. The photons that are not absorbed

    by that particular gas are the Continuum Photons. Each has certain amounts of energy that

    correspond to a certain wavelength. And……Wavelength corresponds to COLOR.

    Answer question 10 on the worksheet.

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    Name:

    _________________________________________

    Date: _____________________

    Partner 1: _____________________________________

    Partner 2: __________________

    Day

    Date

     

    Latitude

    Longitude

    Longitude

    Measured

     

    Difference

    Size (cm)

    1

         

    0

     

    2

             

    3

             

    4

             

    5

             

    6

             

    7

             

    8

             

    9

             

    10

             

    11

             

    12

             
     

    Day

    Date

    Latitude

    Longitude

    Longitude

    Measured

    Difference

    Size (cm)

    1

         

    0

     

    2

             

    3

             

    4

             

    5

             

    6

             

    7

             

    8

             

    9

             

    10

             

    11

             

    12

             

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    Name:

    _________________________________________

    Date: _____________________

    Partner 1: _____________________________________

    Partner 2: __________________

    Day

    Date

    Latitude

    Longitude

    Longitude

    Measured

    Difference

    Size (cm)

    1

         

    0

     

    2

             

    3

             

    4

             

    5

             

    6

             

    7

             

    8

             

    9

             

    10

             

    11

             

    12

             
    • 1. Angular velocity of sunspot #1 (degrees/day)

    _________________________________

    • 2. Angular velocity of sunspot #2 (degrees/day) _________________________________

    • 3. Angular velocity of sunspot #3 (degrees/day) _________________________________

    • 4. Are all of the angular velocities the same?

    _________________________________

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    Why or why not?

    _________________________________

    • 5. Average angular velocity of all sunspots

    _________________________________

    • 6. Sun’s average rotation period

    _________________________________

    Activity II Sunspot Size

    • 1. Size of the largest sunspot in cm

    • 2. Size of the Sun in cm

    =_________________________________

    = _________________________________

    • 3. Actual diameter of the Sun is 864,972 miles (give or take). Calculate a conversion factor (

    )

    =

    _________________________________

    • 4. Actual diameter of the sunspot

    = _________________________________

    • 5. Compare to the diameter of the Earth (

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    )

    = _________________________________

    Activity III Solar Energy Flow

    The Solar Interior

    Trial

     

    10 layers

    20 layers

    30 layers

    40 layers

    1

    Interactions #:

           

    2

    Interactions #:

           

    3

    Interactions #:

           
     

    Average:

           

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    Plot your values for the average number of interactions. Make the X-axis (horizontal) the number

    of layers and make your Y-axis (vertical) the number of interactions.

    Plot your values for the average number of interactions. Make the X-axis (horizontal) the number of

    1. Sketch a best-fit line for your data points (should it be straight or curved?) A straight line is a

    linear function, and a curved line is an exponential function. Is the relationship between layers of

    atoms and photon interactions linear or exponential? ___________________________________

    The letter n = the number of layers of atoms. Fill out the table by calculating the theoretical

    value of interactions, n

    2

    , and your values for the average number of interactions per layer.

    n

    10

    20

    30

    40

    N squared

           

    Your average

           

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    2

    • 2. How do your averages compare with the calculated values of n ? Why are they off?

    ___________________________________________________________________________

    • 3. What was the average number of interactions a photon experienced before it reached the

    surface? _________________________________________________________

    • 4. How does this compare with (a) your average interactions for 30 layers from before? (b) the

    theoretical value?

    _______________________________________________________________

    The Solar Atmosphere

    • 5. How many line photons were scattered? _______________________________

    • 6. How many continuum photons were scattered? __________________________

    • 7. What type of spectrum should you expect to see? (Hint: look at figure 2)

    ______________________________________

    • 8. Of the 20 line photons sent, what percentage was detected? _________________

    • 9. Of the continuum photons sent, what percentage was detected? _______________

    10. Construct your own absorption spectrum for the

    Sun. If we know that the gases in the Sun absorb

    photons at only certain amounts of energy, then the

    absorption spectrum will have dark lines for colors

    that correspond to those energies. The following

    table shows the recorded number of detected

    photons for a simulation of 20 photon emissions for

    each wavelength.

    Which wavelengths would be missing in your

    absorption spectrum?

    ____________________________________

    ____________________________________

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    # of photons

    Energy

    Wavelength

    detected

    • 1.5 ev

    • 828 nm

    14

    • 1.9 ev

    • 654 nm

    0

    • 2.3 ev

    • 540 nm

    13

    • 2.5 ev

    • 497 nm

    13

    • 2.6 ev

    • 478 nm

    0

    • 2.7 ev

    • 460 nm

    15

    • 2.9 ev

    • 428 nm

    0

    • 3.1 ev

    • 401 nm

    15