Science Topics

The science topics covered by the SunSpaceArt project relate specifically to KS2 ‘Solar System’ and ‘Light’ and to KS3 ‘Light, Magnetism, Gravity, Stars and Space’. Although many areas of science and astronomy are covered in this project, there is a natural bias towards the Sun and its interaction with the Earth. The Sun|trek and iSun|trek sites provide detailed scientific content for most of the topics covered, together with resources for the classroom, solar images and movies. Additional material, worksheets, images, movies etc are provided on this website.

Five themes have been chosen for the SunSpaceArt project:

1) The Colours of light (the Sun’s radiation, Galileo, sunspots, Annie Maunder, Newton, Opticks, Earth observations, aurorae, solar storms, space weather, spectra).  Images and videos of the Sun from Earth, space and the ISS  (for example, photos of sunrise, sunset, the Moon and aurorae by ESA/UK astronaut Tim Peake) are used for scientific investigation and artistic inspiration. Simple experiments are carried out in schools with colours (using prisms, lenses, mirors, telescopes etc). Sunspots are explored linking with the work by Galileo and Annie Maunder. Some topics (solar storms, sunspots, aurorae, day and night, seasons, spectra, phases of the Moon) are already covered in Sun|trek and also in the resources provided for the Space2Earth project. The solar system will be explored as an inspiration for artistic expression. The use of colour by artists is explored, for example how colours can be combined to represent distance and space.

2) Beyond the rainbow (Infra-red, thermal images, Herschel, radio communications, UV and X-rays, protection from UV, UV beads, Earth and space observations).  Observations from space of the Sun and many other astronomical objects offer a wealth of inspiration for science and artistic expression. False colour images (eg IR and UV data) provide a new and interesting perspective, with spectra providing a challenge for older age groups.  Sun|trek has sections on UV and X-ray solar space observations, spectra (Fingerprints), with school projects using REAL solar data. Use of artistic expression and imagination is encouraged to explore ways of seeing the world, the Sun and the universe in a different light than usual through the use of more abstract art.

3) Gravity and orbits (Galileo, Newton, satellites, orbits, SoHO, STEREO, Solar Orbiter).  An extensive section on rockets, satellites, gravity and Newton exists on Sun|trek. Artists and scientists must both carefully observe (and draw) what they see. Several solar satellites are in unusual orbits, eg SoHO, STEREO, Parker Solar Probe (2018) and Solar Orbiter (2019). The latter will head close to the Sun using the gravity of Venus to achieve an orbit well out of the ecliptic.

4) Harnessing solar energy on Earth and in Space (Einstein, photoelectric effect, nuclear fusion, solar farms, solar panels in space, ISS).  We face major challenges here on Earth to provide sufficient energy for everyone. Many sources of energy contribute to Global Warming. Solar energy provides a safe alternative, as does nuclear fusion (energy source of the Sun and other star). There is an extensive section on the Earth’s Energy Resources on Sun|trek, including discussion of renewable sources of energy, together with projects for schools. We discuss how ‘solar energy’ can be harnessed on Earth and in Space, including details of solar cars and solar powered flight, eg Impulse3, and its recent flight around the world. We explore new technologies, such as organic solar cell technologies, which offer new opportunities. We explore the exciting prospect of new smart materials, fabrics and textiles which will be used in the future on Earth and for space travel.

5) Light and dark (day and night, seasons, ISS orbit, sundials, eclipses) Astronauts on board the ISS experience day and night on different timescales, orbiting the Earth 16 times per day. They can see the lights of London and the darkness in rural Africa, where there is still no electricity. This was described in detail by Tim Peake on social media and in his books ‘Hello, is this Planet Earth’ and ‘Ask an Astronaut’. All his photos are available on his Flickr site. Harnessing solar energy can bring light to poorer regions of the world (eg solar cells over canals in India and Brazil); a few hours of extra light can make all the difference, for example when it allows homework to be done. In this context, we want students to think about light and dark in different ways, day and night, the seasons, energy in the world, how important light is. This theme also covers shadows, time, sundials, and eclipses (Eclipse 2017 in the USA). The artistic element explores how light and darkness, black and white, shadows, sunrise and sunset are used in artistic expression.