Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Dynamic Sun Shines on Goddard

The Dynamic Sun Workshop is the brainchild of Dr. Barbara Thompson, Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Project Scientist here at NASA Goddard. The SDO scientists developed a workshop geared towards engineers who have a desire to do outreach would be a great way to empower NASA employees to get the NASA vision out to the community at large.

"For every future scientist in a classroom, there are several future engineers," said Thompson. "If we want to influence future generations, we need a greater representation from NASA's engineers."

The goal of the workshop is to encourage and facilitate outreach efforts in local schools and communities, including professional associations. It is geared for anyone interested in sharing their science, math, engineering and technological experiences with the public, specifically those SDO project personnel interested in learning more about education outreach.

Presenters for the workshop included Thompson, John Robinson, Deputy Program Manager for Living With a Star; Ken Hibbard, SOHO engineer; Barbara Lambert and Emilie Drobnes from SDO Education and Public Outreach; and Debbie Wood from the Chesapeake Children's Museum.

During the workshop, attendees are provided with the necessary tools to conduct a successful outreach experience and to take the stress out of the experience. As part of the workshop, attendees will build a shoebox spectroscope and learn about the light spectrum, map the magnetic field, use a sunspotter to view sunspots, access numerous Sun Earth Connection web resources, and borrow space-related materials for outreach presentations.

"Presentations to the public about the science on our missions don't have to be complicated," said Thompson. "In fact, it's better if it's presented in a way that focuses on the impact and the importance of the research. Most of the engineers I've worked with are deeply concerned about the scientific success, and have already begun to educate themselves on our research."

A "Dynamic Sun" website ( has been developed to provide presentation materials and hands-on activities dealing with the Sun and the Sun-Earth Connection for those who want to participate in an outreach experience, including special presentations on SDO and other recent missions. All of the presentations were prepared using Power Point and can be easily modified to meet the target audience, which can range from kindergarten students to amateur astronomers. Everything is included on the website, i.e: the image presentations and their associated scripts.

"We've bought a computer, software, equipment, and demonstration materials," said Thompson. "We've loaded all of the presentations, activity booklets, demo instructions, and lots of web links and resources onto the computer. We pair them with a scientist to help them understand all of the materials. All they have to do is sign out the equipment and go."

The workshop has been offered twice, Aug. 14 and Aug. 22. Both sessions have had as many as 30 participants. The project plans to host additional workshops to interested parties in the fall.

Although initially tailored to the SDO project, the workshop can be tailored and offered to other projects on center if desired.

"The engineers are vital to the scientific success of our missions, and often they disappear from the public eye after launch," added Thompson. "We want to take advantage of their dedication and put them in the spotlight."

SDO is the first Space Weather Research Network mission in the Living With a Star program. SDO is designed to help us understand the Sun's influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously. SDO will study the source of the Sun's energy, the solar interior, as well as the many manifestations of the storage and release of energy in the Sun's atmospheric layers. SDO will provide us with the tools and scientific understanding that will enable us to improve the quality of solar activity forecasts.

SDO, scheduled for launch in 2007, is designed to fly for a nominal 5 years.

For more information on the Dynamic Sun, please refer to the following website,

For more information on the SDO and LWS please consult the following websites: and