EducationFor Students


Van Allen Probes Memory Game

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Avoid the Particles

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Van Allen Probes Quiz

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Music Video

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Music Video by the Ionized Gases

Every second, a million tons of energized matter blasts off from the surface of Sun. Where does this “solar wind” go? Follow the speedy voyage of some protons, electrons and ions as they make a magnetic connection with Earth – becoming trapped in the Van Allen radiation belts that surround our planet. As they bounce, drift and spiral through the belts, some particles will shoot down Earth's long magnetic tail, while others spin back to the upper reaches of the magnetic field and spark the auroras – the amazing celestial light show we know as the northern (or southern) lights. Earth can be a crazy, magnetic place – watch this video to see how!

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Student Reports

Click to PlaySpace Academy: Van Allen Probes Mission and the Extremes of Space Weather

In April 2010, Maryland middle school students took part in a "Space Academy" session devoted to space weather and the Van Allen Probes. Hear what some of them had to say about Van Allen Probes and the chance to study Earth's radiation belts.

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EducationFor Teachers

Classroom Presentations

General Activities

Across Space and Time
Van Allen STEM Poster
Vertical Challenge
Radiation Hardened Spacecraft (Lesson Plan | Play Online)
Design Challenge: Shielding a Magnetometer
Investigating the Ring Current

Draft Activities

Teachers: We would appreciate your feedback about the draft activities found in this section. If you would like to contribute to the pilot test phase, please try out the activities found here and provide feedback using the "Let Us Know What You Think- Pilot Test Questionnaire."

If you would like to design an activity to share, please download the Educators Designing Curriculum form to include with your activity and send it to Mrs. L. Butler. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Kinesthetic Van Allen Probes Activity: Radiation Run: A Matter of Energy
Changing Magnetic Fields and Electrical Current
Investigating the Invisible

Math Problems by SpaceMath @ NASA

Navigating a Magnetic Field with Vector Dot Products!

Grade level: 10-12

Topics: Vectors; dot products; vector projections

Students work with vectors to determine a spacecraft's orientation relative to Earth's magnetic field. They compute the expected strength of the magnetic field parallel and perpendicular to the spacecraft motion vector.

Navigating in a Magnetic Field Using Linear Equations

Grade level: 8-10

Topics: Graphing linear equations; equation of line perpendicular to another line; geometry

Students model spacecraft motion and the local magnetic field direction using two linear equations, then determine the line perpendicular to the spacecraft motion and the angle of motion relative to the magnetic field.

The Van Allen Probes and Radiation Dose

Grade level: 8-10

Topics: Unit conversion; rates.

Students study radiation dose units and estimate the exposures for a human living on the ground, an astronaut in the ISS, and the Van Allen belt environment.

An Improved Model for Van Allen Belt Radiation Doses

Grade level: 9-11

Topics: Polynomial equations; trigonometric equations; composite functions f(f(x)); estimating areas under curves.

Students use a detailed model of the path of a satellite, and the radiation dose rate along the path to calculate the total radiation dose to the spacecraft.

Modeling the Radiation Dose of the Van Allen Probes

Grade level: 11-12

Topics: Parametric equations; composite functions f(g(x)); integral calculus.

Students create a mathematical model of the radiation exposure to the Van Allen Probes satellites as they travel through the Van Allen belts.

Exploring the Third Belt with the Van Allen Probes

Grade level: 9-12

Topics: Intersection points of circles and ellipses; graphical and algebraic solutions.

Students use the elliptical equation for the orbit of NASA's Van Allen Probes spacecraft, and a circle representing the location of the new Van Allen belt, to find where they intersect along the orbit of the spacecraft.

Electricity from Sunlight: The Van Allen Probes Solar Panels

Grade level: 6-8

Topics: area of rectangles; metric math; decimals.

Students work with a scaled drawing of the Van Allen Probes spacecraft to determine the area of its solar panels and how many watts of electricity they can produce.

Working with areas of rectangles and circles

Grade level: 6-8

Topics: areas of rectangles and circles; mass = density x volume.

Students determine the area of a panel from a spacecraft by subtracting the areas of various holes from the original panel area, and determine the remaining mass of the panel.

Van Allen Probes Satellite: Working with Octagons

Grade level: 6-8

Topics: algebra 1; arease of rectangles and triangles; metric math.

Students determine the surface area of the octagonal spacecraft body.

Van Allen Probes - Telemetry Math

Grade level: 6-8

Topics: giga and mega units; decimal math.

Students work with units of megabytes and gigabytes to determine how much data will be produced by the Van Allen Probes spacecraft.

How to Use the Van Allen Probes Spacecraft to Measure the Mass of Earth!

Grades: 9-12

Topics:Algebra 1; Re-writing equations;scientific notation.

Students work with Keplers Third Law to determine the mass of earth by using the orbital data for the Van Allen Probes spacecraft.

Exploring the Donut-shaped Van Allen belts

Grades: 9-12

Topics:Volume of a sphere and torus; scientific notation.

Students determine the volume of the Van Allen belts by using the volume formula for a torus. They compare this volume to that of a spherical earth.

Estimating the Total Mass of the Van Allen Belts

Grade level:9-12

Topics: mass = density x volume; scientific notation.

Students work with the density and volume of the Van Allen Belts to estimate their mass.


Pre-Service Teachers

EducationUseful Information

NASA's Living with a Star

Van Allen Probes is part of NASA's Living with a Star Program, a series of mission designed to gather critical information about the sun and its effects on Earth, and human activities, even other planetary systems.

Sun Earth Connections

We live in the extended atmosphere of the sun, an active star. While sunlight enables and sustains life, the sun's variability produces streams of low- and high-energy particles and radiation that can adversely affect life.

Under the protective shield of our magnetic field and atmosphere, Earth is an island in the solar system where life has developed and flourished. The fate of life on Earth is intimately connected to the way our planet responds to the sun's variations. Understanding the changing sun and its effects on life and society is a key area of study. Living With a Star addresses the effects of the sun's highly variable radiation and particle emissions on Earth.

Space Weather

We're all familiar with changing weather on Earth, but how many of us know "weather" also occurs in space? Just as it drives weather on Earth, the sun is responsible for disturbances in our space environment.

Besides emitting a continuous stream of plasma called the solar wind, the sun periodically blasts out billions of tons of matter in what are called coronal mass ejections. These immense clouds of material, when directed toward Earth, can cause large magnetic storms in our magnetosphere and upper atmosphere.

The term "space weather" generally refers to conditions on the sun, in the solar wind, and within Earth's magnetosphere and upper atmosphere that not only can influence the performance and reliability of technologies on the ground and in space, but can endanger human health or even life.


Living with a Star missions are addressing these crucial aspects of the relationship between sun and Earth.

The missions include the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which will study the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously; the Geospace-Van Allen Probes, which will will provide unprecedented insight into the physical dynamics of Earth's radiation belts; and Sentinels, designed to discover, understand and model the connection between solar phenomena and interplanetary disturbances.

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Mrs. L. Butler
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
11100 Johns Hopkins Road
Laurel, Maryland 20723-6099

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