The European Researchers’ Night was organized on the 29th of September. SERPENTINE researchers participated in the event at the Kumpula Campus by organizing activities for kindergarten children and middle school students.

How big is the Sun? What are the consequences of the gigantic plasma clouds that our nearest star unleashes into space? Why do scientists study images of the Sun with all those weird colors?

These were among the questions we focused on during our Researchers’ Night activities. The organization of the event was done within the framework of the EU project SERPENTINE, the Marie Curie network SWATNet, and the Finnish Center of Excellence in Sustainable Space (FORESAIL). The event was sponsored by the Finnish Physical Society and FORESAIL.

For kindergarten kids we first showed pictures of the Sun and its effects on us. After a flood of questions it was time for hands-on activities! We had prepared coloring pages featuring the Sun blowing the solar wind and coronal mass ejections, and the protective magnetosphere of the Earth. Kids decorated them with colored pencils, glitter glue, and space-themed stickers.

The other activity for kindergarten kids involved making their own Sun from polystyrene balls and pipe cleaners. Pipe cleaners could be seen as representing either the Sun’s magnetic field or solar rays.

Left: Eleanna Asvestari and Venla Koikkalainen preparing for the arrival of the kindergarten groups, Middle: The children’s creations from the activity  “create your own Sun”, Right: The coloring pages designed by Eleanna, with the educative text translated into Finnish with the help of Julia Ruohotie. 

The middle school students started with a Kahoot quiz. Did you know that one solar eruption hurls a mass equalling six million blue whales from the Sun into interplanetary space? Or that the dark “stains” at the surface of the Sun, called sunspots, are regions of strong magnetic field? 

Next, PhD student Andreas Wagner revealed his secret skill. As a researcher Andreas works with coronal simulations but in his free time he is also competing professionally in solving Rubik’s Cubes. His personal record is… 6 seconds..! 

Our cubes were not normal Rubik’s Cubes. They had solar images taken at different wavelengths glued on their sides, each telling their own story about the Sun. 

Left: Andreas solving a Rubik’s Cube. Middle: Our cubes were original 3x3x3  (5.7 x 5.7 x 5.7 cm sized) ones, but solar images were printed on their sides. Each color represents a different wavelength allowing us to see different regions and processes happening at the Sun, Right: PhD student Mayank Kumar helping to explain to middle school students how the Sun looks inside and out. 

In short, the Sun is a big ball of ionized gas called plasma and the plasma at different temperatures radiates light at different wavelengths. With the filters focusing on certain wavelengths, one can take images of the Sun that reveal its regions, processes and structures at different temperatures. The colors on the images featured on our cubes are not realistic but instead are selected by scientists in order to distinguish between each filter. The reason behind this is because these wavelengths are in the ultraviolet range of the electromagnetic spectrum, beyond what our eyes can see.  

Here is an example: The image of the blue Sun is taken with the 33.5 nanometer wavelength filter. Such light is emitted by iron atoms in a very hot plasma in the outermost atmospheric layers of the Sun at a temperature of 2.5 million degrees! In those extreme conditions iron atoms have lost 15 of their electrons. Bright areas are called active regions, and it is where the magnetic field is strong and complex. They are the birthplaces of solar eruptions.

Image of the Sun at 33.5 nanometer filter taken by Solar Dynamics Observatory

The Researchers’ Night was a great experience and we are sure to use these ideas again. 


Leaflet with detailed instructions on how to solve the Rubik’s Cube and  how to interpret the images on each side of the cube (written by Andreas Wagner and Eleanna Asvestari): Download

Kahoot questions both in English and in Finnish: Download

Educational coloring page: Download 

Team: Andreas Wagner, Daniel Price, Eleanna Asvestari, Emilia Kilpua (Coordinator), Hannu Koskinen, Jens Pomoell, Julia Ruohotie, Mayank Kumar, Venla Koikkalainen

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