Sun Activity: Graphing Sunspots of the Solar Cycle


Students learn about and graph solar activity by year to discover the 11-year solar cycle.

Grades 7 and Up

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In this activity, students will:

  • READ an introduction to sunspots and solar flares
  • ANSWER “check for understanding” questions
  • GRAPH sunspot data to reveal the 11-year solar activity cycle

Great as a group project! For this investigation, break up the class into groups of anywhere between 4 and 10 students per group. (The year range they each plot will depend on your group sizes. To make this easier, we have provided a breakdown of specific year ranges per student for different group sizes.) Groups are provided sunspot per year data for a 300 year period (1700-2000). Each individual student then plots just a portion of the data. Students then combine their work to make one really long graph that displays all 300 years of data! The graph clearly shows the 11 year sunspot cycle.

Looking for a simpler way to graph sunspots?  Try this Sunspots Graphing Worksheet!

Teacher Notes:

  • Find lots more space resources in the ASTRONOMY section of the shop!
  • Students do not need to combine graphs to discover the 11 year cycle, as each individual graph will show the cycle. However, combining 300 years of data certainly makes for a more dramatic effect!
  • Please note that this resource is not editable.
  • Related NGSS Standards: MS-ESS1-1 and HS-ESS1-1
  • NGSS Science & Engineering Practice: Analyzing and interpreting data
  • NGSS Science & Engineering Practice: Using mathematics and computational thinking


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