MadSci Network: Edible/Inedible Experiments Archive

Viewing Sunspots

Area of Science: Astronomy
Meant for Grade 7-9 (age 11-13).
This experiment is inedible.
An adult should be present.

View sunspots through a telescope or 'pinhole' camera.


  • Telescope or a small 'pinhole camera' created by making a small hole with an pin through a piece of shoebox cardboard.
  • Piece of white paper on which to focus the light from the sun.


    How to do the experiment:
    Hold the piece of paper in your hand, or on a clipboard or notebook if you have one handy. Then use the telescope's shadow (again DON'T LOOK AT THE SUN YOURSELF) to point the telescope at the sun. Then put the piece of paper next to the telescope's eyepiece, right where your eye would normally go. Look for the disk of the sun on your white sheet of paper - the scope may take some moving around to get the line-up right - and then use your telescope's focus knobs to make the sun's disk SHARP.

    If you don't have access to a telescope, just get a shoebox, and poke a nice, even hole in one end of it. Put this hole toward the sun, and you should see the sun's image projected onto the other side of the shoebox.

    By projecting the image, you can see the sun as a full disk, and all the bigger sunspots will be visible as black "specks" in little groups on that disk.

    1. Sunspots represent spots that are cooler than the rest of the Sun's surface. They thus appear as dark spots on the surface.

    2. Unlike the Earth, the sun is NOT a solid object. The polar areas of the sun actually rotate at different rates than the sun's equator.

    3. We are very close to the sun's lowest period of activity in the big 11 year "solar cycle". This means that for the next year or two, you'll have to look every day for many days running to see many sunspots. Often, you'll look at the sun and see NO spots at all!

    Useful References:

    Experiment submitted on Tue Jan 28 03:09:16 1997 by:
    Name: MadSci Admin (original post by Lew Gramer)
    Institution: MIT

    MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

    MadSci Network
    © 1997 MadSci Network. All rights reserved.