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Remote sensing

The sun is very far away and extremely hot. In order to study the sun we need specialized equipment that looks at it using different wavelengths. Using different wavelengths provides us with a variety of information about the sun. 

Remote sensing is a way of gathering information about objects or places without physically touching them. Instead, we use special tools and technologies to collect data from a distance. It's like using high-tech eyes and ears to learn about things that are far away.

Remote sensing has many applications. For example, it can help scientists monitor changes in the environment, such as tracking deforestation or studying the health of coral reefs. It's also used in weather forecasting, mapping land and oceans, studying agriculture, and even in archaeology to discover ancient ruins. We also use remote sensing to study and collect information about planets, stars, and other celestial objects throughout the universe.

 Lesson Overview: 

In this lesson, students will create a painting of the sun and use various colored filters to view the painting. This will simulate using different wavelengths of energy to different information about an object. 

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will understand the idea of remote sensing
  2. Students will explain how some remote sensing techniques work 

Key Vocabulary:

  • remote sensing
  • electromagnetic radiation
  • wavelength
  • visible light
  • IR light

paintBubbles.gifActivity 1: Painting the Sun

This activity will create a painting of the sun with tempera paint that we will use for “research”. 


  • Red tempera paint
  • Yellow tempera paint
  • (2) Bowls small enough that a piece of paper covers it. 
  • (1 per group) Paper, card stock 
  • Liquid soap 
  • (1 per group) Drinking straws


  • Divide students into pairs. Have each pair pick a paint preparer and a paper layer
  • Mix some dish soap (about 120 ml or 8 Tbsp) and the yellow paint (about 60 ml or 4 Tbsp) in one bowl and the same amount of dish soap and red paint in the other bowl. 
  • Have the paint preparer mix and then blow into the mixture with the straw until the bubbles are over the rim. Remember this is paint, make sure students are covered or have appropriate clothing on!
  • Have the paper layer lay the card stock paper over the bowl with the red paint mixture and gently press around the rim. No need to press in the middle of the paper as the weight will pop the bubbles and paint the paper. 
  • Repeat with the yellow paint mixture using the same piece of paper.
  • Lay the paper down with the paint side up, to dry. 


  • The surface of the sun is not a solid. It is plasma with hot gasses escaping. 
  • Our ‘painting’ represents the surface of the sun. Can you imagine how the painting might look if we looked at it with different colored glasses?

Activity 2: Looking at the World through Rose-Colored Glasses


  • The paintings of the sun from the Creating Our Sun activity 
  • Red cellophane  
  • Yellow cellophane  
  • Tubes. These can be paper towel tubes, pvc tubes, or any tube that we can look through. 
  • Rubberbands 


Create the viewer

  • Place a piece of red cellophane over one tube and secure it with a rubber band. 
  • Place a piece of yellow cellophane over a different tube and secure it with a rubber band.

Observe the Sun Painting with our viewers. 

  • Emphasize that these are painting viewers only. Never view the actual sun with these viewers!
  • Hang the students' Paintings of the Sun up around the room or on a bulletin board. 
  • Have students take turns observing the Painting of the Sun with the different viewers. 
  • Have students take notes in their journals on the differences in the observations with the different viewers.  


  • Discuss how students observed different things using different filters of the same painting. 
  • This is exactly what scientists do when they use remote sensing. We're using different colored filters where they use different wavelengths of light. 
  • As a class observe the different photos of the sun from NASA



PODCAST: Astrophysicists use the electromagnetic spectrum to study stars, pulsars, black holes and more.  Audio only  YouTube video

 2023 NASA Science: Getting Ready for the Next Solar Eclipse - LiveBinder ( 

SDO | Solar Dynamics Observatory (

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