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Weather Satellites

How to Build a Weather Satellite

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Weather satellites are a key tool for understanding weather forecasts. Satellites can see various weather events from a vantage point high above the Earth's surface. There are many different weather satellites. Weather events such as the following can be seen from space as a result:

Introduction

Teachers and students around the world often have a fascination with seeing the development and aftermath of severe weather events. Since the launch of the world's first weather satellite TIROS in 1960, people have kept an eye on the sky from above.

By demonstrating how storms form and where storms form, teachers can present students with a variety of lessons designed to create interest in weather topics. In this lesson, teachers will use a widely available NASA/NOAA booklet by Ed Koenig entitled How Do You Make a Weather Satellite to replicate the building and launch of a weather satellite. Once students use the book to understand weather satellites, they can then practice building their own version of a satellite. This project is also a great science fair experiment.

Objectives

  • Students will be able to connect the use of advanced scientific instruments to weather studies.
  • Students will be able to understand basic concepts of satellite and instrument operation.
  • Students will be able to build a model of a satellite and/or research other weather satellites

Procedures

  1. Download and print out a copy of the weather satellite booklet. The booklet is also available in Spanish and Italian. Distribute a booklet to students. You may want to divide the classroom into cooperative groups, but the experiments can also be done individually.
  2. Read through the booklet with students. At each step, make sure that each student understands the concepts before moving on to the next topic. At several stages in the booklet, teachers can complete the experiments shown as a demonstration. Additionally, teachers may want to provide the materials to the students to do an individual or team-based investigation.
  3. Once students have the concepts covered, you may want to give an oral or written quiz.
  4. After the booklet has been examined, you have two options. For option 1, you can assign students to create a project in which they build a copy of an existing or past weather satellite. If desired, students would have to submit a report listing at least 10 functions or features of that weather satellite. For option 2, all students can build the same weather satellite using simple materials (see below).

Build a Weather Satellite - optional

There are many variations to building a model of a satellite. One simple method is to take a small garbage can with a round-flip lid and adding solar fins and decorations to the outside. If you flip the can lid inside out, it looks like a satellite.

Paper Satellite Models

While not all of the following are purely weather satellites, several have cross links to weather.
ACE satellite
CHANDRA X-Ray Observatory
James Webb Space Telescope
TERRIERS satellite
RXTE satellite
TERRA satellite

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