Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Confession

Recently, I was cruising Facebook, as I too often do,  when I came across the following meme. It featured Neil deGrasse Tyson, so naturally I stopped in my tracks and read it. Because he is just THAT cool.

Anyway, I confused. I mean, the sun is yellow, right. That's what the textbook told me. And that's what I taught. The sun is a yellow star.

It was at this point that I started to freak out a little See, Tyson is one of my favorite scientists; he's a crazy smart guys. I trust him. He he says the ain't yellow, then I have a major problem. Because I'm been teaching it WRONG!

Now, as to the confession: My earth science isn't that strong. Stronger, perhaps, that the average American, especially when it comes to soil science, but that isn't good enough. I'm a scientist. I'm a TEACHER. I have a responsibility to be correct as often as possible, so that I'm not passing on half-truths to my students. This is a big deal to me. It's why I read a lot of non-fiction and love professional development.

That said, the wonderful thing about learning is that it never stops. So off I went to do some research. I learned that the sun only appears to be yellow to us due to the Earth's atmosphere. The atmosphere scatters the blue light, causing our sun to look more yellow on Earth than it would from space. It is, in fact, a white star, with a temperature of  approximately 6,000 Kelvin. Of course, because the sun has layers of different temperatures, each sends a different wavelength of light and what we see if often this combination, interpreted by our eye, which is itself limited.

Of course, I feel better that lots of people are unsure about the topic and that there is still debate on the matter. I just think that next time I teach the sun, especially middle school or older, we'll start with the color as a question and challenge so that we can explore how complicated the answer really it.

So that is what I learned today.

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