Analyzing Solar Energy Graphs: MY NASA DATA

Featured Lesson(s)

Solar Cell Energy Availability From Around the Country





Essential Question

Which areas of the country are most likely to produce solar energy?


The solar energy data used in this lesson is gathered from various polar orbiting and geostationary weather satellites. The satellites measure the rate of transfer of solar energy (measured in watts) per unit area (measured in square meters or m2) as the radiation is reaching the surface of Earth. More solar energy that reaches the surface provides more electrical energy for the solar cell.

Students explore data for sample locations around the United States to determine the solar radiation available for use with a solar cell. Each student then explores parts of the United States in which they want to live, using solar energy to power their home. Through graphic analysis, students identify locations that will produce enough solar radiation to meet their living requirements. Throughout this module, students graph and analyze the same data as NASA scientists. This current relevant data will give students a better understanding of our world.

Additional Resources

  Classroom Resources:


  • Videos for Students:
    • Ceres Animation: The Ceres instrument is an Earth-observing satellite that collects the data to be used. The video shows how the data is collected.
    • Discussion of the Results: Students discuss where they would tour and why they selected the locations. To make the tour selections, students had to take into account weather, time of year, geographic location, clouds and weather.

  Related NASA Now Events:

  Connection to NASA:

  Extension Activities:

Professional Development

Live ePD

Click here to find the live web seminars scheduled for this featured lesson. Web seminars are led remotely by NASA subject matter experts and education specialists.

Access to video gallery

Click here to access the teacher video collection for this featured lesson.

  Related Professional Development:

Lesson Information

Subject(s) Covered:

 • Earth and space science • Mathematics

Topic(s) Covered:

 • Earth and space science -- Atmospheric circulation -- Solar electricity -- Solar energy -- Solar intensity and latitude • Mathematics -- Graphing and interpreting graphs

Activity Type:

 Problem solving

Grade Level:


Instructional Objective:

 Students will determine the potential for solar panel use as it relates to geography.

Time to Complete the Activity:

 Two to three 45 minute classes

  Materials Needed:

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Classroom projector for the computer

   National Content Standards:



  •  21st Century Outcome: Learning and Innovation Skills
  • 21st Century Element: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • 21st Century Skills:
    • Make Judgments and Decisions
    • Reason Effectively
    • Solve Problems
  • 21st Century Outcome: Information, Media and Technology Skills
  • 21st Century Element: Information Literacy
  • 21st Century Skill: Use and Manage Information
  • Math Content Area: Data Analysis and Probability
  • Math Standard: Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data
  • Science Content Area: Earth and space science
  • Science Standard: Energy in the Earth system
  • Technology Content Area: The Design World
  • Technology Standard: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use energy and power technologies