Geometry: Space Math Problems -- Solar Storms
Collage of images showing an astronaut in space, Mars, and a grid of lines around a planet

Featured Lesson(s)

The Solar Tsunami (Grades: 5-8): Topics: Measurement: Determining Scale [PDF 232 KB]
Seeing Solar Storms in STEREO I (Grades: 8-10): Topics: Law of Sines, Law of Cosines [PDF 67 KB]
Seeing Solar Storms in STEREO II (Grades: 10-12): Topics: Law of Cosines; Trigonometry Law of Sines [PDF 81 KB]

Essential Question

How do NASA scientists use geometry and measurement to predict the behavior of dangerous solar storms?


On Earth we experience extreme storms and other weather events. We have hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and even tsunamis. Did you know the sun experiences storms so extreme that they can affect us on Earth, 150,000,000 kilometers (93 million miles) from the sun?


In these problems, students analyze images of a solar tsunami and use geometry and measurement skills to find the speed of the wave. They step into the shoes of a NASA scientist and use geometry to find the speed of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, also known as a solar storm. CMEs can have hazardous effects on the International Space Station and astronauts.

Additional Resources

  Classroom Resources:


  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.

Lesson Information

Subject(s) Covered:

 Mathematics, Science

Topic(s) Covered:

 Finding image scale, speed, distance, time, geometry, trigonometry, measurement, law of sines, law of cosines.

Activity Type:

 Student Investigation

Grade Level:


Instructional Objective:

 Students use geometry, trigonometry and measurement to find the scale, speed, distances and shapes of solar storms.

Time to Complete the Activity:

 45-90 minutes

  Materials Needed:


  • Per student:
    • 1 protractor
    • 1 compass
    • 1 student problem set

   National Content Standards:

  • 21st-Century Skills: Life and Career Skills
    • Initiative and Self-Direction -- Work Independently.
    • Productivity and Accountability -- Produce Results.



  • Mathematics Standards: Geometry
    • Specify locations and describe spatial relationships using coordinate geometry and other representational systems.
    •  Use visualizations, spatial reasoning and geometric modeling to solve problems.
  • Mathematics Standards: Measurement
    • Apply appropriate techniques, tools and formulas to determine measurements.
    • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement.
    • Connections: Reorganize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics.
    • Problem Solving: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts.