As I approached the City of Kilkenny medieval towers and spires broke the dull May skyline. Pure yellow rapeseed fields painted sunshine on the landscape. Rich green wheat moved slowly in the cold breeze each side of the motorway.
At Kilkenny Castle on National Drawing Day my Action Sun participants were young families randomly stopping by and taking part for short periods. Small children throwing crepe paper photosphere clumps with smiles on their tiny faces. Just as well for the completion of the project that two boys Max Gronowski aged 12 and Daragh Lynch aged 12 got stuck into it from the start. They helped paint the acrylic / glue base, the root for two of the suns atmospheres. As the solar build progressed my information spiel became simply a three and a half hour conversation with the boys. They asked questions, I answered; we discussed the photosphere as we threw our orange paint dipped paper targeting the empty spaces on this sixteen foot highly textured sun. They asked ‘where did the sun come from’? What will happen to the sun in the future? How big is the sun? They could not wait to fill in the photosphere and move on to apply the chromosphere. We talked about solar telescopes, space telescopes, the dangers of looking at the sun, the Venus Transit, Apollo 11, becoming an astronaut, Mars, going to Mars, Mars Science Laboratory, photosynthesis, energy and light. At that point Action sun had become a constructive dialogue with two very tenacious boys. Some parents came to help for a while and we were joined for the last hour or so by Matthew Shortall aged 9 who helped to make our photosphere denser which on a solar disc of that diameter was a very big task. Daragh said it would be great if we had music to work by, ‘what kind of music?’ I asked, Beethoven was the unexpected reply.
We had dragged the sun through the clouds and reproduced it on the ground. Groups of adults got answers to ‘what’s going on here? Is that the sun? ‘Ha ha I have not seen that for weeks’. ‘Does it really look like that?’ ‘What are the black things?’
Max helped place the sunspots using my drawing made directly from the Solar Dynamics Observatory website at 09:02 IST. We made the filaments, I added the prominences; local papers took photographs of the creation. The sun never showed its face at Kilkenny Castle that day but as each hour went by the sun on Earth was growing brighter every minute as our build continued.
Venus, a black polystyrene ball on the end of a stick, demonstrated the transit as seen from Ireland against the newly created sun. The Earth had escaped from my car earlier and spent the day in the middle of my driveway.
We actually ran out of time, our photosphere big as it became, was just not dense enough and the boys knew it. Our red thinly spaced solar chromospheric paper fluttered in the wind. Sticky hands and paint splattered tee shirts told the story of almost four hours of creative work.
For their wonderful effort I gave the boys NASA Sun Earth Day packs. They helped me give out Venus Transit information to all who passed by. Max, Darragh and Matthew signed their names proudly to the giant canvas as they had done most of the work. The 7.9 X 4.9 meter Action Sun will hang at Dunsink Observatory during Solarfest on June 23rd. The photosphere will be complete by then.
Action Sun first light was with St Cronans Stargazers children’s school club on May 4th 2012. Sixteen boys and I constructed an eight foot solar disc based on my early morning observations. This eager group worked on the sun interspaced by pockets of solar information delivered in short bursts which punctuated the action. Link to blog
Action Sun was funded by Dublin City of Science 2012 and The Butler Gallery Kilkenny Castle , Kilkenny City. Action Sun was a NASA Sun Earth Day event also
Action Sun – is an indoor or outdoor activity which allows groups of children to participate in building a large solar disc or several solar discs. This Earth built sun mimics the photosphere and chromosphere of the sun, includes sunspots, filaments, and prominences present on the sun ideally in real time. The materials are simple, paper, glue and paint. It is kinaesthetic participatory learning for young children. The activity educates and supports science through art and the creative process.