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Solar Storms to Radio Waves

Solar Storms to Radio Waves logo

Solar Storms to Radio Waves is a museum exhibit created for the Science Discovery Museum in Acton, MA, for students in the upper elementary through high school ages. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the project was a collaboration between atmospheric scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Haystack Observatory and museum specialists at The Discovery Museums in Acton, MA - known for innovative, interactive exhibits designed to appeal to visitors of all ages and learning styles, and widely recognized as a leader in exhibit design and educational programming.


The objective of the Waves in Space project was to design and build a series of hands-on exhibits focusing on radio waves and space weather. This exhibit takes objects that are familiar to most people, such as portable radios and television monitors, and uses them to provide a unique way to experience the concept of radio waves and space weather. Educational materials such as posters and booklets enrich the visitor's experience and enhance the exhibit space. These materials focus on the upper atmosphere, how it is affected by solar disturbances, and how it affects the radio waves used in devices that the museum visitors use every day.

The following illustrations provide an overview of the exhibit area. Wall displays illustrate the electromagnetic spectrum, and highlight the actual size of radio waves and their usage in things such as microwaves, radios, cell phones, etc. Diagrams and descriptions of the atmosphere, ionosphere and solar storms are also displayed. A 3-D poster of the Sun and books and resources on Solar Storms and Radio Waves complement the exhibition.


The illustrations above show the bench with four alcoves. Each alcove contains one of the four hands-on exhibits with signage that describes the principles to be demonstrated and suggestions on how to proceed. The exhibits are, from left to right:

  1. Wave barrier
  2. Making Radio Waves
  3. Sound Waves - Not Radio Waves
  4. Can You See Me Now?

These exhibits use everyday materials to demonstrate the generation of radio waves, the association of magnetic fields with radio waves, how radio waves can be shielded, the difference between radio waves and sound waves.


Another part of the exhibit is the orange Spin Browser, pictured on the left, an interactive computer generated display of satellite images and animations of solar storms, solar winds, magnetic fields, space weather, and auroras that explains how space weather affects radio waves. In addition to the Spin Browser, there are posters and books that further reinforce the concepts presented in the exhibit.

The links to PDF files below provide access to the materials created for the exhibit. Pictures and construction details are available to recreate the exhibit components. Posters and a take home activity designed for the exhibit can also be found in this section.

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