Sun-Earth Days 2001-2013

Mission Name:
Sun Earth Days

Project Description:
Sun-Earth Days (SED) was developed in response to a need for a highly leveraged education framework to help the heliophysics missions tell their integrated and cross discipline stories to students, teachers, and the public. Sun-Earth Days is an innovative, multi-mission, exemplary, and award-winning NASA Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) program that to date has touched over one billion people in 42 countries. Sun-Earth Day provides an established and now familiar venue for heliophysics missions to tell their stories of discovery through an integrated, cross-discipline, highly-leveraged, and proven program. From a small startup project in 2001 with an audience of 40,000, Sun-Earth Day has grown steadily in size, sophistication, and impact to include many networks of stakeholders such as education, science, and minority professional societies such as the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), Challenger Centers, Girl Scouts of America (GSA), Aerospace Education Services Project (AESP), the Astronomical League, the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP), the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), and many more. New and cutting edge technologies have been employed including Facebook, podcasting, YouTube, and remote instrumentation. State-of-the-art methods and strategies in E/PO have been included such as authentic research opportunities through real time access to NASA data, distance learning, themed storytelling, and hands-on student involvement. All of these activities are collected and promoted to specific audiences through the award winning Sun-Earth Days website.

The Goals of this effort are:

• Provide an exemplary, highly-leveraged and cost-effective framework to improve the effectiveness of heliophysics mission Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) and help them tell an integrated, science-driven story of exploration and discovery.

• Highlight the excitement and uniqueness of NASA mission science to motivate and educate students to pursue STEM careers by enhancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education with heliophysics resources aligned to National Science Education Standards.

• Inspire and inform the general public with the dynamic science of the Sun and its profound influence on the Earth, near space environments, interplanetary medium, and our daily lives.

These goals are well-aligned with NASA’s E/PO vision and are integral to the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). In particular we address NASA’s Strategic Goal 3: to “Develop a balanced overall program of science, exploration and aeronautics”, and Strategic Sub-goal 3B: to “Understand the Sun and its effects on Earth and the solar system.” We seek to educate students and the general population on the importance of these goals and to encourage future explorers as well as public support for this exploration. 
Sun-Earth Days has pioneered new ground in E/PO and reached the highest standards of excellence in NASA education as evidenced in part by its many NASA and industry awards. Although a single day each year is designated Sun-Earth Day and incorporates a well planned webcast, usually associated with the spring equinox or a current celestial event, the Sun-Earth Days program is more than a single day’s events each year. Thus, the title Sun-Earth Days refers to recurring special days and multiple events each year.

We have expanded and developed Sun-Earth Days programming through 2013 and have expanded our reach, impact, and our list of partners, programs, and methods annually, taking advantage of celestial events and mission milestones.

Building on the success of previous Sun-Earth Day celebrations, we engage people of all backgrounds and ages with the wonders of heliophysics science, discovery, and exploration in ways that are both tangible and meaningful to their lives.

Sun Earth Days is fully aligned with the NASA Education Portfolio Strategic Framework which seeks to “Inspire, Engage, Educate, and Employ” as well as the goals: I) Strengthen NASA and the Nation’s future workforce II) Attract and retain students in STEM disciplines, and III) Engage Americans in NASA’s mission (See Section 5.1) Our programs target formal education audiences from pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) through Undergraduate (UG) with special emphasis on attracting and retaining underserved populations through targeted partnerships with minority and underserved networks, colleges, and professional societies. In addition, Sun-Earth Days has a strong career focus that allows children/students to access information on careers through podcasts/vodcasts, distance learning, live and recorded scientist interviews, and authentic research opportunities.

Since the first Sun-Earth Day in 2001 the project has touched hundreds of millions of children and adults around the world and has won numerous awards for its innovation and impact. We anticipate even greater impact through new technologies and technology applications, increased registration, and improved utilization of nationwide networks and the existing and exemplary infrastructure and programs that have been so successful in telling the wondrous story of heliophysics exploration.


  • NSTA
  • NCTM
  • Howard University Astronomical Observatory
  • Astronomers Without Borders
  • Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • Indigenous Education Institute
  • NASA JPL Informal Education Program
  • Astronomical League
  • Space Telescope Institute
  • NASA Field Centers970
  • NASA Night Sky Network
  • NASA Forums
  • USRA
  • ASP
  • Tribal Colleges and Universities
  • Sky and Telescope

Number of K-12 Teachers, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 102
Number of K-12 Students, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 246
Number of K-12 Teachers, Indirect Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 58
Number of K-12 Students, Indirect Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 4,545

Effectiveness and Impact:
Evaluation findings and impact statements:
Each year a new theme is developed to keep interest high and the science of the missions connected to classroom curriculum. Our growing participation world-wide has given us the opportunity to learn from those who teach in formal and informal communities what resources work best for them and how to present those resources so they are used and clearly make a difference in the education communities. We listen and act on what we are being told. SED is a one stop program to learn about NASA science and the interrelated story of the missions while providing accurate science and strong education connections. The continuing and growing participation of all targeted audiences speaks highly of the effectiveness of Sun-Earth Days, from an annual celebration of a single day to a yearlong opportunity filled with resources and partners who want to be actively involved. 

The Sun-Earth Day team, the NASA Edge team, the SDO team, the partners, and the Hawaiian culture experts were all important resources in this event. They reached thousands of people through their talks at conferences, list-serves, special interest groups, in-person presentations, student outreach, and general support for the Venus Transit activities.

Venus Transit Packets

30,000 packets were created and distributed by Carolyn Ng of the Sun-Earth Day team, to individuals, museums, science centers, astronomy groups, and others. The packets included up to 15 items. Packets were distributed up until the end of May 2012. The first 7000 packets had 15 items, the next 13,000 had 14 items, and the last 10 thousand had posters, theme bookmarks, Kepler information and 5000 of them had solar eyeglasses.

Who it was sent to?
• Individuals – 1-5 packets
• Astronomy groups

• Museums

• Teacher

Sun-Earth Day Packets included:
January-April: 20,000 items of everything except #10 - there were only 7,000 booklets.

April-May: 10,000 items of #1, #2, #6 and #16; 5,000 packets also contain #17:


  1. SED 2012: Shadows of the Sun Folder 

  2. SED 2012: Shadows of the Sun Poster 

  3. Space Weather CD, Version 16 CD-ROM

  4. SDO Postcard Postcard

  5. Space Math Flyer
  6. Kepler Mission Bookmark Bookmark
  7. Planet Candidate Poster Poster - 11 x 17

  8. Kepler General Litho Litho

  9. Kepler Field of View Litho Litho

  10. How Big is Our Universe Booklet

  11. NO2/Air Pollution/Earth at Night Lenticular Card
  12. Year of Solar System Bookmark 

  13. Solar System Calendar Folded
  14. CINDI Postcard

  15. Voyager bookmark Bookmark

  16. SED 2012: Shadows of the Sun Bookmark

  17. SED/Venus Transit Solar Glasses

Web Hits : 380 million

Web Streams: 7 million

Countries: 157

Global Events: > 1 million

NASA Centers: 10
Mission Packets: 30,000
Educators: 13,038
Students: 1.5 million

Scientists: 2,823

Museums: 4,328

Am. Astronomers: 10,174

Twitter:_@NASA Impressions (Tweets/Retweets seen by) 28,579,769
@NASA Unique Accounts RetweetingUs 20,182
@NASA Inbound Messages (tweets sent to us) 31,475
@NASA Outbound Messages (tweets sent out) 205

@NASA Mentions 7,277
@NASA New Followers 20,066

According to pulled on June 6 at 3:45am ET for the previous 24 hours

#VenusTransit Tweets (sent out containing hashtag) 16,541,065
#VenusTransit Impressions (Tweets/Retweets seen by) 74,900,101

Total number of direct post impressions on news feed of NASA’s posts 2,509,963

Total number of post impressions from shares to other walls/friends news feeds 7,823,757

Total number of page impressions 518,016

Total number of unique fans interacting with page/posts (shares, likes, comments, mentions) 531,721

Total posts to NASA Facebook page 87

Total number of mentions of NASA Facebook 111,036

Webcast Streams NASA and partners:

NASA EDGE-3,569,311

NASA TV- 2,167,737

Mt. Wilson-601,366
Fairbanks- 310,755

MSFC- 190,825


Live Stream- 28, 854

ESA TV- 80,886
Total- 7,741,158
PEAK- 576,743


The very high participation levels on the day of the event show that people are interested in sustained, high quality program over a long period of time. The barrage of questions over social media channels indicates a potentially untapped audience as well as an easy way for those already interested to tune in and participate. The format of NASA Edge is popular and entertaining, and at the same time focused on educating people. While they do other long events, like covering the Lunabotics competition, their work with the Sun-Earth Day team around auroras, eclipses, and transits has engaged different audiences in new ways. 

Final numbers indicate 500,000 events, with an average attendance per event of 2,000. The smaller groups of people watching in their homes, in parking lots, after school gatherings makes the team question the counting of events only. Through the efforts of the partners the Sun-Earth teams feels the reach may have been more like 1.2 billion.

Types of Experiences and Effects 

Many institutions and organizations depend on NASA for accurate, high-quality, and unique resources. Teachers use the activities, show the animations, and attend teacher workshops or webinars. NASA presentations at educator conferences are well attended, and teachers tend to use the resources they learn about. Similarly, informal educators were quick to order bundles of packets to use with their audiences both before and after the event. Many of the resources include activities that are “tried and true” so the educators use them. While the experiences they offer are local, NASA content resources and people are always appreciated when they are available. For this event, and others in the past, the Sun-Earth Day team works with organizations from the broadcast location, providing NASA staff to support planning, pre-taping, pre-event activities, and day of activities. With technology, these local efforts also benefit the wider audience as in the contributions of Hawaiian cultural experts to the Venus Transit as a context for learning and for additional cross-curricular content.

Findings for 2013:

Audiences at reported events:

  • 101,763 

Scientists and Amateur Astronomers world-wide
  • 8225 US Amateur Astronomers
  • 1667 US Scientists

Formal Education 

  • 300,000 indirect teacher participation all levels

  • 850 direct teacher participation
  • 700,000 indirect student participation
  • 4,786 direct student participation 

  • 5,829 US educators registered for Sun-Earth Day

Museum and Free-Choice Learning Events 
 60,241 participants

  • Museums and informal educators 2,726

NASA Centers Participating
 5-50 each packets for workshops direct participation
NASA Centers and Visitor Centers 
4,500 distributed to educators through workshops

Indirect Participation-
 2,234,189 successful requests Unique IP- 973
 Estimate 900,000 based on webcast downloads