As rays of sunlight begin peeking over the mountaintops, Independence High School students in Brandon Barth’s Earth Science class makes their way outside for an exciting activity. Two big telescopes pointed toward the bright sun await the class as they walk around the back of the school.

To visualize what they have learned in class about the lifecycle of stars, the students now get the opportunity to look at the star closest to our planet Earth: the Sun. During its lifecycle, the Sun goes through periods of activity every 11 years. The hope is to see that activity manifest itself through sunspots and flares in the Sun’s appearance by looking through two telescopes.

To do so, the telescopes must move ever so slightly to align and come into focus with the Sun. Even when the Sun comes into sight, the telescope must be continually adjusted to account for the rotation of the Earth, leaving just a small window of time for the students to catch a glimpse of the massive star.

As the students peer through the lens of the telescope, they are actually seeing the light as it is bounced and reflected off mirrors inside the scope, then magnified in the eyepiece. Despite the fact that we feel the warmth of the Sun every day, we often take for granted how amazing this star actually is. By viewing it through the telescope, the students have the chance to see it in all of its bright, orange glory.