Dear NASA, could giant sharks live on the sun?

A new unidentified object found in NASA images of the sun has captured the imagination of science fans of all ages. How can parents harness the curiosity of kids to create a teachable moment at home?

A new set of images taken on board NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) last week show an angular fin-shaped object, potentially the size of the Earth, in front of the sun.

The images, taken as NASA monitor's recent sunspot activity, have UFO enthusiasts talking about a technologically advanced race of beings siphoning energy from the sun, while those more down-to-earth say it’s just a camera glitch.

No matter what it turns out to be, this kind of science news is an inexhaustible source of parenting power when it comes to harnessing the energy of kids to research, imagine, and get creative with new and unusual scientific information.   

One of the better, more scientific, data-based videos on the unidentified object I found with my 10-year-old son before he left for school this morning was posted by the website Suspicious Observers

The video is part of The Mobile Observatory Project, started by Suspicious Observers, which was created by Ohio Lawyer and space enthusiast Ben Davidson.

However scientifically sound, kids may prefer the more colorful, sci-fi television show-inspired version of the news, complete with “Star Trek” style theme music posted to YouTube by HighTechAddict. 

In the latter video, we see something resembling a Portugese Man-o-war jellyfish with tendrils that extend down to the sun as it allegedly “siphons solar energy” and then skedaddles back into space.

After watching both videos and examining photos from the NASA website, my son Quin said, “It could just be a sun shark.”

Rather than dismiss this pronouncement, I asked him what he based it on.

“I was kidding mom. I was mocking the idea that aliens are sucking energy out of the sun,” Quin said. “But it would be really cool to imagine the surface of the sun is like the ocean and these sharks are born there, swimming around like leviathans.”

Because Quin is already strong on science and math, but coming up short on his writing scores at school, I suggested that after school today he and I hunker down with some art supplies and a bunch of NASA web links to draw and write a graphic novel style sci-fi story about these sun leviathans that live on the 27 million degree surface of the sun.

As in any science-fact based news item the sun’s teachable moments are vast and engaging to kids on multiple levels. This is a perfect moment to allow the sun to help us make headway with STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) power.

To find out more about this science phenomenon at home, we would normally look up the NASA Education videos, or look up videos on the topic posted by some of our favorite scientists like Bill Nye or Nova’s “Secrets of the Sun” special.

However, in an effort to inspire his writing and creativity, we’re going to watch one of the new “Dr. Who” season eight episodes, titled “Kill the Moon." wherein the Doctor and his companion visit the far-flung future and learn that the sun is really a massive egg about to hatch a new space creature. 

“Dr. Who” gave us the moon, and now NASA and UFO seekers have provided us with the sun as a means of spurring my son’s creativity and hopefully improving his writing skills. The sun, moon, and all the news coming out of the scientific community every day can be used in similar fashion as teachable moments on a variety of subjects.

Not only can we sit down and be entertained and educated with our kids, but we can encourage them to create artworks and write their own science fiction stories all based on a few potentially smudged images captured by NASA and embraced by our imagination.

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