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Exploring Surface Temperature

Experiment #9 from Investigating Solar Energy

Education Level
Elementary School


While playing outside, have you ever noticed that some clothing colors feel warmer than others in similar weather conditions? You also may have noticed something similar with car temperature. The exterior and interior of different colored cars feel cooler than others on hot days.

It all has to do with the wavelengths of light from the sun and how different colors absorb those wavelengths. Some colors absorb more than others. Once the light wavelengths reach the object’s surface, the energy is transformed to heat, and the object becomes warmer. Some colors reflect light wavelengths more than others and therefore stay cooler.

In this experiment, you will explore the surface temperatures of different colors of construction paper and use a Surface Temperature Sensor to collect data.


  • Measure the surface temperature of different colored surfaces.
  • Investigate the effect that surface color has on surface temperature.
  • Verify that solar energy can be transformed into heat energy.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following sensors and equipment. Additional equipment may be required.

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This experiment is #9 of Investigating Solar Energy. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

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