Have you ever been curious about that big yellow ball in the sky called the sun? How does it give us sunburns when it is all the way up in outer space and we are down here on Earth? And what is the science behind sunscreen? The answer can be found in this fun science experiment!
You will need:
- 1 piece of colored construction paper
- A sunny spot outside
- Rocks or other heavy objects to weigh down the paper
- First, coat your hands with a thin layer of sunscreen. You don’t want to rub it all the way in, so make sure there is some left on your palms.
- Next, place your hands down on the construction paper. Press down so the thin layer of sunscreen rubs off onto the paper underneath your palms.
- Then, place your piece of paper in a sunny spot outside. Make sure to weigh it down with your rocks so it doesn’t blow away! Leave it here for 3-4 hours.
The science behind sunscreen
What did you find when you came back to your paper? You may notice that the sun caused fading of the color and the paper doesn’t look so bright anymore. What about the place where you put your hands covered in sunscreen? Those handprints are showing you where the paper was protected from Ultraviolet (UV) light, the rays of the sun that are invisible to our eyes but that cause us sunburns in the summer.
Sunscreen contains chemicals that reflect or absorb UV light, protecting the paper underneath. This also works on our skin, which is why your parents are always reminding you to grab your sunscreen before heading outside with friends. Who knew that the sun, although millions of miles away, could change the chemical compounds of something as small as a piece of paper? Now that’s some cool space science!