Exploring Earth: Temperature Mapping

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This activity models the way Landsat satellites use a thermal infrared sensor to measure land surface temperatures. IR technology, like the IR thermometer in this activity, uses the infrared light emitted by an object to measure its temperature remotely (without having to touch it!) By taking a series of measurements over an area, a scientist can create a visual representation of the surface temperatures (like a weather map for surface temperatures rather than air temperatures). Activity includes a facilitation guide with potential misconceptions, Earth & space science infosheets with NASA connections, table sign, and activity & content training videos. All public-facing materials also available in Spanish.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Model

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Liquid crystal sheet
  • Heat lamp setup (65+ W bulb, lamp with guard, and steel stand and clamp)
  • Electrical outlet (not provided)
  • Infrared thermometer
  • White tile
  • Black tile
  • Clay paving stone
  • Sphagnum moss (peat moss)
  • Sign, sign stand, information sheets, and activity and facilitator guides
  • “Tips for Leading Hands-on Activities” sheet


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Technology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
      • Heat Transfer
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Reflection and Refraction


Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • NASA, NNX16AC67A
  • NASA, 80NSSC18M0061