Expand/Collapse NOVA Labs

NOVA Labs is a new digital platform where "citizen scientists" can actively participate in the scientific process and take part in real-world investigations by visualizing, analyzing, and playing with the same data that scientists use.

Each Lab is unique, and focuses on a different area of active research. But all of them illustrate key concepts with engaging and informative videos that address why these research topics matter to students and society.

In this collection you'll find original short-form videos from the Sun LabEnergy Lab, Cloud Lab, and RNA Lab.

  • NOVA RNA Lab Lesson Plan

    Students learn how molecular shape determines RNA function and explore how RNA is central to life in this media-rich lesson plan from NOVA Labs. The lesson begins with a class discussion about the similarities and differences between RNA and DNA. Students then use the NOVA RNA VirtuaLab game (requires the Flash player plug-in to be installed on computers or a Web browser that supports Flash, such as Chrome) to explore the diverse functions that RNA performs in the cell. In the game, students play the role of a molecular engineer by completing RNA folding puzzles and building RNA molecules out of nucleotides. They conclude the lesson with video quizzes that review the content from the game.

    Grades: 6-12
  • RNA VirtuaLab Game

    Play the role of a molecular engineer by solving RNA folding puzzles in this interactive game from the NOVA RNA Lab. Then take your skills to Eterna, where you can design RNAs that could be at the heart of future life-saving therapies.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The RNA Enigma

    Learn about the versatility of RNA in this video from NOVA’s RNA Lab. Animations explore the differences between RNA and DNA and illustrate examples of functions that RNA can perform. As new folding patterns are discovered, RNA could be used to prevent diseases such as cancer or HIV. In addition, an overview of the RNA Lab shows how users can help scientists by desigining RNA molecules that fold into specific shapes.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Protein Synthesis

    Learn how RNA and proteins are created in this video from NOVA’s RNA Lab. Cells contain an amazing factory that builds RNA along with protein machines that keep organisms alive. Animations demonstrate the processes of transcription and translation and illustrate the relationships among DNA, RNA, and proteins.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The RNA Origin of Life

    Learn how life likely evolved from RNA in this video from NOVA’s RNA Lab. According to the RNA world hypothesis, RNA may have been the origin of life on Earth. Animations illustrate the functions of RNA, DNA, and proteins; describe the RNA world hypothesis; and demonstrate the evolution of the various molecules.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Virus Wars

    Learn how cells protect against viruses using RNA interference in this video from NOVA’s RNA Lab. All cellular life is in an ancient and unending war with viruses. RNA intereference (RNAi) is one of the ways that cells fight back. Animations show how viruses attack cells, how RNAi works, and how scientists may be able to harness the power of RNAi.

    Grades: 6-12
  • NOVA Sun Lab Lesson Plan

    In this media-rich lesson plan from NOVA's Sun Lab, students use short videos to explore the following topics: the Sun's structure, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, Earth’s magnetic field, the electromagnetic spectrum, how space weather affects Earth, the physics of light, and telescopes. Students also find our place in the current solar cycle, predict future solar storms, and develop their own research project.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Sun Lab Interactive

    Explore solar storms using the same data, images, and tools that scientists use in this interactive from NOVA Labs. The Sun Lab explores what makes the Sun volatile enough to cause solar flares and disrupt communication systems worldwide.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Anatomy of the Sun

    In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, learn about the Sun’s composition and structure. The Sun is a plasma, primarily made of hydrogen with smaller amounts of other elements. Animations and images illustrate the physical and behavioral properties of the Sun’s six regions: the core, radiative zone, convective zone, photosphere, chromosphere, and corona. The two outer layers (chromosphere and corona) that make up the Sun’s atmosphere were not observed regularly until recently; they provide valuable information and may be crucial to understanding solar storms.


    Grades: 6-12
  • The Sun's Energy

    In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, explore nuclear fusion and the balance of energy in the Sun. Intense heat and pressure in the Sun’s core cause protons to fuse together to form helium atoms, a process that releases large amounts of energy. This nuclear reaction—the same process that takes place in a hydrogen bomb—has powered the Sun for more than 4 billion years. The Sun does not blow apart from the outward pressure of nuclear fusion because the inward force of gravity balances it.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Dynamic Sun

    In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, learn about the Sun’s ever-changing surface and magnetic field. Images and animations illustrate how the Sun’s magnetic field lines are affected by the motion of the Sun’s plasma. Over time, the magnetic field becomes twisted and more complex, which increases solar activity. When magnetic field loops break through the surface, relatively cool regions of plasma form sunspots. The crossing of magnetic field lines creates solar flares and coronal mass ejections. About every 11 years, the north and south magnetic poles exchange places, flipping the magnetic field and creating a regular cycle of high and low solar activity. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Solar Wind and Storms

    In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, explore the relationship between solar activity and space weather. Images and animations show how the Sun releases energy and matter that travel through the solar system. There are two main kinds of solar storms: solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Solar storms are related to fluctuations in the Sun’s magnetic fields; sunspots are indicative of solar activity. Only a small percentage of solar particles affect Earth, but solar storms have the potential to cause serious damage. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Earth's Magnetic Shield

    In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, discover how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with the solar wind and acts like a shield to protect Earth from damaging solar particles. The Sun releases a flow of charged particles into space that can affect life on Earth. Much of the solar wind is deflected by Earth’s magnetosphere; however, some solar particles do enter the magnetosphere, where they become energized. Some of these energized particles funnel into Earth’s atmosphere along magnetic field lines and create auroras. Solar wind disturbances can sometimes interfere with satellite communications and cause other problems.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Threat to Earth

    In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, learn how a major solar storm could affect life on Earth. Earth’s magnetic shield and thick atmosphere protect it from solar particles; however, a large solar storm could overwhelm these natural defenses. In 1859, unusual space weather resulted in strong auroras and dangerous currents in telegraph lines. Today, society is more at risk because of its reliance on technology that is susceptible to disruption from solar storms. A better understanding of the Sun and improved space weather forecasts can help minimize the potential damage from a large solar storm.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Electromagnetic Spectrum

    In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, examine how scientists use electromagnetic radiation to learn about the Sun. The process of nuclear fusion in the core of the Sun produces energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation, or light. The wavelength of photons (particles that carry electromagnetic energy) depends on how much energy the photons carry. The Sun emits energy at a range of wavelengths; however, until recently, human observations of the Sun were limited to the narrow visible range. Advances in technology have allowed humans to make observations across the electromagnetic spectrum that have revealed the dynamic nature of the Sun.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Solar Space Telescopes

    In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, explore how scientific understanding of the Sun and space weather has improved with data from three solar space telescopes: SOHO, STEREO, and SDO. Solar telescopes capture detailed images and information that scientists use to study both the interior and atmosphere of the Sun. For the first time, scientists can view the entire sun. Solar space telescopes are allowing scientists to develop a better understanding of space weather and how to forecast it. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • NOVA Energy Lab Lesson Plan

    In this media-rich lesson plan from NOVA Labs, students use short videos to explore the following topics: what energy is, how it can be converted into useful forms, and why some sources are running low. Students also investigate alternative energies and how energy is stored and transported. The research challenge allows students to use scientific data to design their own renewable energy plans for a real cities and compete with others to produce the most power. Students use maps, graphs, and weather data to assess the energy potential of various locations and benefits of using renewable energy in different regions of the country.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Energy Lab Interactive

    Use scientific data to design renewable energy systems for cities across the U.S., in this interactive from the NOVA Energy Lab. In the research challenge, investigate what energy is, how it can be converted into useful forms, and why some sources are running low. You'll also have the chance to compete with others to see whose designs can produce the most power.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Growing Appetites, Limited Resources

    In this video from NOVA’s Energy Lab, learn about the growing demand for energy and the impacts of energy use. Currently, the majority of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels, which are limited resources. The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that pollutes the atmosphere and affects Earth's climate. A sustainable future depends on finding alternative energy sources and developing new technologies that can support increasing energy demand and minimize environmental impacts.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Energy Defined

    In this video from NOVA's Energy Lab, learn the basics of what energy is, how it is converted into other forms, and why we need new energy sources. Energy conversion is the process of changing one form of energy into another. Objects store energy (in chemical bonds or in an object's position, for example) that can be converted into other forms (such as heat, light, and electrical energy). Energy transformations are not always efficient or practical, and they may produce less useful forms of energy. Modern lifestyles rely on energy conversions, and we will continue to need new sources of energy in the future.

    Grades: 6-12