One Sky May 2014

On the 9th of May 2014, people from across the globe will be  looking up and appreciating one of the things we all share: our sky. Astronomers from around the world will be setting up telescopes absolutely free for anybody who wants to look.


As part of this I’m here posting some classroom activities that can be used in daylight as prelude or follow up to the event. I refer also to my earlier podcasts and movies on the topic:

Benjamin, T. (2009b) The Best Views of the Universe are from our Backyards. Cloudy Nights.

Benjamin, T. (2010e) It’s what you can’t see that counts. Cloudy Nights.

Make a Star Map: Group or Class Exercize


Paper version:

  • sheets of paper – black and white;
  • coloured pencils, crayons, pens
  • toothbrush & toothpaste

Digital version:

  • Paint and draw programmes (MsPaint, Powerpoint or equivalent)


  1. Get photos of  constellations in the night sky from the Web or a book
  2. Read about them and each player select one constellation that has a variety of objects (for example Scorpio has a globular cluster and several open clusters)
  3. Draw on the white sheet the stars of the constellation then the clusters according to map symbols
  4. Exchange the map within pairs with each partner
  5. Partner reads the map,
  6. works out which constellation is depicted
  7. paint white spatter on black with toothbrush to show what it would look like in the night sky
  8. exchange spatter maps back to partner
  9. compare symbol map with spatter map
  10. compare maps with photo images and professionally-made maps of these constellations

Astronomy Quiz Item Pool

(starting from simplest to easiest – create your quiz from these)

Why does the Moon have phases?

Observe the Moon during daylight. Look at the angle of light & shadow. What does that tell you about the relative distance from Earth to the Moon and the Sun?

What is an eclipse?

What is the Zodiac?

What is the Ecliptic? (OK to cut & paste your answer)

What does the Zodiac/Ecliptic have to do with the night sky?

Refer to the following Zodiac Sun Sign Table

  •  Aries: March 21 – April 19
  • Taurus: April 20 – May 20
  • Gemini: May 21 – June 20
  • Cancer: June 21 – July 22
  • Leo: July 23 – August 22
  • Virgo: August 23 – September 22
  • Libra: September 23 – October 22
  • Scorpio: October 23 – November 21
  • Sagittarius: November 22 – December 21
  • Capricorn: December 22 – January 19
  • Aquarius: January 20 – February 18
  • Pisces: February 19 – March 20

Pick a particular day of the year.

What Zodiac ‘star sign’ corresponds to that date?.

On that date chosen would you be able to see that Zodiac sign?

What does all this actually mean in astronomical terms? –ie- what does it tell you about the positions of the Earth, Sun etc  on that date.?

How might remembering your personal birthday ‘star sign’ help you find astronomical objects in the sky?

How would a pair of objects in the evening sky  help you locate the Zodiac/Ecliptic?

What are some possible pairs of objects in the evening sky that would help you locate the Zodiac/Ecliptic?

Why is the Zodiac/Ecliptic a curved rather than straight line in the sky?

From the information in the Zodiac table derive the following:

A Zodiac constellation appearing centre sky around 9PM on May 30?

A Zodiac constellation appearing centre sky around 9PM on October 30?

How can you tell whether a bright object is a star or a planet?

Describe what each of these looks like in the night sky:

  •  Mercury
  • Venus
  • Mars
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn

The next set of questions was not answered by humans until the 20th Century

What is the Milky Way?

The Milky Way is easy to spot on a clear moonless night in the country but how might you recognise it from a lit up area in a city or suburb?

Besides the Milky Way what other neighbour objects in the Local Group can be seen from Earth with the eye or binoculars?

“We on Earth have some of the best views of the Universe” – discuss in terms of the following:

  • How would moving closer to the centre of the Milky Way affect our view?
  • What are some types of spectacular objects within the Milky Way?
  • How would moving closer to spectacular objects within the Milky Way affect our view?
  • How would moving to intergalactic space Milky Way affect our view?

What is meant by the term ‘deep sky objects’?

Besides stars and planets what sorts of astronomical objects might be seen with a pair of binoculars?

What is meant by the term ‘richest field telescope’ (RFT)?

What advantage might a RFT have over a ‘high-powered’ telescope?

What advantage might a ‘high-powered’ telescope have over a RFT?

What are some typical specifications of a richest field telescope?

What are some typical specifications of a high-power telescope?

What is a dobsonian?

What is meant by the term ‘exit pupil’?

What is a planisphere (commonly called ‘star wheel’)?

What is a torquetum?

What is an equatorial mount?

What is an altazimuth mount?

What is Right Ascension? Is it associated with longitude or latitude?

What is Declination? Is it associated with longitude or latitude?

What is a ‘deep sky object’?

What is an open cluster?

What is a globular cluster?

What is a nebula?

What is a dark lane?

Why is the view from a dark sky site in the country likely to be among the best possible in the entire Universe?



2 thoughts on “One Sky May 2014

  1. Hello would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m looking to start my own blog soon but
    I’m having a difficult time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs
    and I’m looking for something unique. P.S My apologies for being off-topic but
    I had to ask!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>