Where and how do we find planets on the sky?

Learning Objectives

Observe the pattern in the locations of the planets on the sky with respect to the stars, and be able to show how this pattern allows us to infer that the planets orbit the Sun in a narrow plane similar to Earth’s orbit.
Be able to use Starry Night simulation software as a tool for gathering data on Solar System objects for investigations.
Build a 3D model of the Solar System and stars (not to scale).

Standards Addressed

3.3.6.B1 from grade 6 in the PA SAS — Describe how the planets change their position relative to the background of the stars

Preparation Time Needed

1 hour

Class Time Required

3-4 hours

Activity Description

There are two goals for this activity - the first is to introduce a particular piece of planetarium software we used in our instructional setting, called Starry Night.  The scientific goal is to see that the planets (and perhaps other Solar System objects, like Ceres & Eris) show a pattern in their location on the sky, which is that they are always along (or near) the Ecliptic, which runs through the Zodiac constellations.

This activity can easily be adapted for use with the free planetarium software package called Stellarium, if you are using that in your classroom.

File storyline_activity_1.docx107.06 KB