This activity is designed to be completed in 5 minutes by a typical visitor to the exhibition. For adaptations to other age levels and pedagogical settings, visit the "Planisphere Educational Cluster" below.
Introductory Planisphere Activity
The planisphere is a handy map of the night sky that works every night, every season of the year.
** The only supply necessary to complete this activity is a planisphere. We suggest this one if you do not already have one, www.astronomics.com/datalizer-miller-10-5-inch-30-degree-planisphere-25-35-degrees-n_p3678.aspx. **
- Examine your planisphere, front and back. Note that constellations are labelled in ALL CAPS with a large font; bright stars or asterisms are labelled in lower case with a smaller font.
- Times are indicated on the planisphere in Standard time. From April to October add 1 hour to obtain Daylight Savings Time (DST). Remember that DST is one hour later than the Standard time the planisphere indicates.
- Find Sagittarius the Archer and Scorpius the Scorpion on the planisphere, turning the inside dial as needed. On what date will Sagittarius and Scorpius be easily visible at 9 pm?
- Set the planisphere to 9 pm this evening.
- Find the north, south, east and west horizons on the planisphere. First find north (designated by an arrow), then the other cardinal directions ("never eat slimy worms").
- Position yourself so that you face south. Star charts are usually designed for facing due south, optimized for about half-way up from the horizon.
- Read road maps looking down, but read star charts looking up. Hold the planisphere above your head so that the north arrow points north.
- What constellations will be visible in the sky tonight?
Enjoy a downloadable pdf of this activity:
Historical Background for the Planisphere
The planisphere is a handy map of the night sky that works every night, every season of the year. During the time of Galileo, in the 16th and 17th centuries, planispheres were a common astronomical instrument. It was useful for calculating the positions of the stars for any day and hour of the year.
A contemporary of Galileo, William Schickard developed a planisphere, also known as an "astroscopium" to help calculate the position of the planets. Read more about Schickard's astroscopium on the Galileo's World website, galileo.ou.edu/node/1744.
Or download these high-quality images from his 1698 book, courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.
Further OER's on the Planisphere
Use the following OER's to further explore the planisphere.
- "Planisphere" from Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planisphere.
- "Planisphere" from Museo Galileo website, catalogue.museogalileo.it/indepth/Planisphere.html.
- "How to Use a Planisphere" by Sierra College Astronomy Department, astronomy.sierracollege.edu/Courses/Astronomy10/Planisphere.htm.
- "Virtual Planisphere" by Ernie Wright, www.etwright.org/astro/plani.html.
Use the following OER's to further explore the Galileo's World exhibition.
- Galileo's World iPad Exhibit Guide, itunes.apple.com/us/book/galileos-world-exhibit-guide/id1032005948?mt=1.
- Galileo's World iTunes U Course, itunesu.itunes.apple.com/enroll/FDS-EYK-MRL.
- Galileo's World website, galileo.ou.edu.
Planisphere Educational Cluster
We want to create variations on this activity that connect the Planisphere to a variety of ages. Use the following chart and hyperlinks to find the one to best fit your group.
|Elementary School||Middle School||High School||Undergraduate|
|30 Minute Activity|
|One Hour Activity|| |