- Direct Observation Activity - The Night Sky
- The Compass Rose Stargazing Mat - The Magnetic Compass
- The Horizontal Coordinate System - The Astrolabe
- Maps of the Sky- The Planisphere
- Finding A Waypoint - The Virtual Night Sky
- Seeing the Point - Binoculars & Telescopes
- Joining the Path - The Star Path Wiki
- Local Star Party - The Astronomical Society
1. Direct Observation Activity - The Night Sky
Students make observations of the night sky for 5 weeks and compare the observations to notice changes in the night sky and moon that help them understand how the movement of the earth effects our view of objects in space. Students observations should increase in sophistication as they progress through the unit to include azimuth and altitude readings for the moon and other note worthy objects, and increased identification of objects.
Weekly Observation Sheet
2. The Compass Rose Stargazing Mat - The Magnetic Compass
Students create a stargazing mat to sit on to make astronomical observations that shows cardinal direction and azimuth readings, or "bearings". Using a magnetic compass, students position the map so the directions of the mat are aligned with the poles of the earth, and describe the horizon view in each direction. In an angle estimation activity, students practice positioning the mat in various locations around the school grounds, where they use it to find the azimuth of nearby objects. Students should include azimuth to describe locations for the moon and other notable objects in their weekly observations.
Compass Rose Stargazing Mat & Azimuth Activity
3. Tracking the Sun - The Altitude Tracker
Students assemble an altitude tracker to find the altitude of objects. Using their aligned Mat and the altitude tracker, students quantitatively track the path of the sun across sky. Students should include altitude for the moon and other notable objects in their weekly observations.
Tracking the Sun & Life Cycle of a Star
4. Maps of the Sky- The Planisphere
Students assemble a star wheel to help them locate and identify stars in the night sky anytime. Students get a better understanding of the effect of the rotation and revolution of the earth when they learn to use a planisphere and observe how the stars appear to move across the sky in predictable patterns. Students should use their planisphere to identify the brightest stars and constellations in their weekly observations.
Planisphere Activity & Winter Constellations
5. Finding A Waypoint - The Virtual Night Sky
Students use online resources, including virtual planispheres and astrophotography collections to select an object in the night sky to research, observe, photograph and present as a way point on the Sky Path interpretive trail. Students should use virtual planispheres and star maps to identify other objects in the night sky, such as planets, in their weekly observations.
Virtual Planisphere Activity & Structure of the Universe astrophotographic slideshow (advanced topic)
6. Seeing the Object - Binoculars & Telescopes, visit to Observatory
Students visit the observatory to see the telescope and learn about how it tracks and captures deep space images. Interested students make plans with the observatory to attempt to photograph their Sky Path way point object. Students should complete a weekly observation using binoculars. Interested students can make additional observations using a telescope.
Seeing the Object, Seeing in the Dark Topics, Life Cycle of Stars Video
7. Joining the Path - The Sky Path Wiki
Student teams build and develop wiki pages that showcase their objects of the Sky Path using various media, including video/photographs taken at Orchard Hill Observatory. Students create presentations for the public and plan the locations of the way points.
Sky Path Wiki
8. Local Star Party - The Astronomical Society
Student teams work with the Vermont Astronomical society to match members and their telescopes to way points on the path and plan the star party in the form of an interpretive path. Students, in conjunction with VAS, host a star party at the school where they present their "Sky Path" to members of the public. QR tags along the path direct visitors to the wiki pages.
Contact the VAS