Make Your Own Star Wheel

Have you ever noticed how the night sky looks different every single day? This is because we are constantly moving in space so our view changes. The Earth spins on its axis once a day and travels around the Sun once a year. Additionally, the Sun and our entire Solar System moves around the centre of our galaxy. The time of year affects the night sky that we see. What we see also depends on where we are in the world – the southern and northern hemispheres see very different night skies and constellations.

Planispheres, also known as star wheels, have been used by astronomers for hundreds of years to help them understand what they can see in the sky at any given time. These tools allow us to see the fraction of the sky above us for a specific month, date, and time.

This activity will guide you through making your own star wheel, which you can use to help find your way around the night sky. Keep in mind, this star wheel is designed to work in the northern hemisphere, specifically in the UK and Ireland. If you live elsewhere in the world, the night sky will look different for you.

By the end of this resource you will:

  • Have made your own star wheel.
  • Know how to set your star wheel for today's time and date.
  • Be able to use the star wheel to locate the north star and which constellations are visible to you.

To complete this resource you will need:

  • The planisphere/star wheel template
  • 2 sheets of card
  • Scissors or crafting knife
  • Sticky tape or glue

IT Equipment:

  • A printer

An image of The Schools' Observatory star wheel
Our planisphere or star wheel
Credit: The Schools' Observatory