Explore the night sky
IntroductionTrack the phases of the moon, and make a star wheel to identify constellations in the night sky above your home.
A star wheel is a simple tool you can use to see and identify the stars and constellations you see in the night sky.
As the Earth rotates on its axis, and moves around the sun throughout the year, the stars and constellations above you change position. Using our star wheel, you can pop in the date and time and find out where they are above you.
Star wheels need to be calibrated to the right latitude. If you’re in New Zealand, you can download and print our star wheel below and see the night sky above you through fresh eyes:
Step one: Download a star wheel
First, print and cut out a star wheel. You’ll need to print two items the star wheel holder and then the wheel itself.
We recommend you print the holder at A3 size, and the wheel as A4 for best results:
Step two: Make your star wheel
Cut around both the holder and the wheel. You need to cut a window in the holder which you can do either by using an art knife or by bending the holder and making a slight cut to start from.
Fold the holder and use the flap at the bottom to rest the wheel inside.
Optional: Glue it together
If you have glue handy, put glue along the bottom flap on the front right of the holder. Fold this flap in and stick it to the back panel of the holder when folding to close.
If you have an old cereal box or similar cardboard handy, you can also give your star wheel a lot more stability if you attach the print outs onto the cardboard.
Once dry, place the wheel inside the holder.
How to use the finished star wheel | See larger (JPG, 70K)
Step three: Explore the sky after dark
After nightfall, take your star wheel and turn the dial to the current time you’re looking at the sky on the inside.
Then match it to the date on the outside of the wheel. Check whether you are using standard time or daylight-saving time. See the photo example for help:
Once you’ve set these, orient your wheel north to south. Now you can look up and compare what’s shown on your star wheel to what you can see in the sky match up.
You’ll be able to match up what you see on the wheel with the constellations and stars. You might even find the constellation for your star sign.
Other ways to explore the night sky
Use an online night sky map
- Explore the night sky above your home using the Night Sky Map.
- Enter the suburb in the ‘City name’ search bar and start exploring.
Learn the phases of the moon
- Print the Phases of the moon worksheet (PDF, 465K).
- Look at the moon each night and record its phases on the worksheet.