Activity: Visualizing the Zodiac

1995 The Regents of the University of California



Have two students stand back-to-back. One student will represent the Sun. and the other will represent the Earth.

Have twelve other students make a circle by standing around the two central figures.

Remind students that the Earth is constantly rotating around its axis, but for the purposes of this activity, we will limit rotational motion.

Give each of the twelve students one of the handouts with the individual signs of the Zodiac. Make sure that the students place themselves in the proper order around the circle. Here's an example:

When the "Earth" has his/her back to the "Sun," the person is looking at the nighttime sky. When the "Earth" is facing the "Sun," the person is looking at the daytime sky.

Have each "Earth" stand so that the "Sun" blocks the view of their own astrological birth sign.

Have each "Earth" answer the following questions:

Now have each "Earth" turn so that the "Sun" is next to his/her right shoulder.

Have each "Earth" answer the following questions:


Try to have as many different zodiacal signs represented as the "Earth" as you can. In this way, students should be able to see that at different times of the year, the Sun "occupies" (that is to say, appears to cross in front of) each of the different zodiacal constellations.


Give students the actual dates when the Sun "enters" the various zodiacal constellations. Have students verify this data by visiting a planetarium which offers shows of "The Sky Tonight". If such planetarium shows are not available, you can provide students with planispheres and star maps such as those provided by the University of Texas at Austin and by the Lawrence Hall of Science [TO SEE MORE DETAILED REFERENCES, CLICK HERE]. This will enable students to recognize that very often the Sun "occupies" a different zodiacal constellation than that given by traditional astrological convention.

How To Build a Star Finder

  1. Have students put the Southeast edge of the STAR FINDER WHEEL-COVER against the folded edge of a file folder.

  2. Have students cut out the file folder according to the pattern of the STAR FINDER WHEEL-COVER. Make sure that they leave the folded portion intact.

    Students should remove the oval in the STAR FINDER WHEEL-COVER ONLY from the FRONT WING of the file folder, and then they should staple in the designated areas.

  3. The Star Finder WHEEL itself will last longer if it is duplicated on card stock. At any rate, the students will cut along the outside dotted line on the STAR FINDER WHEEL ITSELF, and place the WHEEL inside the WHEEL-COVER.

How to Operate a Star Finder Wheel

Turn the star wheel until the current date lines up with the time you wish to observe the night sky. Hold the Star Finder over your head so that "North" on the Star Finder is facing North. The stars visible in the opening are those that can be seen in the overhead sky.


By downloading from Mosaic, you can make copies of the Ecliptic as seen with UV "eyes". The EUVE took full sky pictures in the extreme ultraviolet region. Advanced students usually enjoy looking at the sky through different eyes. When students hold the visible and UV night sky side-by-side in the constellation circle, they begin to comprehend the differences between the different wavelengths of EM radiation. We expect, before long, that you will be able to download copies of the night sky in IR and X-ray wavelengths.

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