The Sky at Night

Celestial coordinates

Earlier star atlases were based on the great circle of the Sun’s annual path around the sky, called the “ecliptic.” Celestial “longitude” measures in degrees along the ecliptic, and celestial “latitude” measures in degrees perpendicular to the ecliptic. The ecliptic is angled at 23.5 degrees from the Earth’s equator. Because the ecliptic and the Earth’s equator do not coincide, celestial latitude and celestial longitude do not coincide with terrestrial latitude and longitude.

Art and Astronomy Walking Tour

Art and Astronomy Walking Tour

“What was it like when art and astronomy were intertwined?”

Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Lorenzo Sirigatti, Galileo... what joins them together?  Why is Galileo's Starry Messenger (1610) displayed alongside Giorgio Vasari's Lives of Eminent Painters and Sculptors

Galileo’s scientific discoveries occurred in the context of a specific artistic culture which possessed sophisticated mathematical techniques for drawing with linear perspective and handling light and shadow.

Do you know someone who received a telescope for Christmas? There's no better way to begin looking through a telescope than to ponder the way Galileo's professional training as an artist prepared him to make his astronomical discoveries.

In the Galileo’s World exhibition, four galleries took their point of departure from Galileo’s Starry Messenger (Sidereus nuncius, 1610):  
• Galileo and Perspective Drawing  
• Galileo and the Telescope   
• The Moon and the Telescope   
• The Sky at Night

These distinct but overlapping galleries were on physical display in different places and combinations during the course of the Galileo’s World exhibition, most notably at the National Weather Center and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.  Various books from these galleries are part of the current Rotating Display and the "The Sky Tonight reprise" gallery, including Galileo’s Starry Messenger itself.

Use this handout to aid you in you as you walk through the 2017 Rotating Display and The Sky at Night reprise gallery.


Constellation tubes | Six constellations

Six constellations

Identify six common constellations by their star patterns.

Urania's Mirror was a set of 32 constellation cards designed to aid in identifying the constellations by distinguishing between star patterns and constellation figures. This set includes six constellations, selected so that at least one of them is visible (in the northern hemisphere) at any time of the year. Holes punched in the positions of bright stars allow one to hold any card up to a light and compare the star pattern with the constellation figure.

OERs in this set:  

DOWNLOAD: Constellation tubes | Six Constellations

Catherine Whitwell: Astronomy & Creative Writing

Catherine Whitwell Learning Leaflet

Why write science in a creative style? 

Catherine Whitwell wrote an introduction to the night sky as a conversational dialogue between a mother and daughter. It contains 23 engraved plates drawn by Whitwell herself, including four hand colored folding plates. One of the plates depicts the constellations of Corvus the Crow, Crater the Cup and Hydra the Water Snake. Another plate conveys a dramatic impression of the Full Moon at night, shown against a striking black background. 


The Celestial Globe: An Introduction


The night sky looks like an upside-down bowl set on the horizon, but as it turns around during the night it is easy to think of it as a giant sphere. Think of the stars as bright points of light lying on the inside surface of a giant celestial sphere. This sphere rotates around us once a day. A model of the sky as a celestial globe explains the appearances of the sky with simplicity and elegance. Learn more about celestial globes with this learning leaflet.


Elisabeth Hevelius: Observational Astronomer

Elisabeth Hevelius Learning Leaflet

How does the Sextant symbolize the person who worked on the famed Hevelius star catalog and star atlas throughout its production, from observation to publication? 

Elisabeth Hevelius, wife of Johann Hevelius, was an astronomer in her own right. They worked together in the observatory of their Gdansk home to measure angular widths and distances with a great sextant, which required two observers at a time. The Sextant was among the new constellations they proposed in Uranographia (1690), the most detailed and influential celestial atlas of the 17th century. The Uranographia contains 54 beautiful double page engraved plates of 73 constellations, and 2 oversized folding plates of planispheres.


Diurnal Motion: An Introduction


Each day and night, the fixed stars appear to rotate around the earth like a giant celestial sphere. Just like the Sun, they rise in the east and set in the west. The daily motion of the entire sky, rising from the east, setting in the west, rotating around the north pole, is called the diurnal motion. Learn more about diurnal motion in this learning leaflet.


Orion the Hunter

Orion the Hunter Learning Leaflet

Can you recognize Orion the Hunter?

Three bright stars in a row make up Orion's belt, within a rectangle of four bright stars representing his shoulders and feet. Since Orion's belt lies nearly upon the celestial equator, Orion is visible from every inhabited part of the globe. This OER introduces the astronomy and skylore of the constellation Orion the Hunter.


The Planisphere: An Introduction

A. Klippel, Starry Heavens

The planisphere is a handy map of the night sky that works every night every season of the year. Learn more about how to use a planisphere in this learning leaflet.