Bogdan Marinov, Alexander Wolf, Timothy Reaves, Guillaume Chéreau, Georg Zotti, Ferdinand Majerech, Jörg Müller Matthew Gates
Type Category
Instructional Materials
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Stellarium is a free open source software project that makes your computer a virtual planetarium.  Students can use the program to find the positions of the Sun and Moon, planets and stars.  With the program they can show how the sky would look to an observer depending on their location and the time.  The program can also draw the constellations and simulate astronomical phenomena such as meteor showers, and solar or lunar eclipses as directed by students.  Different locations can be found using latitude and longitude or searching for nearby cities and towns. In addition, time and date can be set forward or backward.  The software has a wikipage with a user guide and many other resources that can be found here  In addition, an introductory video, a quick key page and classroom challenges can be found on this AIMS blog entry 

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Informal Education
  • High School
  • Middle School
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

5-ESS1-2 Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.

Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include the position and motion of Earth with respect to the sun and selected stars that are visible only in particular months.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include causes of seasons.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
To fully address the PE, students would need to use the software to collect specific data regarding seasonal appearance of stars or photoperiod, develop a method to represent the data in graphical displays and identify the patterns in their data. This is not explicit in the software. A script is available to show the zodiac constellations in the night sky in a circular pattern.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This software is a model that students can use to view the positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars in the day and night sky. The teacher can develop lessons using the date and time feature of the software to have students determine sunrise and sunset, and look for stars or constellations in different seasons. The model predicts views of the sky by using the time and date feature to go into the future.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The teacher would need to set up guidelines for use of the software or use available scripts to address the portions of the DCI. The software shows different positions of the sun, moon and stars at different times of day, month and year over a period of many years.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
When using the software to collect data concerning photoperiod, seasonal appearance of stars and/or constellations, students would be using patterns to analyze and communicate that data to others.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Use of the software with teacher direction and guidelines can significantly address elements of the disciplinary core idea. Opportunities can also be provided to address the practice of representing data in graphical displays to reveal patterns that indicate relationships as well as the crosscutting concept - similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena. There are no classroom lesson guidelines for using this resource.

  • Instructional Supports: Not applicable

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Not applicable

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The software is user-friendly for both students and teachers. There are a variety of ways to manipulate and view the positions of the Sun and Moon, planets and stars.