The Night Sky is an important aspect of the Earth in Space topic – but one that is often omitted because children are very rarely at school at night. So the Night Sky makes an excellent area for Parents and Children to work on together at home, especially in late autumn and winter, when skies darken early.

This section contains templates for a very simple planisphere, a star-map which can be used to show which stars can be seen at different times of the year. There are also instructions for looking at the sky at different times of year and recording what you see.

You will need Sheet 1 to make the basic planisphere.

Sheet 2 provides an extension for the planisphere, together with some pictures that can be used to make a wallet to contain the different planisphere pieces. These are also provided to work in conjunction with the poem Zodiac. The poem is provided as a downloadable Powerpoint Presentation, for teachers to use in class, and as a one page sheet for children to take home.

Planisphere Sheet 1


Planisphere Sheet 2




Illustrated Zodiac

  1. If you can: stick the circles onto thin card (such as an old cereal packet). This will make your planisphere more robust and longer lasting.
  • Cut Out the circles on sheets 1 and 2. (click here for pictures pdfdocx)
  • Cut Out the shape marked “Cut this shape out and remove”. This piece is called “The Mask”, because when you place it over the star map, it masks all the stars that cannot be seen.
  • Turn the time shown on The Mask to match the date shown on any of the other three circles. The stars that you can see are shown through the gap in the mask.
  • To get an accurate view, hold the planisphere above your head. There is a small N marked on the mask. This should point to the North.
  • Sometimes it is not dark enough to see all the stars shown on the full map, so there are two other maps. One shows only the very brightest stars in the sky. The other shows the 12 zodiac constellations.
  • If you can: If you have some more thin card, make a wallet for the pieces of your planisphere. You can decorate this with the Zodiac shapes that are given on sheet 3, or with pictures from the poem – or both!

For a printable version of this and a question sheet, see below

How to make (pdf)
How to make (docx)
Questions for the Planispheres (pdf)
Questions for the Planispheres (docx)

The lines joining the stars are imaginary…. they indicate the shape of the constellations, the names we give to clusters of stars in the sky, to help to recognise them. The grey band on the disc represents the Milky Way, the faint light of millions of stars in our galaxy. You are unlikely to be able to see this feature from London, or any other major city – you need the very dark skies you get in National Parks or the Scottish Highlands, where there is less light pollution.

Incidentally, these star maps are known as planispheres because hey represent a spherical star map on a plane (flat) surface. The name has nothing to do with the planets, and the planisphere won’t show their position. If you see a bright point of light in the sky that isn’t on the planisphere, chances are it is a planet – and, most probably, one of Venus, Mars or Jupiter. Venus is very bright, but only visible in the two hours after sunset or two hours before sunrise. Jupiter is bright and can be seen at any time of the night. Mars has a distinctive red colour.

A planisphere gets its name from being a flat (plane) representation of a spherical object (the night sky). It does not have any connection to planets! Nor are planets shown on the planisphere. But you will only find planets in a circular belt of twelve star groups (constellations). These 12 are seen as the most important constellations, because the moon and planets are seen there, and are known as the Zodiac (the Zoo in the Sky). The templates include a version showing only the Zodiac, so people can pick these planets out. People are often interested in the Zodiac because of birth-signs and astrology.

People have been looking at the patterns in the night sky for thousands of years, making up stories to help make sense of the patterns. In Europe there has grown up a tradition of stories which we call the Greek mythology, and this topic fits neatly with work on Greek myths. But in other parts of the world peoples have brought different interpretations to what they see in the sky, and other mythologies have grown up. These are equally valid and form an interesting source of diverse stories (for example, the group of stars that agricultural North Europeans call the Plough are seen by Native Americans as a a Big Dipper for obtaining water from streams).

So that parents can take this further with children, the section also contains an illustrated poem, talking about the zodiac constellations and their links to Greek mythology. For a Power-Point version for use in class, see below

Zodiac PowerPoint
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