Astronomy v Astrology

This activity overviews the differences between how Observational Astronomy and Astrology portray the constellations of the Zodiac, timing of the Sun entering and leaving each zodiacal constellation, and more. ages 12+ & public audiences

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Note: The attached handout is written for astronomers (professional and amateur) to use when teaching in a classroom. Teachers may find that it contains a lot of excess information. An abbreviated version will be released in the future.

Summary: An activity designed to demonstrate that astrology doesn’t accurately represent the Sun’s motion through the constellations. Overviews the differences in what constellations are in the Zodiac in Astronomy and Astrology, differences in timing of the Sun entering and leaving each zodiacal constellation, and more. Expansion activities additionally teach the concepts of lunar motion, and sidereal vs. synodic days. Also includes information on using Stellarium to explore constellations used in non-Western cultures.

Downloads: [Word 4.8 MB],  [PDF 6.3 MB]

Grade Level: Appropriate for ages 12 and up. Ideal for public audiences.

Time Required: Minimum: 50 minutes. (100 minutes needed if all optional activities are performed)

Next Generation Science Standards (Adaptable for 1,5,MS,HS):

  • ESS1.A: The Universe and its stars
  • ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
  • SEP: Developing and Using Models
  • SEP: Engaging in Argument from Evidence
  • CCC: Systems and system models

Sequence of activities:

  • Engage:
    Discuss what students have heard about Astrology (10 min)
  • Explore:
    Construct a Heliocentric Model based on astrology (10 min)
    Construct a Heliocentric Model based on astronomy (10 min)
    OPTIONAL: Model the Moon’s orbit as the Earth orbits (10 min)
  • Explain:
    Discuss how actual solar motion compares to astrology (10 min)
    OPTIONAL: Discuss Sidereal vs. Synodic days (10 min)
    Heliocentric vs. Geocentric – The size of space (10 min)
  • Elaborate:
    Discuss: Do all cultures have same zodiac? (5min – optional)
  • Evaluate:
    Could any “link” between astrological signs & personality relate to the sun’s position in the zodiac? (5min)
    OPTIONAL: Stellarium exercise (20 min)