Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds

Teaching aids

Star charts

Information on where to look for the stars and planets can be found in the monthly articles published in some newspapers. There are also annually published books containing data on the daily positions of stars and planets. 
Patrick Moore (ed.) The Yearbook of Astronomy, Macmillan 
Whitaker's Almanack, A & C Black 
An Astronomical Ephemeris, such as: 
The Astrolabe World Ephemeris, Whitford Press, U.S, ISBN 0924608226 
or Raphael's Astronomical Ephemeris, Foulsham, ISBN 0572031823 
also contain daily planetary and stellar data, though they emphasise the astrological connections. 
The internet is a source of a number of resources. 
The Yoursky website gives the position of the planets in the sky at any defined time and date. 
The Yoursky website also provides a variety of displays that can be set for major cities all over the world. 

The MyStars! website includes an interactive star map that can be set for major cities all over the world for any specified date and time. The map permits you to view in different directions. A downloadable (commercial) version is also available from the site. 
Model planetariums 
Models of the solar system (orreries) are available at a very wide range of sophistication and price. A very inexpensive model to make, costing a few pounds, is the Kidz labs - Solar System Model
A sophisticated motorized orrery costing several hundred pounds is the Helios Planetarium, obtainable from many suppliers including Cochranes of Oxford Ltd
The National Schools Ovservatory (NSO) site also provides a virtual orrery which provides animated models of the planets rotating around the Sun, so that the epicyclic motion can be seen. 
An animation demonstrating epicyclic motion is available on the University of Nebraska website. 
A simple but clear animation of the retrograde motion of Mars is shown on the NASA site. 
Planetariums are located all over the world, offering visits to school parties. 
An alternative is provided by the Starlab portable planetarium, which is available in many countries. It offers an inflatable planetarium accommodating 30 to 35 students. 
In the UK, STFC provides a range of teaching resources, including a guide to resources, support and contacts relevant to all secondary school and college age groups and linked to the national curricula and post-16 specifications.
To download a leaflet from the Institute of Physics called Choosing a telescope for a school, click here.


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