Some students think the stars and constellations appear in the same place in the sky every night

Earth and Space


This may because students observe stars appearing in the same places and don't spend more time observing their motion.

Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to address this

  • What's moving: day and night (5-11)

    The axis on which the Earth spins is currently pointing at the Pole Star and so as the Earth rotates all of the stars appear to move on circular paths around that star. This apparent circular motion of the stars can easily be seen on a clear night if you pick out the Pole Star and then follow the progress of the other stars around it as the night progresses.

    View Resource
  • Day and night: how do we know? (11-14)

    A crucial piece of evidence that led people to believe in the idea that the Earth spins was provided by a long and heavy pendulum called Foucault's pendulum. 

    The other piece of significant evidence comes from long-exposure photographs of the night sky. To create these photographs, the camera is pointed at the northern pole star. All the stars come out as long circular trails as if they are all turning around the North Star.

    View Resource
  • Observing the night sky (11-16)

    1. Ask students to observe the sky at least twice in one evening, with an interval of about two hours between observations. It will help if pictures of a few easy-to-identify constellations are available before the observing time so that students will recognize them and can direct their observations towards them.
    2. Extend the previous experiment to a month. Note the position of the Moon at the same hour on each possible night for a month. The observations should relate to the stars, and also to the position in the sky relative to the horizon
    View Resource


  • Plummer, D. J., Zahm, M. V. & Rice, R., () Inquiry and Astronomy: Preservice Teachers’ Investigations of Celestial Motion, Journal of Science Teacher Education.

    Paper digest

  • Plummer, D. J., () A Cross-age Study of Children’s Knowledge of Apparent Celestial Motion, International Journal of Science Education, 31 (12) 1571-1605.

    Paper digest

  • Sharp, G. J., () Children's astronomical beliefs: a preliminary study of Year 6 children in south‐west England, International Journal of Science Education, 18 (6) 685-712.

    Key paper digest

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