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✏️ Astronomy Projects with Stellarium

✏️ Astronomy Projects with Stellarium

An online astronomy course for young learners, around 11-14 years old, to explore our universe.

Begins November 12

This course is a continuation of our popular “Astronomy with Stellarium” courses, in which we learned to control the free desktop planetarium program Stellarium. In this course, students will use the Stellarium skills they gained in the earlier course to tackle more challenging projects.

We will use the desktop version of Stellarium, available in Windows and Mac versions.

Each 90-minute session will include demonstrations of the software, group discussion, and a half-hour break in the middle for a “right now” project.

Prerequisite: our course Astronomy with Stellarium. 

Now that you know how to control Stellarium, use it for advanced projects such as searching through time to discover cycles of the moon and planets; reconstructing the appearance of the sky at the time of historical events; analyzing how the sky is shown in famous works of art. Do a project and discuss it with the group.

Course Details

Who is this Course for: 

  • Students around 11 to 14 years old, or in 6th to 9th grade, interested in astronomy
  • Available for homeschool students and students who have free time in the afternoons


What You'll Learn

  • What stars, constellations and planets you can see in the real sky in the next few months
  • What's good, and what's not so good, about relying on a computer simulation of nature
  • How to formulate a question that can be answered with sky simulation software
  • How to do research by using one information source as a starting point to find other sources on special topics


What you'll need

  • Ability to participate digitally using Zoom
  • Stellarium software, available in free desktop versions for Windows and Mac at This course is based on the desktop version, not the web or mobile version of Stellarium.
  • Zoom and Stellarium installed on the same device so you can share your Stellarium screen
  • If you would be interested in a future course using the web or mobile versions of Stellarium, please email Planetarium Director Steve Fentress at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will begin compiling a list


Course Format

Each 90-minute session will include online mini-lectures and group discussions, and at least one mid-session break for everyone to do a "right now" project. In the last session, each participant will be invited to give a 90-second talk about a project they have done.


Anticipated Course Curriculum

Session 1

  • Review of Stellarium's basic features and controls.

Session 2

  • Examples of mysteries that have been solved with sky simulation software.

  • Introduction to Stellarium's advanced features and controls.

Session 3

  • Decide on a question you would like to research using Stellarium. We will have a list of suggestions, and helpful tips to get you started.

Session 4

  • Share the results of your project, see what others have been doing.


Assignment Examples

  • The painting "The Starry Night" by Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous artworks ever created, with swirling patterns in the sky above a quiet town. Does it depict real events in the sky?
  • In 1831, African-American Nat Turner began to plan a slave rebellion after seeing a solar eclipse. What eclipse would he have seen?
  • There will be a solar eclipse on October 14, 2023. If you could travel anywhere to see it, where would you go for the best view?
  • Barnard's Star is one of the closest stars to Earth. How was it discovered?

  • In the 1700s, astronomer Olaus Roemer used observations of Jupiter's moons to figure out that light does not travel at infinite speed. How did he do that?

Still have questions? Reach out to us!


Course Fee: $50 for four sessions

Class Time: Four consecutive Thursdays (November 12 and 19, and December 3 and 10) at 3:30pm EST

We ask that all students arrive promptly at 3:30pm

Class Start Date: November 12, 2020

What's included: 

  • Four 90-minute classes with Planetarium Director, Steve Fentress
  • Access to the course webpage, which will include short demonstration videos, assignment recaps, and helpful links
  • Weekly astronomy projects


Online Planetarium Course FAQs | Fall 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

My child is younger than 11, but really, really interested in astronomy. Can they take the course?

If you believe your child is ready for the material and has the attention span for a 90-minute session with a break in the middle, they are welcome to enroll.

Can two kids using the same computer at the same time enroll as one person?

If they are working together on everything and doing all the work as a team, they can enroll as one person.

Can my child "audit" the course if it is full?

We are limiting enrollment to 22 students because want to have only as many people on our Zoom session as we think we can pay attention to. To ensure the best experience to all students, we can only accept 22 students to the course.

Will you have a course about different topics or for students of different grade levels? You don't have one now.

Not at this time, but if there is enough interest we might add new classes. If you email our course instructor, Steve Fentress, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., he will add your name to a list of people to contact if we get enough interest to offer a new class.

Steve your instructor.jpg

About Your Instructor

Steve Fentress, Director of the RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium

Steve Fentress has many years of experience designing Planetarium programs for school groups as well as hands-on and in-depth programs for homeschoolers and youth groups. He has written articles for and Griffith Observer magazine. He stays up to date by participating in planetarium educators’ networks and online seminars. His book Sky to Space: Astronomy Beyond the Basics with Comparisons, Ratios, and Proportions is available from Amazon, but we will not be using it in this course.

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