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edited by the University of Chicago Digital Library Development Center
consultant: the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
This interactive tutorial promotes understanding of why Earth's rotation makes it appear as though stars are orbiting the Earth. The simulation features Polaris (the North Star) as its focal point to show that stars are fixed in their positions -- it's the Earth which is moving as it rotates on its axis. Views of Polaris are simulated from both the North Pole and the city of Chicago, offering hour-by-hour views of the sky on a clear night from both reference points.

This simulation is part of a teaching module on cultural astronomy. See Related Items for a link to the full module.

eCUIP is a digital library project developed as a collaboration between Chicago Public Schools and the University of Chicago.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
- Fundamentals
= Constellations
= Night Sky
- Historical Astronomy
= History of Astronomy
Classical Mechanics
- Relative Motion
= Rotating Reference Frames
Education Practices
- Technology
= Multimedia
- Middle School
- High School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2002 University of Chicago
Earth's rotation, Polaris, astronomy simulation, multimedia , reference frames, stars
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created November 15, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
November 15, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
June 30, 2012

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4A. The Universe
  • 3-5: 4A/E3. Planets change their positions against the background of stars.
4B. The Earth
  • 3-5: 4B/E2bc. The rotation of the earth on its axis every 24 hours produces the night-and-day cycle. To people on earth, this turning of the planet makes it seem as though the sun, moon, planets, and stars are orbiting the earth once a day.
4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H2. All motion is relative to whatever frame of reference is chosen, for there is no motionless frame from which to judge all motion.

10. Historical Perspectives

10A. Displacing the Earth from the Center of the Universe
  • 9-12: 10A/H1. To someone standing on the earth, it seems as if it is large and stationary and that all other objects in the sky orbit around it. That perception was the basis for theories of how the universe is organized that prevailed for over 2,000 years.
  • 9-12: 10A/H3. In the 1500s, a Polish astronomer named Copernicus suggested that all those same motions could be explained by imagining that the earth was turning around once a day and orbiting around the sun once a year. This explanation was rejected by nearly everyone because it violated common sense and required the universe to be unbelievably large. Worse, it flew in the face of the belief, universally held at the time, that the earth was at the center of the universe.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Astronomy
Unit Title: Astronomy Activities

A great simulation to help students understand that stars are not moving in the night sky......our planet's rotation on its axis just makes it appear so. This sim features Polaris as the focal point for investigating moving reference frames.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(2002), WWW Document, (http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/science/cultural_astronomy/interactives/polaris/where_is_polaris.html).
eCUIP Project: Where Is Polaris? (2002), <http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/science/cultural_astronomy/interactives/polaris/where_is_polaris.html>.
APA Format
eCUIP Project: Where Is Polaris?. (2012, June 30). Retrieved April 19, 2024, from http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/science/cultural_astronomy/interactives/polaris/where_is_polaris.html
Chicago Format
Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, and University of Chicago Digital Library Development Center. eCUIP Project: Where Is Polaris?. June 30, 2012. http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/science/cultural_astronomy/interactives/polaris/where_is_polaris.html (accessed 19 April 2024).
MLA Format
eCUIP Project: Where Is Polaris?. 2002. 30 June 2012. Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, and University of Chicago Digital Library Development Center. 19 Apr. 2024 <http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/science/cultural_astronomy/interactives/polaris/where_is_polaris.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {eCUIP Project: Where Is Polaris?}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {19 April 2024}, Month = {June 30, 2012}, Year = {2002} }
Refer Export Format

%T eCUIP Project: Where Is Polaris? %D June 30, 2012 %U http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/science/cultural_astronomy/interactives/polaris/where_is_polaris.html %O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D June 30, 2012 %T eCUIP Project: Where Is Polaris? %V 2024 %N 19 April 2024 %8 June 30, 2012 %9 application/flash %U http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/science/cultural_astronomy/interactives/polaris/where_is_polaris.html

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

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eCUIP Project: Where Is Polaris?:

Is Part Of eCUIP Project: Cultural Astronomy -- Bringing the Heavens to Earth

A link to the full teaching module, of which "Where Is Polaris" is a part.

relation by Caroline Hall

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