Celestial Navigation and Coordinate Systems

Contact Information:

  • Matt Laird. Email: mslaird@mtu.edu
  • Heather Murphy. Email: hmurphy@hancock.k12.mi.us


Have you ever wondered how to describe your location to someone else? Now try to describe your location with out using another object as a frame of reference. The lesson plan Celestial Navigation is a introduction into the different navigation systems that are used to describe the location of objects that are light years away and have masses many time larger then our sun.

Lesson Content Overview:

  • Engage (10 min): A Celestial Scavenger Hunt using Local Coordinates.
  • Explore (45): Students develop an appreciation for coordinate systems as they are tasked with developing their own coordinate system for constellations of Gamma-ray sources.
  • Explain (40 min): Celestial Coordinate systems are explained in a slide show presentation.
  • Extension (35 min): Students race to convert between two types of units within the J2000 coordinate system to acquire real life HAWC Significance Maps.
  • Elaborate (5 class periods): Students are tasked with applying the coordinate system as they develop a model of a Portable Planetarium in this Engineering Design Challenge.

Connections to Prior Learning:

Supporting Material: