Drawing Our Galaxy


In this activity, students will create an illustration of the Milky Way galaxy from multiple perspectives. 

Goals: Students will create an illustration of the Milky Way galaxy. The audience for this illustration is that of a high school senior, with a budding interest in astronomy.

Class: Astro 17

Introduction/Background: This activity is essential when introducing students to key vocabulary and foundational concepts on the size, scope, and function of celestial bodies and processes in the Milky Way. Students are to use multiple sources to complete the assignment. This is to be completed over the course of one week, and will count as a homework grade.


1) Provide a brief background of the Milky Way galaxy. This lesson is meant to serve as the introduction to the unit.

2) Instruct students to create an illustration of the Milky Way from outside the galaxy, viewed from the side and from above for the purposes of appealing to high school student with an interest in astronomy. Their illustrations should include pictures and descriptions of:

  • Location of the Sun
  • Thin/thick disks, bulge, halo
  • Globular clusters
  • The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC)and the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC)
  • Sgr A* (Black hole)
  • Location of Orion star forming region, and the nearest and furthest (known) open clusters to the Sun
  • Scale length and scale height (in order to draw galaxy scale)

3) Students will post their illustrations online as blog posts, along with descriptive text of the figure.

Follow-up: Graded assignment used to assess students’ understanding offoundational concepts. Students that complete the assignment by hand, may scan and post their finished product electronically.

Comments: Although this activity is designed primarily for Astro 17, its principles can be applied across multiple disciplines, in hopes of introducing students to new concepts, or units within a given curriculum. This activity is also appealing to students with various learning styles.

Materials/Resources: Library books, lecture notes, online books, YouTube videos, pen/pencil, color pens/pencils, paper, course website/blog, access to online drawing tools:

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