Adler Planetarium

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Let's do science! A shadow plot is a tool that helps you track the movement of the sun throughout the day. Use your powers of observation to create a human sized shadow plot at home! Step 1 On a nice, sunny day, grab some sidewalk chalk and find a safe, flat, outdoor area to start  your shadow plot. Try to find a spot without many other shadows. Step 2 In the morning, draw a large circle and stand in the center. Ask a parent or friend to trace where your shadow falls. Write the time of day inside the traced shadow. Step 3 Keep recording your results throughout the day and observe how your shadow moves. What else do you see? Does your shadow get longer or shorter? Why? Share your discoveries with us on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag Science4Everyone!

Connection to Astronomy


Telling Time

What time it was?  If the sun is up, you can figure it out.  As the sun "moves" steadily across the sky, stationary objects cast corresponding shadows. As the shadows position changes, it can be used to indicate the time of day. 

Throughout history, many different cultures used sundials to mark the passing of time. A sundial shows the time by displaying the position of a shadow on a flat surface, which has markings that correspond to hours. The "gnomen" is the part of the sundial that casts the shadow.

Learn more about sundials and other early tools of astronomy in our Astronomy in Culture exhibition.