Kathleen Horner

Create a Night Sky Diorama

Diorama by Kathleen Horner

In this AstroCrafts project you will learn how to build a diorama (outdoor scene) depicting the beauty of the rich, dark night sky when low level outdoor lighting is utilized. With Earth Day on April 22 and Astronomers Without Borders' Global Awareness Month coinciding in the month of April, the AstroCrafts hands on experience will be a perfect fit in teaching the participants about the harmful effects of light pollution and what we can do to bring about awareness and change for our planet and ourselves. I strongly recommend that you go to and to check out the many varied resources and information on how to become an advocate for combating light pollution plus it will inspire you in creating your Bring Back the Night Sky Diorama.

 What is a diorama? It is a three-dimensional scale model of a landscape depicting nature scenes, cityscapes or historical events for purposes of education or entertainment. In this project, you will be creating a night sky scene depicting how responsible lighting can enhance the view of the sky at night. I chose to create a diorama scene of our front yard with a view of the Milky Way hovering overhead. Since we cannot see the Milky Way from our yard because of the urban location and unshielded street lights, I created the diorama to depict how our night sky might appear if street lights were properly shielded and other lighting levels were lowered. (The same applies to the cityscape picture below of my hometown.) You can do the same thing using different locations such as the beach, mountains, cityscape or your own yard using all sorts of art mediums like paint, crayons, magic markers, pen and ink, watercolors and papier mache. Also, the use of collage works great with this project. Look for found objects in your yard and inside your home to add to your diorama. Take note that there is a link to a video on how to make a diorama at the end of this article. So go ahead--the possibilities are endless when working with a diorama. Let your imagination take you there!


The Disappearing Night Sky 

Allow this quote below to inspire you as you begin creating your diorama:

“My feeling is that an observer needs to see four hundred and fifty stars to get that feeling of infinitude, and be swept away…and I didn’t make that number up arbitrarily, that’s the number of stars that are available once you get dimmer than third magnitude. So in the city, you see a dozen stars, a handful, and it’s attractive to no one. And if there’s a hundred stars in the sky it still doesn’t do it. There’s a certain tipping point where people will look and there will be that planetarium view. And now you’re touching that ancient core, whether it’s collective memories or genetic memories, or something else from way back before we were even human…astronomer Bob Berman quoted in The End of Night”

― Paul Bogard,"The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light"



 To get you started, I will share with you how I created my diorama (first photo above).

* Start with the background (sky and Milky Way) on blue glitter sheet. Paint watered down tacky glue in shape of Milky Way on blue glitter sheet. Sprinkle silver glitter over the wet glue to form Milky Way. Tacky glue silver sequins on sky around Milky Way to represent stars. After the glitter sheet dries, glue the Milky Way sheet to the back of the box and and then glue another blue glitter sheet on the underside of the top of the box. Add a few mini LED lights set in putty behind the cardstock house and yard cutout to illuminate the Milky Way background--nice effect! The mini LED lights are available online, at arts and crafts centers and home improvement stores. 

* Take a photograph of the home and front yard and print it out on a 8.50 x 11 sheet. Glue the image onto a sheet of cardstock and cut a silhouette around the tree tops. Next measure the width of the inside of the box and glue dark blue poster board extensions on each side of the image to fit the width inside the box. Place the photo of the house night scene 1 1/2" in front of the Milky Way background to give a 3D effect and secure it to the sides of the box with adhesive putty. Cover putty with blue paint to help blend into the scene. Glue blue poster board sheets onto side walls of the diorama.

* Cut some leaf twig clippings to represent trees in the diorama yard scene.   Place adhesive putty to the bottom part of the stems and secure to the floor of the box.

* Use moss from the yard and tacky glue it to the floor of the diorama to represent the lawn. Trim moss along front edge of box. Be sure to work the moss around the twig trees to cover up the adhesive putty.

* Print a photo of street light with shield found online. Cut out shield part of light pole and glue to card stock square. Cut around image on card stock--this makes for a sturdy paper light shield. Cut out a strip of poster board and tape around the LED light. This keeps the light forced downwards to create the illusion of a shielded street light. Tape mini LED light to the back of the paper light shield with bulb pointed downwards. Take the dowel stick and paint it any color and let dry. After it dries, hot glue or tape paper light shield to the top of the painted light pole. Place a little adhesive putty at the bottom of the light pole and work into the moss so that it stands upright.



Cardboard box (flaps removed)
Leaf twig clippings
Tape measure
Adhesive Putty
Battery powered LED mini light for street light
Poster board (Blue and Dark Blue)
Glitter sheets
Glitter silver
Sequin silver
Moss from yard
Aleen's tacky glue
Paper glue stick
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Printer and copy paper

International Space Station Photo



"The End of Night" by Paul Bogard
"Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities" by International Dark Sky Association
"Light Pollution" by Dr. Hermant Pathak
"Light Pollution: Responses and Remedies" by Bob Mizon 

Children's Books:
"There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars" by Bob Crelin
"Once Upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellations” by Jacqueline Mitton


The City Dark documentary found at

How to Make a Diorama: 


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