As part of an effort to improve students’ knowledge of constellations and bright stars in an introductory level descriptive astronomy survey course, we measured the baseline knowledge that students bring to the class and how their score evolve over the course of the semester. This baseline is needed by the broader astronomy education research community for future comparisons about which strategies and environments are the best for learning the stars and constellations. As a comparison group, we also examined the baseline knowledge of 14-15 year old, 9th grade students from the United States. 664 university students averaged 2.04±0.08 on a constellation knowledge survey, while 46 additional students averaged higher at 8.23±0.23. The large, lower scoring group is found to have the same knowledge level as the 14-15 year old 9th grade students which scored 1.79±0.13. The constellations most often identified correctly were
Orion and Ursa Major. For the star portion of the survey, which was only given to the university students, we found essentially no statistically significant prior knowledge for the 17 brightest stars surveyed. The average score for the stars was 1.05±0.05, as expected for guessing, although Polaris and Betelgeuse are labeled correctly more often than any other stars.