Why Do Stars Twinkle?

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Double Overdrive, Jun 1, 1999.

  1. Do they twinkle because of interstellar particles of gas and other stuff? Or do they twinkle because they like to twinkle???

    -Double Overdrive
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  3. Boris Guest


    They twinkle for the same reason distant lights twinkle -- which is for the same reason mirages happen -- which is for the same reason hot air from a fire distorts the scene behind it -- etc, etc.

    Basically, warm air is less dense than cold air. Light travels faster in warm air because it's less dense. When you have layers of warm and cold air, light traveling through them gets refracted because of these different speeds.

    The more distant a light source, the more air it has to go through to reach your eye. Starlight has to punch through the entire atmosphere. But because the atmosphere is rarely of uniform temperature, the starlight hits those alternating layers of hot and cold air, and gets totally scattered every now and then -- that's when the star 'twinkles off'. But because the air is also constantly in motion, sometimes the various refractions cancel each other out and the starlight gets through to your retina. That's when the star 'twinkles on'.

    Also because of these refractions, the position of the star in the sky actually jumps around a bit -- sort of jitters around. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to pick up that jitter, but if you look at twinkling stars through a telescope, you'll see them jumping around all over the place.

    Of course, on some nights the air temperatures get pretty even all the way up, and the stars almost stop twinkling. Those are the best nights for stargazing.

    As an aside, when you go into space, the stars no longer twinkle (which should be obvious by now). They also become a whole lot brighter, because there is no more scattering of light by the atmosphere. And as a consequence, in space you see a whole lot more of them (and I mean a *whole lot*).

    I am; therefore I think.
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  5. Mid12am Guest

    Expanding on my The Universe is really a big game of pool theory:

    Intergalatic Billards are very different from a Earth game of pool. Its more of a cross between our Earth pool and Pinball (or our pool and pinball are radical off shoots of intergalatic Billards) You see the stars twinkle in a manor to show how many points each star is worth, The more stars you bounce your ball (or Planet) before sinking it in a pocket (or Black Hole) the more points your recive to put towards your Galatic Showcase of prizes.

    Glad I could help.

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  7. mid12am:

    I believe you are wrong on this subject. It is not a pool game that is occuring. The stars twinkling has some sort of code entwined in it. If we can learn to read the code of the stars, we will become masters of the universe. We've been searching for ET signals in radio signals this whole time, when really we shood be glancing upward at the poetic dancing of the stars.

    Maybe stars twinkle because ET thought that if they make their star twinkle, other civilizations will hear their call. Well if they were hear right now they would be ashamed at us. All we spend our time doing is watching invisble radio signals...

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    Too bad for US (we won't be entering the galactic club anytime soon...)

    -Double Overdrive

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  8. Aloysius Guest

    Stars twinkle coz they lurv you.

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