What Makes Stars Twinkle?

Tools

By By Steve Pool

SEATTLE - We're all familiar with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," but it's not the star itself that's doing the twinkling -- it's our own atmosphere.

Our atmosphere is a turbulent place. The waves of air moving about bend and bounce the light rays around a little bit, just like you'd see if you shine a flashlight under a glass of water and then look down the glass while swirling it a bit. Your eye picks up the slight adjustments in the star's light as a twinkle. Stars near the horizon twinkle more than those overhead because the light passes through more of the atmosphere near the horizon. Out in space, stars don't twinkle at all.

Why don't planets twinkle? They are closer to Earth, so they appear a little larger in the sky, to the point where you don't notice the slight adjustments in their light beam.

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Your Photos

YouNews Sunday Images Sunday Images
These images were taken Sunday, December 14 with a Nikon D3100 and an Explore Scientific ED127 (Moon) and ED80 (M42
and M31).
YouNews Weekend Sky Weekend Sky
The images of M42 (Orion) and M31 (Andromeda) are short
stacks (lights only) taken Sunday evening with an Explore
Scientific ED80 (wide angle) telescope and a Nikon D3100 DSLR. The image of the moon was taken with an Explore Scientific ED127 (5-inch) refractor.