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What makes the stars appear to sparkle?

What makes the stars appear to sparkle?
Anonymous Questioner (Age Unknown)

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One Response

  1. Light from the stars has to pass through the atmosphere to get to us and this can change the direction that the light moves in.

    The atmosphere is constantly moving about, changing direction and changing density. You feel this as the wind.

    Different densities of air change the direction of the starlight by different amounts, so sometimes the light comes straight at you and you see it, but the next moment it is diverted away from you and you don’t. Then the air changes again and you see it again and then you don’t…

    The result is the familiar twinkling of the stars as we see them from the surface of the Earth looking up through the atmosphere to them.

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