Category Archives: Random Science

Language Obscures the Stars

Still, in our time, we use expressions that are much better discarded. Two of them are included in the sentence: The stars come out after sunset.

The sun doesn’t set. From the Earth it doesn’t seem to move much at all. What happens is that our position on the Earth spins away from it every night.

 And the stars are always ‘out’, way out. We can’t see them during the day because when we face the sun its glare lights up our thin layer of atmosphere.  At night we turn away.  The glare fades and we see the stars from our viewing platform in space. Like looking into our big back yard.

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A Sliver of Spherical Trigonometry

There is a point on the Earth where Polaris, the North Star, is directly overhead. But if you stand in your northern latitudes and see it off at an angle you think, “It’s light years away and the earth is tiny. No matter how far I walk in that direction, I’ll never be underneath it”.

But you can.  Let me explain.

In your imagination, draw a straight line. Begin at the center of the Earth then go directly through space to Polaris. That line has to pass through the surface of the Earth. If you walk over to where it comes out, your feet will be straight down and Polaris will be straight up.

This is true of all the stars; but Polaris, because it is above the axis we spin on, is always overhead at the same spot – our North Pole.

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