What Makes Stars Twinkle

Stars don’t actually twinkle although they appear to as their light is changed by the swishing of the wind and other atmospheric object on their way to us. Farther away they twinkle more because there is more distance between their mass of particles and us. This movement of atmospheric pressure cause them to bend slightly – refraction – and this causes the twinkle. (They do not bend but the light on its way to us bends.) Yet knowing they do not twinkle does not make them less captivating when looking upward at them and contemplating, nor does it affect the directions the often give lonely wanderers.

Their journey of light can be compared to throwing a dirt clod: When thrown a few bits of dirt will break off but since we are close we see dirt sprinkles and no light; far away we light being broken in places as it travels toward us as it interacts with atmospheric pressures; we don’t see the dirt particles that could be part of the interaction. The difference of course is the light is being acted upon by the outside forces and that is what diminishes or hides part of the light that appears to us to be winking.

Whatever the phenomenon, it is a delightful sight. Imagine, if you will, going out on a starry, starry night and having nothing up there greeting us. This happens at times, of course, but were the sky void of light all the time, the world would indeed be dark. The sun itself is a star in that in composition it is nearly the same. In other words it gets its brilliance and its heat in the same way, an interaction between the particles within.

In scientific terms the twinkles are stellar scintillations. More aptly put stellar scintillations are flashes of light caused by ejections of ionized particles being throw off by the wind. The temperature of the air, whether warm of cold has an effect on the rapidity of the twinkling. However this comes about, children of all ages now need no longer wonder what the twinkling stars are as they look out their windows while saying their nighttime prayers.

The stars directly overhead are closer to us and do not blink as often as those nearer the horizon. This is understandable when we realize we are seeing the farther away stars through many more atmospheric layers. In truth the stars are reacting to their environment in much the same way but it is our seeing them in their traveling mechanism that gives us this illusion.

Therefore I conclude that the twinkling and the blinking and the winking and the amusing activity of the stars are an illusion. It is a joint adventure brought about by the interaction of the forces of nature without and the forces of nature within us. All of our notions and ideas and thoughts about stars and remembrances of favorite moments come into play within our personal thinking processes as we look upward and wonder.

All this is good. It does not detract, nor should it get in the way of the truth of the fact of the matter of why stars twinkle. It actually should enhance the experience for us. We can, if we are so inclined while sleeping out under the stars use them emotionally in any way we want to use them. We can write poems to them while playing pretend or we can with specialized equipment become amateur astronomers. None of this changes their facts and as long as we keep in touch with that we can even twinkle back at them if we should so desire.