How To Tell The Difference Between a Star And a Planet

PlanetTCard

A Shining Imposter

 

Not every point of light in the night sky is a star.

Sure. Some colorful points of lights are airplanes. Yeah. We all know that. But did you know it’s possible to see siblings of our solar system? Yes—it’s really possible to see planets.

Twinkle, twinkle little star…blah blah blah…you know the rest.

Something is responsible for a starlight’s restless wiggle. Or twinkle.

That something is the comfortable (at least for the time being) atmosphere, which is saturated with many great things: nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, volcano puke, car exhaust…

…Did I miss something? Probably.

How can starlight possibly sit still when it’s constantly being knocked around and bullied before it can finally come to rest in a pair of eyes? That’s why a star appears to twinkle here on Earth. The atmosphere changes the direction of the light path and that causes a star to shimmer a variety of colors.

 

The Real Star of the Show

 

Pop quiz: do stars twinkle on the Moon?

Did you say no? Great! You must have been paying attention. The Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, and that means light can travel unimpeded. A Lunarian poet would be perplexed by a ‘twinkle-twinkle’ little star.

Planets don’t suffer from a twinkling abnormality.

Their relatively close proximity allows them to retain their constant shine—despite traveling through an atmosphere full of shit.

Here’s a list of the five planets visible to the naked eye:

  1. Mercury

  2. Venus

  3. Mars

  4. Jupiter

  5. Saturn

 

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