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JIM ‘PAPPY’ MOORE: The Night Sky is an Illusion

By Jim “Pappy” Moore

The night sky we see only looks the way it looks from right here on Earth. We do not see many objects out there because they are too small from our perspective or too far away. Those objects we do see – which we typically call “stars” – include some planets and some galaxies. 

We can see Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky with no need of a telescope. The time it takes for light to get from Jupiter or Saturn to Earth is relatively small. Light from the Sun to Earth takes 8 minutes. From Jupiter to Earth light takes from 34 to 54 minutes, as the distance varies. From Saturn to Earth takes 1 hour and 12-25 minutes. From our moon to Earth takes a mere 1.3 seconds. 

The Andromeda Galaxy appears to be a star in our night sky, but it is galaxy of stars and celestial objects 200 million light years away. That means we are not seeing it at all. We are seeing where it was 200 million years ago. Except for the Sun, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn, virtually every “star” we see in the sky at night is anywhere from a few light years away to very many. We therefore see in any given night far into the past at points of light that may not even exist any more. They may have burned out centuries ago.

Looking into the night sky and conjuring up images is as old as recorded history. Humans have long looked into the night sky and created labels to constellations. Those constellations exist only in our minds. They are composed of points of lights which have almost nothing to do with each other in space. The Big Dipper is only The Big Dipper to us here on Earth. 

The various constellations that make up the Zodiac signs in the night sky do not really exist as a functioning part of the sky. They are merely dots of lights we can see which we give meaning by labeling as objects and making up stories to explain their existence. In reality they do not act upon us, they do not represent anything, they are merely made-up stories which allowed cultures to amuse themselves while making the night sky a way to navigate after dark, both on land and at sea.

Constellations are important for those who can use the night lights to understand where they are relative to places on Earth, either on land or on the ocean. The night sky is how humans were able to voyage the oceans throughout history.

Stories were created by humans to label these night constellations, to divide up the night sky, and to observe in them the movement of the night sky, which is actually the movement of the Earth as we look at the night sky.

The Earth moves and we move with it. The stars? They remain where they are relative to Earth. It is Earth rotating on its axis and tilting on its axis which creates for us the illusion that the night sky is moving as we watch it. We move, not the night sky. The exceptions are the moon, the planets in our Solar System, and our Sun. They all move and their movement can be seen on Earth. However, the appearance on Earth that the Sun is moving around us daily is a fiction. It remains at the center of our solar system, and we rotate around it yearly. As our Earth turns, we experience day and night. 

The Sun does not rise in the East. As the Earth rotates on its axis, it turns East, and as it turns the Sun returns to us as visible for a certain number of hours daily. As the Earth tilts toward the Sun in summer, our days are longer. As the Earth tilts away from the Sun in winter, our days are shorter.

Almost all of what we experience as “movements” in the skies by celestial objects are in fact movements of our Earth, with the exception of our Moon.

Copyright 2022, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.

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