Can Astronauts See Stars In Area?



11 September 2015

The International Space Station as seen from space.
The Worldwide Area Station as seen from area.

On the face of it, this would possibly appear to be a foolish query. After all we will see stars in area. We see stars extra clearly from area than we do from Earth, which is why area telescopes are so helpful. And but, this query comes up repeatedly. Not simply from moon touchdown skeptics and fringe science promoters, however from on a regular basis of us who’re positive they discovered someplace that stars can’t be seen in area.

When overexposed, the Moon seems to glow brilliantly.
Bob King/Sky and Telescope
When overexposed, the Moon appears to glow brilliantly.

The origin of this false impression is normally traced again to an interview with the crew of Apollo 11, the place (it’s claimed) Neil Armstrong stated he couldn’t see stars in area. What the crew have been really discussing on the time was the shortcoming to see stars on the daylight aspect of the Moon, which isn’t stunning given how brilliant the lunar floor may be relative to the airless black of area. Even in area the celebs aren’t overly brilliant, and our eyes can lose darkish adaption fairly rapidly.

An image from the ISS of stars and glowing layers of Earth's atmosphere.
A picture from the ISS of stars and glowing layers of Earth’s environment.

However what about all these pictures of objects in area, such because the one of many worldwide area station seen above? There’s no stars to be seen within the picture. It’s really fairly widespread to see photographs of planets and different objects in opposition to a starless black background. Doesn’t that assist the concept of a starless sky in area? No, because it’s no shock that a picture centered on a brilliant object like a planet or moon received’t have a protracted sufficient publicity to see stars clearly. There are many photographs from area that do present stars, in addition to different faint phenomena such because the inexperienced airglow of our environment.

What this false impression actually reveals is how simply a false impression can get locked into our heads. We will all fall prey to the lure of holding misconceptions with out actually occupied with them. That’s a part of the explanation why we concentrate on revealed and verifiable proof in science.

Which is why this isn’t such a foolish query in any case.

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