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Astronomy Myths Debunked
Astronomy Myths Debunked

Orion is proud to partner with BBC Sky at Night Magazine, the UK's biggest selling astronomy periodical, to bring you this article as part of an ongoing series to provide valuable content to our customers. Check back each month for exciting articles from renowned amateur astronomers, practical observing tutorials, and much more!

Eight of the biggest astronomical myths, collected and comprehensively busted to help you become an expert in no time at all

Meteor (Perseid's) and M45 (Pleides) by Mark Bell

Meteor (Perseid's) and M45 (Pleides) by Mark Bell

The Moon can't be seen in the daytime
There's a common conception that just as the Sun can only be seen in daylight hours, the Moon only comes out at night. But Earth's rotation means that the Moon must be above the horizon for 12 hours out of every 24, regardless of the length of the night. As such, the Moon is often somewhere in the daylit sky. Whether we see it is down to two things — its altitude in the sky and its phase.

Polaris is the brightest star in the sky
Polaris is certainly among the most famous, being the star closest to the north celestial pole, but this usefulness does not make it the brightest in the sky. Spend an evening outside and it will become obvious that this honor falls to Sirius, in the constellation of Canis Major.

Stars twinkle
'Twinkle, twinkle, little star' has a lot to answer for. Stars often appear to flicker in the night sky, but this has nothing to do with the star and everything to do with our turbulent atmosphere. Once it reaches Earth, starlight is reflected, bent and contorted by this turbulence, until it reaches your eye. Viewed from space, stars would not twinkle at all.

Earth's distance from the sun causes the seasons
Not so — Earth is actually closest to the Sun during the northern hemisphere's winter. The real reason is due to Earth's 23.5-degree axial tilt, which means each hemisphere gets varying durations of sunlight over the year.

Polaris has always been the pole star
Polaris' position next to the north celestial pole is a temporary one, a result of Earth wobbling on its axis as it spins. The change is about 1 degree every 72 years, with a full cycle taking around 26,000 years. In 3,000 BC the pole star was Thuban in Draco, but in 2,000 years time it will be Errai in Cepheus.

Shooting stars are really stars
If you have ever wished upon a star, you may be shocked to learn it wasn't a star at all. What you saw was the bright flare of a piece of debris, likely to be no bigger than a grain of sand, burning up in our atmosphere. They are properly known as meteors. If a fragment makes it to Earth's surface, it is called a meteorite.

The point of a telescope is to magnify celestial objects
While telescopes can make the denizens of the night sky appear bigger, this isn't their primary purpose. Their main function is to gather light, using a lens or mirror depending on the design, so that we can see objects too dim to view with the naked eye.

The Moon has a dark side
The phrase 'dark side of the Moon' is often and erroneously used to refer to the Moon's far side, which means something subtly different. The far side is the hemisphere of the Moon permanently turned away from Earth, but calling it the dark side implies it never sees any sunlight — which is not the case. The lunar far side goes through the same cycle of phases as we see on the near side from Earth, with the only period it can technically be called the dark side being the time of full Moon.

Copyright Immediate Media. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without permission from the publisher.

Date Taken: 12/21/2016
Author: BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Category: Astronomy

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