Astronomical Misconceptions: Stars don't move


This is what might be going through the students mind:

As we look up at the night sky we can observe the millions upon millions of stars whose light reaches our Earth. Even though these stars light might be hard to see at times they seem to stay in place. Nigh after night the sky seems to look the same. This must mean that the stars stay in the same place. No matter what, stars and constellation will always be there in the exact same spot that they were found many nights ago. The Big dipper and Polaris are always in the night sky. It must be the same for all the other stars.

The Truth:

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This is what the scientists say:

Though it is true that stars and constellations do remain stationary, for the most part, the constellations you see actually rise and set much like the sun and moon. This is due to the rotation of the earth. As the earth spins the stars and constellations seem to move from east to west. However even when they are moving across the night sky, they stay in the same pattern.
We should also remember that our earth does not only revolve around its axis, but it also revolves around the sun. As the earth follows its path around our the sun we see the constellations move to the west gradually through out the year. This is becouse the earth is looking at a different direction during the winter than when it is during the summer. Because of this we witness different stars and constellations throughout the year.
There are some constellations that do not set below the horizon line and do not seem to move to the west much. Stars that are close to the celestial poles have a very small circle of spin. The celestial poles are imaginary points where the Earths north and south axis point into space. These stars include Polaris and Ursa Major and Minor


The major reason why some kids may have this misconception is because of they're own observations. When they observe the night sky it looks the same as the night before. They have no idea what exactly they are looking at or what to search for to find any differences.

Another explanation for this is because kids are told that if you ever need to find north just look for the north star, Polaris. Teachers say the same thing about the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, or the big and little dipper. These constellations will always be in the night sky. So children use these two facts as models and arrive to the conclusion that all stars stay in the same place every night.