Whether you're in the country or the city, the stars loom above, performing an intricate celestial dance. Since our earliest days, humans have always looked to the stars for direction and new information. Recent decades have seen these astronomical efforts propel to new heights. Exploring our galaxy (and the galaxies beyond) is a matter of precise mathematics, and our computer matrices and technological advancements make this easier than ever. Here are three fascinating facts about stars.
Stars create a timeline of the universe
In the 1600s, the mathematician Johannes Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion on which NASA and other space agencies still rely. Kepler's equations allow scientists and astronomers to predict the trajectory, speed, and location of celestial bodies across time with great accuracy. (The successful future landing of space shuttles, for example, depend on the accurate analysis and implementation of these mathematical laws.) Stars move in predictable patterns, and these patterns can be traced not only forward but also backward, all the way to the dawning of time. Long ago, when pollution and smog did not cloud the viewing of celestial events, people of ancient civilizations saw the stars clearly with the naked eye. By tracing a star's pattern backward in time with the modern software, we can see exactly what they saw, as well as the skies of future generations.
Stars encode the history of humankind
Modern computer software allows us to input coordinates, recreating the exact location of the stars during a specific date and time. By adhering to Kepler's equation, this software allows us to see the progression of the stars over millennia on our screens. A star's movement is so reliable that we can use it as a reference point for deciphering ancient historical events. These anthropological implications awake an entirely new era of astronomical science. The original interpretation of the events in the stars, although at the time not scientifically understood, are reliable and relevant records for chronological dating. We can correlate the records of astronomical activity to other events in historical texts. These “events of the ether” thus serve as historical markers for deciphering the activities of ancient days and encoding the tentative timeline of man's tumultuous past.
Stars remain an unsolved mystery
What are we seeing when we look at the stars? Even planets once were considered “wandering stars,” not to mention comets and shooting stars. Present day, we classify stars according to specific attributes, including their spectra (the elements a star absorbs) and temperature. In a constellation, individual stars combine together to form a recognizable shape. Constellations have anthropomorphic traits that are easy to identify and associated with significant meaning. Stars have long captivated the attention of prominent scholars, historians, and philosophers. On a clear night, ancient man could see 2,000 to 2,500 stars. We now know our galaxy alone contains an estimated 100,000 million stars. And, as far as we know, there are least 200 billion other galaxies! This astronomical number of celestial bodies is continually updated as our technological advances shine more light on these night lights in the universe. In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope transcended our previous limitations in the science of the stars. The galaxies have opened in front of our eyes – and this is only the beginning. As technology continues to advance, we are increasingly able to go beyond our planet and, literally, reach the stars. So there's plenty of freedom to Name a Star.