The Stars: The Biggest Case AGAINST a Flat Earth

Since it is my job to observe the sky with a telescope on a regular basis, I definitely qualify to explain these facts. As said before, anyone with an understanding of astronomy knows that a flat earth is simply not possible given what we can observe.

This article is long, so there are three major sections: Polaris, the Southern Stars, plus Telescopes and celestial navigation with them. In each section, I will address what flat earthers commonly claim in their arguments that they think proves a flat stationary earth under a rotating sky.


Polaris

Flat Earth Claim: Polaris is Stationary In the Sky While Everything Else Moves Around It

Fact: Our North Star is NOT fully stationary! Polaris is within a degree from the true North Celestial Pole (NCP). Because of this, it actually does move slightly around the NCP but it’s hard to tell at first. For most of North America on any given night between dusk till dawn, Polaris will actually start and end on opposite sides of the pole.

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polaris pole
Above is a closer view of the NCP with star trails after a short exposure. Below is the actual star map superimposed over the trails.

Show Us Proof!: This is easy to show, and anyone with a DSLR can do this! Take a 15-30 minute long exposure of the northern sky at night without any tracking. After that amount of time, you see the exposure star trails, and if you look close enough, you can see that Polaris (the bright star at the middle) actually does leave a trail! This would not happen if it was perfectly stationary!

Flat Earth Claim: Polaris has Always Been Our North Star

Fact: No it has not! It has only been considered the pole star since the renaissance period. There is in fact a 26,000 year cycle where the actual pole shifts and appears to circle in the sky. We call this “precession of the equinoxes.” You can read more about it here, but this essentially means the NCP will move closer to Polaris until the year 2100, after that it will move away and by 3000 AD, Polaris won’t be considered the North Star anymore.

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This is a diagram of the cycle for the NCP, and what years the NCP will be at. Negative years are BC, and positive years are AD.

Show Us Proof!: Over the past few millennia, the existence of different pole stars and precession shift has been observed and recorded. Here are prime examples:

  • Ancient Egyptians believed that the NCP section was “heaven” and designed their pyramids to align true north, and attempted to align a vent from the tomb to the north star, keeping it visible inside. The vents weren’t pointed at Polaris, they were aligned with Thuban, which was the north pole star during that time.
  • Greek Navigator Pytheas described the NCP as “devoid of stars” in 330 BC, thus the stars of Ursa Minor, including Polaris would have appeared to circle around an “empty pole.” Throughout the time of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, it was the entire Ursa Minor constellation that was used for navigation, not Polaris.
  • Ptolemy cataloged 48 constellations that were visible from Alexandria, Egypt during the second century AD; this included the stars that make up Crux. But due to the precession, by 400 AD the stars from Crux no longer rose over European skies, and by the time of the renaissance period, no star from Crux rose over Alexandria.
  • People during the renaissance period recorded that Polaris was still several degrees from the NCP. In fact, It wasn’t until this period when Polaris was given its common name.
  • Nautical Almanacs, which are made for the sole purpose of celestial navigation at sea, have been recording the positions of the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Planets each year since the 18th century. The data is readily available and they show the small shift over the past two centuries!

The Celestial Sphere

Flat Earth Claim: There is no “South Star” or Southern Celestial Pole

Fact: Yes, there is no current “South Star” that is used for navigation, therefore no South Celestial Pole (SCP) right?

sphere

WRONG! Astronomers still observe TWO POLES, one visible over the northern hemisphere, and one visible over the southern hemisphere. Sigma Octantis, the closest star to the SCP, is too dim to be used for navigation; but we can still observe the stars to move around the SCP.

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multi camera 360 degree time lapse of the stars facing east. North Celestial Pole is to the left, Southern Stars are to the right. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/256283035019833694/?lp=true

There simply cannot be two celestial poles in a two dimensional sky! Again, you can find countless long exposures and time lapses that show the motion of the stars moving around the SCP.

Show us Proof!:  If you travel north, for every 69.169 miles you go, Polaris will shift one full degree higher in the sky and vice versa going south. But after you travel south of Earth’s equator, then you cannot see Polaris at all. Not only that, the stars in the southern sky appear to move around the SCP in the opposite direction (clockwise versus the stars going counterclockwise around the NCP).

milky-way-magellanic-clouds-christian-sasse

A good demonstration you can do is simply swing your arms in a forward circular motion – from your perspective you see one arm moving counterclockwise while the other moving clockwise, butt in reality, they are both moving and circling in the same direction! This can ONLY be possible if Earth was a three dimensional object under a three dimensional sky that circles a full 360 degrees!

Flat Earth Claim: The Southern Stars Are Just Perspective

Fact: The claim of “forced perspective” is the easy way out for flat earthers who acknowledge everything that as been discussed above but still don’t see it as proof of a spherical earth. There are things that “forced perspective” wouldn’t account for!

Show Us Proof!: Perspective would not explain why there appear to be stars and constellations that are circumpolar – meaning they always appear to move around a pole and never set. Sure, it’s easy to claim “perspective” from the northern hemisphere, as that fits nearly all flat earth models; but then why would stars like Alpha and Beta Centauri, Achernar, and the entire Southern Cross appear circumpolar over places like New Zealand and the southern tip of South America?

Even if flat earthers will try to acknowledge that a SCP is observed over the southern hemisphere, their claims of “perspective” still wouldn’t work! For example, over a flat earth if someone in New Zealand or Australia was currently observing the SCP directly south from their location, then someone in South Africa wouldn’t see the SCP directly south at the same time, they’d see it to the east. But we know that at any given time every observer in the southern hemisphere sees the SCP directly south over their location no matter where they are!

 

Sydney, Johannesburg, Jakarta, Pape’ete, and Santiago are on five different sides of the southern hemisphere, and over a flat earth, their due south would be in five different directions radiating out from the terrestrial north pole – where on that location, any direction you go in a straight line is moving south!


Telescopes and Celestial Navigation

 Telescope Navigation As We Know It Wouldn’t Work On a Flat Earth!

Anyone can get a telescope that is designed to move with the motion of the sky, especially computerized telescopes. But for computer telescopes on an alt-az mount, you still need to enter your exact coordinate location, your time, your time zone, your date, and perform alignments with up to 3 stars for these devices to work properly.

An equatorial telescope on the other hand relies on the celestial coordinates, so I can still find things with it even without the use of a computer!

As a northern hemisphere observer, contrary to what many flat earthers think, I don’t just point my telescope tube to Polaris and visually observe it to determine if I’m aligned with the celestial coordinates. I actually align my MOUNT to where Polaris is, which you can see in the image below.

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It has to be near perfect, otherwise the setting circles or dials won’t be accurate at all. What about the Southern Hemisphere? The MOUNT has to be as closely aligned with the South Celestial Pole as much as possible. I cannot align with Polaris from the Southern Hemisphere!  

When it comes to the coordinates, the sky has two celestial poles and an equator. The celestial equivalent of latitude is what we call Declination while longitude is Right Ascension. 

0° Declination represents the celestial equator, and both sides have two celestial hemispheres with coordinates that reach up to 90° on either side. Therefore DEC +90° is the NCP, while DEC -90° is the SCP.

One degree is 60 arc minutes (‘) and one arc minute is 60 arc-seconds (“).

Polaris current DEC position in the sky for 2020 is +89°20’58” – again, not perfectly sitting at the NCP. Thanks to the precession, by it’ll gradually shift closer to the NCP by 12 arc minutes (89°32’58”) before shifting away again after the year 2103.

Earth’s Right Ascension is divided into 24 “wedges”, each 15° apart, and they are both measured and said in hours and minutes – while initially sounding confusing, this is meant to reference the 15° per hour/ 0.25° per minute/ 0.00416667° per second motion of everything in the sky… which is pretty slow and not immediately noticeable at first glance with the naked eye.

The way the coordinates are designed practically showcases a perfectly 360° three dimensional celestial sky!

Declination: (90°+90°)2 = 360°

Right Ascension: 15° x 24 = 360°

See how important basic math is?!

Oh, and if any star’s declination plus your latitude is greater than 90, then the star is circumpolar.

For example, the star Capella, with a DEC of +46° will never set below the horizon from locations north of 45° Latitude (45 + 46 = 91, 91 > 90). But for locations south of the 45th parallel like Los Angeles (34° N), it is not circumpolar (34+46=80, 80<90).

In the southern hemisphere, it’s with negative numbers, and must be less than (-90) to be circumpolar. So a star like Alpha Centauri, with a DEC of -60°  is circumpolar over Santiago, Chile {(-60)+(-33)= -93, (-93)<(-90)}, but not over Rio De Janeiro, Brazil {(-60)+(-22)= (-82), (-82)>(-90)}.

The fact that there are stars above the southern hemisphere that a) are only visible from south of the equator, and b) move clock wise and never set above their southern hemisphere locations when they’re supposed to be always moving from east to west on par with what flat earthers say means that the sky acts like a three dimensional sphere with two poles – not a dome with one!

 

When you understand how to navigate using these coordinates, it helps you pinpoint exactly where you want to point your telescope and find the object you’re looking for. The long exposure photos that I have taken, plus being able to comfortably view planets at super high magnification just simply wouldn’t be possible without my telescope being designed to compensate for the 0.004° per second movement of any object in the sky along Earth’s Right Ascension. The way they’re designed to operate just isn’t possible under a domed sky with one pole over a flat plane.

TL;DR – Polaris is NOT stationary, has NOT always been the North Star, and the way astronomers navigate the sky just isn’t possible over a Flat Earth!

Throughout the article, I have purposely left out mentioning Earth’s rotation as the reason for the cause of movement in the sky. This was done to speak at the level of a flat earther who doesn’t believe Earth is rotating.

If you have made it this far, I thank you!

If you want to go over the claims of the stars appearing the same despite the rotation and path through space, go to the following article:

If We’re Moving, then Why are the Stars the Same?!

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2 thoughts on “The Stars: The Biggest Case AGAINST a Flat Earth

  1. As a fellow astronomer, each one of your arguments is correct – but for me the clincher is the simplicity of gravity, although it might be a bit hard for flat-earthers to comprehend.

    Wherever we are positioned on Earth, gravity always pulls us the same way. That should be a clue. Drop a stone and it falls vertically downwards towards the centre of the Earth, the gravitational centre, every time.

    Now imagine a flat Earth. This implies a disc or other shaped terrain with a limited thickness. The centre of gravity will be directly below the centre of the disc. Stand there and it will be the only place on Earth where you will stand vertically!

    Now, jump on a train and travel outwards from the centre of the disc. As the train travels across the flat Earth, the centre of gravity is left behind and despite the railway tracks being flat, an observer on the train begins to sense it is moving uphill.

    Travel far enough and the train will stall. You get out and continue your journey towards the edge of the disc. Eventually you will be climbing what seems like an almost vertical slope as you approach the rim, because the centre of gravity is behind you, not below you. When you drop a stone, it will fall almost sideways!

    A secondary argument is that a flat Earth would be too fragile to exist. The gravitational forces on a disc from the Sun and Moon would split it up.

    That is why when you, I or anyone else who cares to look through a telescope to observe our astronomical environment, we will see stars and planets which are globes. We gain knowledge by looking around us. We can watch the Sun, planets and moons rotate. That is the natural order of the Universe, because gravity dominates – and to declare that every sizable astronomical object which we see is a sphere but that only the Earth is a flat disc defies any credibility test.

    🙄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely!

      We both understand the things at work that keep us on Earth and not flying out into space.

      But nearly every flat earther adamantly doesn’t believe in gravity, nor believes in a rotating earth to account for the undeniable observations of celestial sights having an apparent east-west motion of 15 degrees per hour.

      That’s why I wrote the article the way I did, to speak at “their level.” Show that the undeniable things we observe with just our naked eyes, or the way our astronomy equipment is designed to work can only be possible on a three dimensional shaped object under a three dimensional sky… if that starts making the flat earther think then we can continue on from there and eventually get to gravity. But if they just continue to say “it’s all perspective” then there’s nothing else to say…

      But everyone is different. For me the stars are my “ace in the hole” and believe me, has left such flat earthers at a loss for words when they try to debate me about Polaris and the stars at the observatory.

      Liked by 1 person

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