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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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 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 west. 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!
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, and your date for these devices to align and 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!
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?!
My equatorial telescope mount needs to be aligned with a celestial pole and equator for it to work properly, otherwise even if I tried using the coordinates listed on the dials, it won’t find what I’m looking for. Observers in the southern hemisphere cannot use Polaris as a guide or set their mounts up to align with the NCP, they need to use the SCP instead!
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 two dimensional sky over a two dimensional 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:
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