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.

There are a lot of flat earthers who don’t like it when people like me use the stars and sky observations… claiming that I should be looking at the earth instead. The reason why they say this is because they know they cannot debunk the major talking points I’ll go through in this article, or will change the subject, or try and pull an asinine claim out of their top hats to try and combat it.

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.

northtrails_malin
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!

The picture above is one that yours truly took, and this is 30 minutes of raw exposure! If you look at Polaris closely, you can see it’s not perfectly center after 30 minutes of exposure! 

This is a zoomed in section from the previous image

If you want to try this, to keep your camera exposing for that long, make sure you set your F/stop to a high number, like f/15 or higher to make the light accumulate much slower and not overexpose the shot. 

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).

That same region in the sky, where the constellation Octans is, rises higher the further south you go. It’s not a very bright constellation, and while the star Sigma Octantis is technically the “south star” being a degree away from the SCP, it’s not bright enough for practical navigation. However, you can see in the looping image blow that certain stars don’t set, and some objects that do like the Magellanic clouds will appear to rise again soon after setting.

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 (appear to never set) 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!

And don’t get me started on their dumb asinine claims of everyone having “their own personal dome” to account for why people in the southern hemisphere would see the same stars when looking due south when they’re supposed to be facing different directions depending on their longitude.

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

Flat Earth Claim: Telescopes reveal the “truth” that stars and “wandering stars” are in fact just pretty watery lights in the heavens… and not distant worlds. 

I’ve seen several videos circulating around where people try to record video footage of stars with either a high telephoto zoom lens like on a Nikon P900, or with actual telescopes. Instead of showing stars as distant points of light, you see them as these round, turbulent discs that look like they’re under water. But then they do the same thing for planets, and even the Moon?!

And people are dumb enough to believe those videos?

FACT: THE OBJECTS SEEN THOSE VIDEOS ARE NOT FOCUSED PROPERLY! 

Twisting the focus knob doesn’t increase your zoom while using a telephoto lens or a telescope, it moves your lens to the proper focal plane where the light comes properly into focus, and thus you can resolve the image. Your ability to zoom has everything to do with the optics involved and the properties of light entering your objective and into your eyes or camera sensors, and resolving at the proper focal distance.

When stars are properly focused, they will always appear as sharp points of light. It won’t matter how much I try to “zoom in” with different focal lengths to make the star bigger, they will never be seen as sharp discs! Why do they look watery in those videos? because of our atmospheric turbulence!

When planets are properly focused, they DO appear as tiny discs of varying sizes depending on their actual size and distance from us.

  • Saturn’s rings are obvious even at low magnification, and the tilt of the rings changes appearance over time. You can see shadows casted on, and casted by Saturn’s rings!
  • Jupiter’s cloud tops are visible, the great red spot can be seen to move across Jupiter’s disc, and its four Galilean moons can also be seen to change position over time as they orbit the host planet.
  • Jupiter’s moons can cast visible shadows on the planet itself, and these shadows move as the respective moon moves in orbit around Jupiter.
  • Mercury and Venus gradually changes appearance with its own phases similar to our own Moon phases – at times it looks like a small full white circle, and other times it looks like a thin crescent with most of the disc in shadow, yet its angular size is significantly larger (because it’s closer to earth!).
  • Mars can appear as small as Uranus does, or larger than Saturn’s disc depending on its distance from Earth.
  • Mars’ surface features can be easily seen when it’s closer, including ice caps and darker regions that shift over time.
  • When at opposition, Mars appears as a full circle, but appears as a semi-circle (or gibbous) with the rest partially in shadow when it isn’t.

These are all observable and repeatable evidences you can see with a telescope! Because you can see shadows on these planets in some form or another, that means these planets are REFLECTING light, not generating! You cannot cast visible shadows on sources generating light!

 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?!

Why Do the Stars Change with Each Season?

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4 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

  2. You are arguing to a model. You believe in your model. The Earth and Sky are not your model. Your ability to “explain” the motion of the stars according to your model does not equate to objective proof. Your thinking is restrained by your education which was the globe / heliocentric model. You presume that your model is true in all respects and you do not explain how for some aspects, your model cannot be true. For example, IF the Earth was spinning weaving planet in constant motion through space we would NOT observe perfect concentric star trails. Every six months the Earth would be on the opposite side of the Sun on its orbit and the sky view would be different for an observer on Earth. There is no evidence that the Earth is an object in motion – no evidence of axial rotation or orbital motion. The belief in these things is inferred from the model and not established in true science. In short, star motion is not and cannot be a proof that the Earth is a sphere in space. To reiterate, this is a common taught belief based on presumptive logic and reasoning and argued from a model.

    Like

    1. And you are merely regurgitating the same points I’ve heard a lot by people like you.

      “you are arguing a model”

      I don’t believe in a model, I can’t believe in something that’s scientifically correct, I accept it. And when it comes to the heliocentric “model,” at least it’s universally agreed upon in the scientific community, and something that predictions and experiments can be successfully made with. Flat earthers do NOT have a working model they agree upon, nor can they make successful predictions – Once you can make predictions that are undeniably verified based on a flat earth model, then we can talk.

      “your ability to ‘explain’ the motion of the stars… does not equate to objective proof”

      Except it totally does, because these are all simple observations you can go and do yourself, and make predictions on; or when it comes to things like precession – observations that have been recorded for hundreds of years that help paint the proofs of the stars above shifting their positions over time. I’m sorry that some observable and recorded celestial phenomena don’t conform to your lifespan or your attention span, it doesn’t make them fake.

      “If the earth was a spinning weaving planet in constant motion through space we would not observe perfect concentric star trails, and every six months the earth would be on the opposite side of the sun on its orbit and the sky view would be different for an observer”

      So you’re saying that in six months we’d see a different set of stars in the sky due to earth’s orbit around the sun? Guess what, WE DO! There’s a reason why in December we see winter constellations like Orion, Taurus, Gemini, etc… while in June we see summer constellations like Scorpius and Sagittarius… for example, Scorpius always appears to rise just as Orion sets and vice versa, and you’ll never see the two respective constellations visible in the sky on any given night. The reason is simple, in December, Earth’s night side is facing towards the winter constellations while the Sun blocks our view of the summer constellations, and vice versa. Don’t believe me? Why don’t you make a note of what constellations you see tonight and where they are in the sky, and then what you see 3 months from now, and then six months from now… what we see in the sky changes gradually every night, my friend.

      I explain these things more in these posts:

      Why Do the Stars Change with Each Season?

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

      “There is no evidence of axial rotation or orbital motion…”

      The observations of perfect concentric star trails and celestial poles ARE proof of an axial rotation and polar regions. The fact that there are two, not one, but TWO observable points in the sky where the stars appear to circle around – counterclockwise in the north and clockwise in the south, is proof of a three dimensional sky over a three dimensional sphere.
      No evidence of orbital motion? remember what I said about us seeing different stars at night six months from now? Yes, that is evidence!

      “your thinking is restrained by your education… you presume that your model is true in all aspects… the belief in these things is inferred from the model and not established in true science.”

      No… the observations that I went over in this article are all things that were long established BEFORE heliocentrism came into play, from back when Ptolemy’s celestial sphere over a geocentric earth was the accepted model to explain everything.

      Models to explain our place and understanding of the universe constantly change with new information that has been predicted, tested, verified, and repeated. That’s how science works! For example, those who understand the geometry of the solar system can predict solar eclipses and their precise locations down to the exact second from start to finish and tracing its path down to the square mile. Doing it successfully just once means the model used to make the prediction has been undeniably verified, and it’s been proven right every single eclipse!

      I don’t presume spherical earth is true, I know it is because I apply it every time I use my equatorial telescopes; because for them to work properly and track with the motion of the sky (earth’s rotation), they require precise geometric alignments with the celestial poles (those axial points of rotation) and celestial coordinates above my location, which are designed with a “celestial sphere” in mind.

      Liked by 1 person

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