Why Do Stars Twinkle?

This classic column gives me an excuse to reference one of my favorite songs. This is probably the best rhyming description of a natural phenomena ever created. The other songs on the album are also worth a listen. Ballad Of Sir Isaac Newton is classic. Why Does The Sun Shine was re-done by They Might Be Giants.

It’s probably a very minor point, but to say “Air will refract (bend) light a varying amount depending on its temperature” may not be the most informative way to explain refraction. Light is refracted when it passes from one medium to another of a different density. Like from air to glass, say. That’s how magnifying glasses work: their surfaces bend light to focus or spread it. Drops of water in the air bend light as it passes from air to water, and so we see a rainbow. The classic illustration of refraction is the “bent” straw in a glass of water.

If light passes from warm air (less dense) to cold air (more dense), or vice versa, it’s refracted. Warm air alone won’t cause refraction, nor will cold air. Neither of them bend the light, but both of them next to each other will. Thanks!

The link to “favorite songs” is not working.

Odd, it was working a few days ago when I created the post.

It’s much too late to edit my post. So, you’ll need to use the other songs link and then click on Why Do Stars Twinkle about 3/4 the way down under Space Songs for either 32 or 160 kbps. Sorry about that.

Try reloading the page when you get the forbidding message. It works for me in Firefox.

Forbidden is forbidden is forbidden … :frowning: