Seeing Stars

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Seeing Stars

Some of the brightest stars in the night sky are visible on these late-spring evenings. There’s Sirius, the brightest of them all, high in the south at nightfall. Orion is off to its upper right. And stars like Regulus, near the Moon, and Aldebaran, near Orion, add to the lightshow.

You might wonder how many stars you can see in the night sky in all. The answer: it depends.

It depends on how dark your sky is, for example. If you have a clear, moonless night, and you can get away from city lights, the number goes way up. Good eyesight helps, too.

Under perfect conditions, most experts say the human eye might be able to see almost 10,000 individual stars. That covers the entire sky. Practically, of course, we see only half of the sky at any moment. So the top number visible at any given time is fewer than 5,000.

As the viewing conditions change, though, the numbers drop dramatically. A full Moon, like we have tonight, casts a bright glare that overpowers most of the stars. Artificial lights add their own glare. And dust and other junk in the air dim the view even more.

So from the suburbs, your view might be limited to a few hundred stars at a time. And from the center of a city, it might be no more than a few dozen.

But there are a few tips for improving the view. Get away from streetlamps and other lights, and give your eyes a few minutes to get used to the darkness. Then enjoy the stars — no matter how many you can see.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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