How Far Away Are Stars?

Stars are incredible things. Our own Sun is perhaps one of the most famous stars on our planet; without it, we would quite literally not exist. Stars shine up our sky; they give us a chance to make wishes on them as they shoot across the sky, and they make our world far more interesting.

However, given that they are some distance away you might be wondering – how far away are stars? Do the distances from Earth vary?

Well, this article will give you all the information you need to know on how far away stars are and what their distance means for how we are able to see them.

How far away are stars

How Far Away Are Stars?

Let’s start by answering this fairly straightforward question first – how far away are stars?

The truth is that it all depends on which star you are talking about because the distance from Earth depends on where it is positioned in the night sky. For example, the distance from the Earth to the Sun, our most distinctive star and well-known close star, is 147.1 million km which as you can imagine is an incredibly long distance!

Similarly, the distance to our next closest star, Proxima Centauri, is 25,300,000,000,000 miles. As you can see this is an incredible distance meaning that although the stars in the night’s sky look close enough to touch, they are in fact millions of miles away. The light we see in the night’s sky is the radiated light given off by the star over a long period.

Indeed, if you are looking at a star in the night’s sky you are in fact looking at the past of that star because of how long the light takes to travel from it to Earth.

Now that we’ve explained how far away stars are, let’s discuss some other interesting facts about stars.

Interesting Facts About Stars

So now that we’ve explained exactly how far away stars are, let’s delve a little deeper into the many fascinating features of the stars that illuminate our night sky.

Indeed, the light that illuminates our sky comes from stars that are larger and more luminous than our own sun.

The reason for this is simple; if you can see a star in the night’s sky then it is millions of miles further away than our own Sun which means that it has to be larger and brighter for us to be able to see it.

This also means that most of the stars in the night’s sky wouldn’t be able to support life in the same way as our own Sun because they would be too bright.

Yet this isn’t even the most interesting fact about the stars that are dotted around our universe. The stars that we see at night often have different colors; some are red and some are blue. Whilst we might think of red as representing hotness and blue coolness, for stars it is the other way around.

Indeed, the stars that populate our night’s sky are at their hottest when they are blue and cool when the star turns red. This is because, in deep space, the blue and white light means that the star is getting hotter and hotter and thus emitting more light whereas when the star is red it is cooling down.

However, despite their ability to emit colors which to the human eyes look like bright and colorful images, the stars are in fact not actually those colors. Indeed, stars are in fact known as black bodies.

how far away are stars?

Black bodies are objects like stars that suck in the electromagnetic radiation given off by other celestial objects such as other stars. This helps to not only sustain the stars but also ensure that no radiation is truly wasted as it goes back into the core of the star.

This also allows the star to be able to absorb all the radiation of passing objects like meteors and thus in many ways make them less damaging.

Of course, stars become true black bodies when they die. Black holes are the most destructive and final form of black bodies because they suck in all light that comes into contact with them and don’t emit any in return, unlike active stars.

Many stars end up becoming black holes when they die because as the star gets older it will slowly lose the energy to emit light but retain the ability to consume it which creates the Black Hole.

This all depends on the size of the star of course with only the largest stars becoming black holes.

However, before they die stars burn truly brightly. This is because of the amount of light they are able to omit and as we mention light often appears in a variety of different and fascinating colors. However, part of this is because of the way that we perceive them.

Our eyes are deceptive things; they perceive colors in different ways due to the fact that our brains interpret light in a different way to the way that it is actually transmitted.

This means that whilst we don’t actually see any green stars in the sky, there are many green stars in existence including our own Sun which is in fact a green star.

However, due to the way light shines down on us we interpret the light from the Sun as being bright white rather than the green that it actually is.

And it is not only the green glow of our Sun that might surprise you; it is its size. Whilst the size and scope of our Sun may seem enormous, compared to many other stars in our universe this isn’t the case.

In fact, in comparison to other stars, our own Sun is rather small; indeed, it is officially classed as a dwarf star. This is because stars are classified in three ways – as dwarf stars, giants, or supergiants meaning that due to their relative size our Sun is considered a dwarf star.

This is fortunate however as a star that produced more heat and radiation might not be able to support life on Earth.

Truthfully, without stars, we would not only exist, but the universe would be a much duller place which makes them all the more fascinating.

Final Thoughts

The stars that light up our sky are special because they tell us not only where we come from but also partly where we are going.

A star’s light shines on us from millions of years in the past and it is through studying the light that shines down on us that we can understand the secrets of the universe and how our planet came to be as it is.

The stars also allow us to look into the future and imagine what our own Sun and our planet could be like in thousands or even millions of years’ time.

Through studying the stars, we can make not only our world a better place but also force us to consider how much farther we can travel into space and what we might find there if we push ourselves.

The stars are there to help educate us, provoke us into action, and inspire us into truly reaching for them.

Gordon Watts