Did You Know That Stars are Not Visible From Space?

The next time you point your telescope to the stars or look up at the stars, it is important to remember that this is a view that can only be enjoyed here on planet Earth.

If you took a trip to the moon or outer space, the only glowing bodies you will be able to see are within our solar system. There won’t be a star in sight. Many find this to be interesting. Star light can only be viewed within Earth atmosphere.

The first astronaut that free fall from space after riding on a helium balloon in the 1960s was among the first to see this first hand. Just as he pierces through the stratosphere, the stars vanished from view. He was only able to see the glowing reflection of the earth and the moon. One would think that with the absent of distortion and pollution within the atmosphere, one should be able to see twice the number of stars. But this is not the case.

Why is this? We rely on our atmosphere and the sun to view stars images – with the naked eye. Outside our atmosphere we cannot see stars. Remember footage of the Apollo missions? Did you notice that they aren’t any stars in the footage? You cannot see stars from the surface of the moon because of the lack of an atmosphere.

To understand this effect it is important to understand how the eyes filter or focus an image, unfortunately, this is outside the scope of this article. However, for simplicity, we still use two theories of light; one depicts light as a wave vibration, and the other depicts light as particle. Wave-light demonstrates minute energy signature, while, particle light is more energetic. Of the two light concepts, star light has wave characteristics and therefore requires amplification before it can stimulate our optical sensors. This is where the sun and our atmosphere come into play.

Although the sun is on the other side of the globe- at nights, its ambient light is reflected and refracted off the atmosphere and encompasses the earth. We cannot see the sun at night but the sun makes it possible for us to see at light.

When the earth experience an eclipse of the sun, night on the opposite side where the eclipse occurs will experience an unusually darker night. This is caused from a reduction in the sun light reaching the atmosphere. 

The next time you point your telescope to the stars or look up at the stars, it is important to remember that this is a view that can only be enjoyed here on planet Earth.

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33 Responses to “Did You Know That Stars are Not Visible From Space?”
  1. Michael I. Morgan Says...

    On November 7, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    The article above is, unfortunately, totally askew. The only thing relating to star viewing that is not experienced in “outer” (non-atmospheric) space is the twinkling effect, since the air is responsible for refracting starlight before it reaches the observer on the ground. Above the atmosphere, stars are not only visible, they are significantly brighter than when viewed from Earth. As for stars not appearing in “moon” photos, this is a matter of the camera exposure and/or the sensor being dominated or overwhelmed by a very large or intense light source, as in the Sun or – just perhaps – stage floodlamps.

    I wonder who would be educated enough to use the scientific and technical language seen, yet produce such a potentially confusing conglomeration of false and inaccurate information.


  2. Steven Says...

    On November 17, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    This is totally false. Stars are be perfectly visible from space with the naked eye so long as you are not looking in the direction of something bright. The reason stars were not visible in photographs from the moon was that its surface was too bright. For the exposure to be long enough to register faint starlight, the much brighter surface of the moon would be overexposed. The same goes for the human eye. In bright conditions, (such as looking out the window of a well lit room at night) the pupil is too constricted to see starlight.


  3. Edwin Sloane Says...

    On January 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I can’t believe this article was even posted. I read it out of curiosity, waiting for it to start making sense, but it never did. As previously stated, it probably never made sense because it is completely wrong.


  4. Sakimoto Says...

    On February 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    This article should be corrected or removed. It is blatantly false to claim our eyes need earth’s atomsphere to see the stars. It is strange that this thing is dressed up to sound scientifically authoritative but be so wrong….

    BTW, you referenced Apollo missions in your article. The Apollo astronauts were trained in celestial navigation. It would be rather hard to do this without being able to see stars….


  5. gorkheim Says...

    On May 18, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Please correct or remove this article. It\’s rated too high in Google. This kind of misinformation spreads quickly.

    Also read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Examination_of_Apollo_Moon_photographs#Absence_of_stars


  6. Animesh Says...

    On October 18, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Is this supposed to be a joke ?


  7. Tom Guest Says...

    On November 1, 2010 at 2:37 am

    I just came across this article. What a crock of baloney! Our atmosphere causes twinkling, and otherwise gets in the way of good seeing; it does not enable it.

    Photos by the astronauts do show stars, but not the ones with both the moon and the sky in the same frame, because of dynamic range limitations.

    And to assert that telescopes only work because of the atmosphere ignores the spectacular successes of the Hubble Space Telescope.

    I was hoping that the article was posted on April 1st, but apparently it isn’t meant as a joke. Whoever wrote this article is both ignorant and arrogant. We can’t know everything, but we should be responsible for knowing what is that we know and don’t know. The author — “little Tesla” — should have his/her right to post anything about science revoked.


  8. Bob Says...

    On November 1, 2010 at 4:00 am

    So so wrong. Awesomely wrong.


  9. andy ross Says...

    On November 1, 2010 at 7:28 am

    hahahahahahahahaha!!


  10. joe Writer Says...

    On November 2, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Little Tesla, should hang your head in shame.
    Typical of modern Education


  11. elf Says...

    On November 10, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    obvious troll is obvious


  12. Tasgall King Says...

    On December 23, 2010 at 10:15 am

    These comments are actually kind of hilarious. Based on what you guys said, should I assume that you’ve tried this before? I highly doubt you’ve been to space, so I’d have to guess not.

    This article just claims that you can’t see stars from space with the Naked Eye, which is true. The articles gorkheim linked to agree in that the first shuttles’ cameras required an exposure time of up to 3 minutes before getting any meaningful navigation data from the sky (these are the same shuttles Sakimoto referenced). As for Tom’s argument, this is also the same reason the Hubble telescopes can take pictures: long exposures (as in, leaving the camera shutter open for extended periods of time, though they probably use other methods as well) and special cameras; most color pictures of space (such as nebulae) are actually color representations of different kinds of radiation collected (eg: radiation given by hydrogen shows as red, helium shows yellow etc) and aren’t even close to what it would actually look like.

    Steven basically agreed with the article while arguing against it, “…perfectly visible from space with the naked eye…the exposure [needs] to be long enough…”. While the exposure time is true for the cameras they used, it’s also true for human eyes, we won’t be able to see the stars unless we set our eyes’ ‘exposure time’ long enough, which we can’t do. I’d love to see Tom’s “Photos by the astronauts [that] do show stars”, since I’ve never seen one (unless you’re referring to the ‘Micheal Under Glass’ images, which are computer enhanced).

    For a good example of what space looks like, I suggest watching this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uASGDZfUSjE
    Basically, it’s a “home video” of space. It’s actually what got me here, after searching Google for “Why aren’t stars visible from space”. Also, almost any video in the ‘related’ list show the same thing.

    Overall though, this article, though not a great scientific reference or source, is fairly well written, and for the most part, true. Please do research and critical thinking next time you try to ‘prove’ an article wrong, and claiming that it should be removed.

    As for why stars ARE visible from Earth, my guess/reasoning is that the atmosphere (with all it’s reflective/refractive properties) acts as a giant lens, far more powerful then any telescope or observatory. If you’ve ever looked through a glass sphere, you’d know what I mean: just imagine being inside said glass sphere. This would effectively magnify the extremely faint lights that the stars give us to the point where they’re visible to the naked eye. That’s my theory at least, feel free to counter with evidence and research if you want.


  13. Tasgall King Says...

    On December 23, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Aww… It removed paragraph spacing… Now my post looks like a wall of text… :(


  14. Ray Lotfi Says...

    On January 5, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Now I just don’t know who to believe. Are the stars visible by naked eye from a place of no atmosphere or not?
    If they are visible, then why sky is dark in the space? Does light need media to be excited or not. When you shoot a beam from point A to B one would not see the beam if he is looking 90 degrees from the beam?
    Still I am not in astronomy or quantum physics.


  15. O.G. Says...

    On February 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I just want to know how many people commenting on this have been to outer space. I\’ve heard astronauts say you can\’t even see the sun from space either.


  16. Solon Says...

    On March 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Little Tesla is correct that you can not see stars, by eye, or with a regular camera, from space or from the surface of a planet with no atmosphere. The reason, I believe, is that light, which is all in the UV and X-ray wavelengths in space, is traveling as a quasi-planewave. It is converted to visible light by our atmoshere, which is acting in a diffraction focusing manner.


  17. PJB Says...

    On July 9, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    You know, you guys talk a look, but don’t bother to do your research. See here, straight from the horses mouth at NASA: http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/qa_star.html


  18. paper thin color view... grey water everywhere Says...

    On November 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    interesting post…recent experiences and further contemplation lead me to this article through a search: ‘are stars visible in space?” seems like the subject of visibility and invisibility is a HOT topic… the race to make things visible that are invisible.. or the race to make invisible that which is in plane sight. enjoyed the reading and all the comments.


  19. tim the astronaut Says...

    On December 5, 2011 at 12:21 am

    wow… i can’t believe this article is still posted. i believe little tesla thinks there are only 8 planets, the sun is constantly running away from the moon, and astronauts wear white because black would make them invisible.


  20. Stickinthemud Says...

    On December 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Well, I guess everybody has it half right half wrong!

    Light pollution on Earth and atmospheric interference prevent us from seeing stars from the ground, unless you have a clear night. The clearer the night, the more you see.

    Camera exposures obviously have it hard to find those tiny tidbits of light from the stars, since Earth-bound cameras are meant to absorb much more. Cameras designed for space have it a little easier, but because of the enclosing darkness of space only a limited amount of photons reach the lens, hence the extended exposures.

    However, the naked human eye is one of the most advanced “cameras” nature has ever provided. It has the ability to collect and process more light than any man-made camera. To say that you can’t see starlight from space is ludicrous. If on a clear night our eyes are still unable to see the full effect due to atmospheric interference, what do you think will happen if you take that away? You will see more!!

    Besides, if you ask the right people they will tell you:
    “…in space the stars look wonderful, bright (although not twinkling) and very clear. What has probably caused some of this confusion is that in the typical photo or video image from space, there aren’t any stars. This is because the stars are much dimmer than the astronaut, Moon, space station, or whatever the image is been taken of. It is extremely hard to get the exposure correct to show the stars. Luckily, the human eye handles the different light levels much better than a camera does.”

    Dr. Eric Christian
    (July 2001)


  21. Your Father is SAD Says...

    On January 4, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Stars are visible in space with naked eyes, much clearer and brighter than seen from Earth’s surface (as long as not looking directly at the Sun)!

    We cannot see stars in the daylight because we are obstructed by the Sun. We cannot see stars in the night if we are close to powerful sources of light.

    Stars are very brightly visible in the night time, in low light conditions, especially in places far away from cities or towns.

    Search on YouTube for:
    “Plains Milky Way – Watch in HD”

    It’s sad to witness brainwash at its finest, in order to cover up the fake moon landing.

    Search on YouTube:
    “Patrick Moore asks the alleged Apollo 11 crew could you actually see the stars”.


  22. Alexander Says...

    On May 7, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Stars are visible in space and here is solid evidence,

    ISS Stop-Motion Sequence Photography of Earth (watch in 1080p from minute 3:00 onward):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoGnUNZNXHo&list=UUEToPMxkKs9mVqVZQiezLYw&index=2&feature=plcp

    Peace!


  23. Alexander Says...

    On May 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

    From NASA:

    Question: Is it true that in space a person is not able to see stars all around them like we do here on Earth?

    Answer: No, I hear that in space the stars look wonderful, bright (although not twinkling) and very clear. What has probably caused some of this confusion is that in the typical photo or video image from space, there aren’t any stars. This is because the stars are much dimmer than the astronaut, Moon, space station, or whatever the image is been taken of. It is extremely hard to get the exposure correct to show the stars. Luckily, the human eye handles the different light levels much better than a camera does.

    Dr. Eric Christian
    (July 2001)

    SOURCE: http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/qa_star.html#starsp


  24. Nate Allan Says...

    On July 23, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    If you where to try to observe the stars or sun from space your “naked eyes” would be sucked out of their sockets. :-) That is no small point actually; our view of things is shaped by our tools of observation. Lenses, windows, etc. each will have an effect on what we see. Certain frequencies will be shifted or blocked. Most glass blocks UV band B for instance (unfortunately the healthy one).
    I’m not sure I necessarily believe it, but I know that some have speculated that the majority of the sun’s energy arrives in dielectric form and only becomes the transverse energy we observe once it enters a medium. If true, this could almost be stretched to support the idea that sunlight wouldn’t be visible from space, though even yours eyes form a medium, so maybe not.


  25. darren Says...

    On July 31, 2012 at 6:06 am

    For me Im going with the stars would be visible not only that I suspect they would be one of the most awsome things to see in creation. With that being said I find the responses to Patrick moors questions about if the Apollo astronauts had seen the stars massively suspect


  26. Steve Says...

    On September 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    This picture was taken by someone on board the ISS, so yes you can see stars in space as long as you’re not looking toward any powerful source of light (the sun, daylight side of the earth).

    http://www.erichufschmid.net/img/ISS006-E-32103-Feb2003-Donald-Pettit.jpg


  27. David Says...

    On October 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Please remove this article. It has no truth and is utter and complete junk science.


  28. William400 Says...

    On November 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Stars are certainly visible in space with the ‘naked eye’ (from behind a visor). Armstrong informed Patrick Moore that he did not see a single star on the way to the moon. Aldrin said that he could see ‘millions of stars’.

    How much more evidence (besides plenty of other oddities pertaining to the so-called ‘moon-landings’) does one need to realise that the Apollo ‘landings’ were utterly fake?

    Only those who cannot bear to admit that the US government swindled and conned the American public continue to believe.


  29. mohsen Says...

    On January 27, 2013 at 9:51 am

    are here really a scientific place?!!!!!!!!!
    just shit on your scientific writings.


  30. Arty Pendragon Says...

    On January 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Neil Armstrong 1970 BBC interview. Its on Youtube.
    Its is Armstrong who here in this interview claims he did not see stars in space between the Moon and Earth or on the surface of the Moon.

    Search for the interview if you do not believe me. Again its on Youtube.


  31. Arty Party Says...

    On January 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    The blackness of space is like the black space in a Crooke’s Tube. From wikipedia:

    By the 1870s, British physicist William Crookes and others were able to evacuate tubes to a lower pressure, below 10−6 atm. These were called Crookes tubes. Faraday had been the first to notice a dark space just in front of the cathode, where there was no luminescence. This came to be called the “cathode dark space”, “Faraday dark space” or “Crookes dark space”. Crookes found that as he pumped more air out of the tubes, the Faraday dark space spread down the tube from the cathode toward the anode, until the tube was totally dark. But at the anode (positive) end of the tube, the glass of the tube itself began to glow.


  32. Piran Ezra Says...

    On February 4, 2013 at 7:27 am

    When a star dies it becomes a black hole sucking in everything around it… to where we do not know. This one example shows we know nothing. All theories collapse when you can’t see the stars in space which is why people get upset and say its ludicrous when actually it just doesn’t fit into our limited brains… we need to be able to explain things using the knowledge we have. We don’t even know how stars work… If they are nuclear fusions why does our sun stay the same size… apparently the core fuses 620 million tons of hydrogen gas per second and has been doing so for over 4 billion years so surely, under our laws of physics, it should decrease in size? I like the idea that stars are converters converting from another dimension… creating life, kind of the opposite of black holes.


  33. astroboy Says...

    On February 25, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    “To understand this effect it is important to understand how the eyes filter or focus an image, unfortunately, this is outside the scope of this article.”

    Yes its outside the scope of this article , its also out of the scope of physics


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