The knowledge humankind possesses about space today is vast. It’s exclusive and one of a kind. You have NASA and all other privately owned organizations launching their best probes into space. The ultimate aim is to understand the outer world beyond our eyes. Over the years, the expeditions have succeeded, enabling humans to learn the best about space. But in all, one thing continues to be the same: the constellations and their shapes repeatedly, you might find yourself questioning, “Why Do Constellations Never Change?” or do they, and we are missing out?
What Are Constellations?
To be precise, Constellations are a group of stars visible from Earth at night. Constellations usually have a particular shape with a definitive name after an animal or an object. In real, the stars that appear as part of a constellation are not physically connected, but it is the human imagination that brought them together. But How? It is like, you are joining the dots in a puzzle. The ultimate output looks like an object, person, or animal.
You need a clear sky free of clouds, dust, and pollution to find a constellation at night. However, not all constellations are visible from everywhere on Earth, and it depends on your location around the planet to be able to spot one. Some of the famous constellations in the night sky are:
But one question remains unresolved if the other celestial bodies out in space always evolve and their paths change: “Why do Constellations never change?” And how do the Constellations keep appearing to be the same shape even after so many centuries of being found by humans?
Why Do Constellations Never Change?
Have you heard of the saying that each question comes with its own answer? Well, in this case, something similar happened just now. As previously discussed, it depends on your location on Earth to be able to see a particular constellation. Also, the stars are not physically connected and are located far apart. And both these facts have an important role in finding an answer to the question, “Why do Constellations never change?”
Like the rest of the planets, the stars always move around, but the movement is slow, negligible for the human eye to notice. It takes thousands of years for a star’s position to change completely so that it will pose an effect on the constellation’s appearance.
Also, the Earth’s axial precession makes a constellation appear the same, even after centuries. It is the gradual shift in the orientation of the Earth’s rotational axis, making the constellation’s position appear unchanged in the night sky. Even though the stars are moving on their own path, they will still appear stagnant.
The Change In The Position Of Stars Over Time
Now that you know that stars are independent bodies and undergo positional change over time, finding out the ‘how’ part is mandatory. For that, you need to start with the ‘proper motion’ of stars, which stands as a positional shift of a star in measure to the other stars it is surrounded by. One can measure the shift in degrees, arcseconds, and arcminutes over a surface area of 180 degrees. That is from one end of the sky to another, across the horizon. ‘proper motion,’ when calculated from Earth, depends on the speed of the star (how fast it travels) and the distance of the same from Earth.
Barnard’s Star has the highest proper motion in the sky. It appears as a tiny red mass located at a distance of six light years in the Ophiuchus constellation, the Snake-holder. Sometimes it is termed “Barnard’s Runaway Star” owing to its high velocity. The star has a radial velocity of 110 kilometers per second, while its proper motion is 10.3 arcseconds in a year.
Stars and planets are continuously in motion, just like Earth. Also, each of them is located at a distance of several lightyears. But still, all of them appear to be together and not in motion because of the two-dimensional vision of humankind.