Why do stars change colour when they twinkle? (Beginner)

Why do stars change their colour constantly every second? red-blue-red-blue..............

This is because of scintillation ("Twinkling") as the light passes through the atmosphere of the Earth. As the air moves in and out, the starlight is refracted, often different colors in different directions. Because of this "chromatic abberation," stars can appear to change colors when they are twinkling strongly.

 

This page updated on June 27, 2015

About the Author

Dave Kornreich

Dave was the founder of Ask an Astronomer. He got his PhD from Cornell in 2001 and is now an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Physical Science at Humboldt State University in California. There he runs his own version of Ask the Astronomer. He also helps us out with the odd cosmology question.

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