The lead article on our website today, “Can We See the Surfaces of Stars?” was written by Dr. Danny Faulkner, our astronomer on staff. In today’s main web article, Dr. Faulkner responds to a question we received about whether astronomers have actually seen the surface of a star (outside of our Sun).
Dr. Faulkner joined the Answers in Genesis staff at the beginning of this year. Dr. Faulkner has a PhD in astronomy and was on the faculty of the University of South Carolina Lancaster for over 25 years. He retired as a full professor and now holds the title of distinguished professor emeritus. Dr. Faulkner oversees the programs in our state-of-the-art planetarium and observatory. You can find out more about him on his speaker page.
Dr. Faulkner has a passion for astronomy and God’s Word. He is already working on an exciting new planetarium show on comets (that will be ready for the start of this summer at the Creation Museum), and he is leading a brand-new observatory program on the sun, where participants can view sunspots through filters on our telescopes. The AiG observatory is now being used for both daytime and evening programs.
Dr. Faulkner is also conducting a new teaching series on astronomy using the Creation Museum’s Stargazer’s Planetarium. Check the Creation Museum website for all program listings—I encourage you to recheck it from time to time as new programs are added. Some programs will be advertised at the museum for that day.
I also encourage you to read Dr. Faulkner’s response to the astronomy question that was sent in. I’ve included the first few paragraphs of his article below, plus the original question:
Read the full article at this link.To whom it may concern,
Thank you for taking the time to answer this question. I looked on the “astronomy” section and could not find the answer. I have watched Dr. Jason Lisle’s “Created Cosmos” (which is outstanding by the way). I have friend who says we have never seen the surface of a star. Is this correct? In the video, several stars are show, ie: Betelgeuse, Alpha Centauri. He says they are too far away for us to see, we can only see their light, so we are assuming how big they are or what they might look like. He even requested a picture of a star if you have one. Thank you. PRAISE THE LORD! The heavens declare the glory of God. . . Ps 19:1.
Thanks for your question. Stars are very far away—so far that they appear as mere points of light even through the most powerful telescopes, so we normally can’t see their surfaces. However, star images actually aren’t points, but instead are very tiny disks.
Astronomers express how small a stellar disk is by its angular diameter, the angle that it subtends. We divide a degree into 60 minutes and a minute into 60 seconds, so a degree contains 3,600 arc seconds. As small as an arc second is, stellar disks are much smaller still. A large stellar image might have an angular diameter of one-thousandth an arc second (one milli-arc second, or mas). One mas is the diameter of a dime viewed from about 2,000 miles! Given how small this is, it isn’t surprising that we can’t actually see stellar disks in a telescope.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
I thank Steve Golden for his assistance in writing this blog post.