You would think that it would be a no-brainer, wouldn’t you? Surely astronauts can see stars in space! It’s space! It’s where all the stars live. Well, it’s actually a topic that has aroused much curiosity and speculation amongst us mere Earth dwellers. After all, we haven’t been to space, so we are just relying on the testimonies of those who have and the images they send back. Some might say that the images of space contradict the testimonies of astronauts when it comes to this topic. Conspiracy theorists have certainly got their teeth into this one, but now we are going to discover the truth.
So, can astronauts see stars in space? Astronauts can see stars in space, and they can do it with much more ease. Up in space, nighttime takes place 16 times a day, providing astronauts with plenty of time to stargaze. Their views are also clearer as they are unaffected by factors like pollution and weather, unlike us permanent residents of Earth.
So with nothing hindering their view, we can confirm that astronauts can spot stars.
But what does it all look like with just the naked eye? Do astronauts need to use any equipment, and what about stars not appearing in space images; how does that all work?
Well, let’s find out!
Can You See Stars With The Naked Eye In Space?
You can see stars in space with the naked eye, just like you can on Earth. Although, they are clearer to the naked eye when one is in space.
No telescope is required for an astronaut to get a good eye-full of some stars.
However, some specialist equipment is used when looking to zoom in on a particular feature of the galaxy.
One important fact to note is that, as we know, every human eye is different.
That’s why some people need glasses, and some don’t because we all have varying levels of vision.
This is particularly relevant to older astronauts as their eyesight will have become less sensitive to light.
So, an astronaut with strong eyesight will be able to see more of the stars in space than an astronaut with weaker eyesight.
However, it has to be said that even if an astronaut possessed the best human eyesight ever known, they would not be able to see every star in space.
Estimates suggest that there are between 100 billion to 400 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone!
Can you imagine if the human eye could see all of them?
There would be no darkness in space, just a blinding array of cosmic beauty. Why isn’t this the case?
Some of these stars are so far away that they are too dim for the human eye to identify.
In fact, such is the distance of some stars that Nasa’s most powerful telescopes cannot bring them into sight.
This is the infinity of space, after all. We’re still discovering new stars and planets all the time, and I suspect we will be for some time to come.
What Do Stars Look Like In Space?
Stars appear just as they do on Earth, like tiny illuminated dots.
Having said this, we do believe that stars appear brighter and more defined to the naked eye in space than on Earth.
This comes down to a few variables.
The first we have already talked about is the conditions of Earth.
Back on our home planet, our view can often be blocked by clouds, pollution, and the atmosphere, therefore limiting the clarity with which we can see a star.
Up in space, none of these obstacles obstruct an astronaut’s viewpoint.
So, the astronaut’s view is unhindered, but it is also clearer due to the contrast between space’s darkness and the stars being greater.
To someone who doesn’t know the nature of stars, these tiny dots in the sky might seem dull, albeit a pretty natural decoration.
Under certain conditions, they’ll twinkle, but that really is the exception rather than the norm.
We have to remember what stars actually are.
They are humongous fireballs of gas, completely uninhabitable to any known creature.
They are just like our very own sun, except most of them are much, much bigger.
They only appear as these tiny dots because of another variable we have already discussed: distance.
The sheer gap between stars and our solar system means that we cannot see stars in the appearance I have just described.
To be honest, I’m kind of thankful we can’t.
I would be a bit worried if, before bed one night, I looked through my telescope and saw one of them on Earth’s doorstep!
By using advanced technology, we have been able to realize the formidable nature of stars that appear oh so nice as tiny dots.
We have one in our solar system to check out and others relatively nearby to make comparisons with.
The closest star we can find to our solar systems is about four light-years away.
How far is that?
Oh, only 20 trillion miles.
Why Can’t You See Stars In Space Images?
Stars are often not visible in images due to the fast exposure time setting on the cameras used.
Now we’re getting to the juicy gossip of conspiracy theorists.
Many of these theorists believe that the lack of stars visible in images from space is substantial evidence proving the moon landings and visits to space are fake.
However, unfortunately for them, there are scientific arguments that explain why this happens.
Fast exposure times allow astronauts to obtain fantastic images of Earth because it is receiving so much sunlight and is so close.
Stars, on the other hand, are very far away and do not produce enough light to show up in images when captured in this setting.
So, in other words, the camera focuses on the brightest light source within its frame.
Anything in that frame, like Earth, the lunar surface, the space station, or an astronaut in a spacesuit, is going to come into focus very clearly due to receiving vast amounts of light from our sun.
Anything in the distant (and I mean extremely distant) background isn’t going to come into focus because it is not receiving the same amount of light.
Can an astronaut capture an image of stars whilst up in space? Yes, they can.
They would just need to use a long-exposure setting instead.
This is how astrophotographers capture images of stars from Earth.
Why don’t astronauts do this?
Well, I think they’ve got bigger fish to fry when up in space.
It really was as simple as we thought.
Astronauts can see stars in space, and they even have a better view. It’s just not a priority to photograph them whilst up there.
The naked eye works just the same up in space.
Sadly, you’re not going to gain some super-extraterrestrial eyesight once you’ve passed through the Earth’s atmosphere.
On the other hand, you’re not going to see your eyesight limited either.
Stars are very similar in appearance to the naked eye when in space.
In our lifetime, no one will likely see another star up close with the naked eye.
Maybe one day.
For now, we’ll have to rely on technology to help us out there.
Conspiracy theorists have had a good crack at this one, but I’m afraid they weren’t the stars of the show today.
That was the stars themselves.
Wondering what else astronauts can and cannot do? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Can Astronauts Have Tattoos?
- Can Astronauts Smoke In Space?
- Can Astronauts Drink Alcohol In Space?
- Can Astronauts Use Internet In Space?
- Can Astronauts Use Cellphones In Space?
- Can Astronauts Burp In Space?
- Can Astronauts Fart In Space?
- Can Astronauts Wear Glasses?
Hey, my name is Jeremy. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.