Can Astronauts See Stars In Space?

In Science by Brian Koberlein67 Comments

On the face of it, this might seem like a silly question. Of course we can see stars in space. We see stars more clearly from space than we do from Earth, which is why space telescopes are so useful. And yet, this question comes up again and again. Not just from moon landing skeptics and fringe science promoters, but from everyday folks who are sure they learned somewhere that stars can’t be seen in space.

When overexposed, the Moon seems to glow brilliantly. Credit: Bob King/Sky and Telescope

When overexposed, the Moon seems to glow brilliantly. Credit: Bob King/Sky and Telescope

The origin of this misconception is usually traced back to an interview with the crew of Apollo 11, where (it is claimed) Neil Armstrong said he couldn’t see stars in space. What the crew were actually discussing at the time was the inability to see stars on the daylight side of the Moon, which is not surprising given how bright the lunar surface can be relative to the airless black of space. Even in space the stars aren’t overly bright, and our eyes can lose dark adaption pretty quickly.

An image from the ISS of stars and glowing layers of Earth's atmosphere.

An image from the ISS of stars and glowing layers of Earth’s atmosphere.

But what about all those photos of objects in space, such as the one of the international space station seen above? There’s no stars to be seen in the image. It’s actually quite common to see images of planets and other objects against a starless black background. Doesn’t that support the idea of a starless sky in space? No, since it’s no surprise that an image focused on a bright object like a planet or moon won’t have a long enough exposure to see stars clearly. There are plenty of images from space that do show stars, as well as other faint phenomena such as the green airglow of our atmosphere.

What this misconception really shows is how easily a misconception can get locked into our heads. We can all fall prey to the trap of holding misconceptions without really thinking about them. That’s part of the reason why we focus on published and verifiable evidence in science.

Which is why this isn’t such a silly question after all.

Comments

  1. Author

    Some folks simply can’t be reasoned with. From an email comment: “I’ve been going through a few astronauts interviews and I’ve yet to see the question answered from an actual astronaut.I understand that you’re a physicist but to boldly claim that an astronaut can visibly see stars with their own two optical eyes aren’t you speaking for the astronaut without physically being in space to make this conclusion for yourself. I just think that your article is intentionally misleading your readers.”

    The first video that comes up from a basic Google search? Astronaut James Reilly Describes Seeing Stars in Space

    (facepalm)

    1. We’ve tweeted several ISS astronauts, both ex and actual in situ ( Tim Peake ) as to whether they are able to see some stars or planets when looking beyond the earth horizon when orbiting over the daylight side. No reply has been forthcoming, nor does there appear to be a definitive yes or no in any literature by an astronaut on the subject. Does this strike anyone as odd in the light of Armstrong’s statement?

      1. Author

        Hey, this guy I don’t know, who probably gets hundreds of tweets a day, didn’t reply to my question. He must be covering something up!

        There is a definitive answer to the question. Astronauts can see stars in space, you just don’t want to accept that answer for some reason.

    2. To be fair, I love reading NASA transcripts and always hear astronauts describe how beautiful the round earth looks… but I never read them describing the stars. I’ll keep searching.

    3. At the point where darkness and light meet, can astronauts see the light on one side of space and the stars on the other, dark side of space (meaning at the same time)?

    4. Savage. xD

      Nice one, answered my query perfectly in both the article and the video.

      It IS a misconception to assume the inability to see stars, but to be fair, those calling ALL of us ponderers ‘conspiracy theorists’ will have to give some credit…not all of us jump to the conclusion that this or that answer is a cover up, rather, many more of us seek out the answer to the query as I did just now. Personally, I trust science and especially the information that NASA has presented so far, relative (haaa) to space exploration. If their information releases were downright lies and cover-ups, then we’ve more than reached the point, now, where other professional bodies opposed to the same cover-ups would have spoken out. Instead, we’re stuck with nut-jobs that still think the planet is a plate to use as the opposition and ‘trustworthy source’. With over seven billion replications and reiterations of humans, I think we’re starting to hit the bottom of the gene pool in some areas…

      I, like many of us, have read books, seen films and played games that each portray what space would look like to the human eye in different ways and opinions, and that’s what got ME wondering about it – I couldn’t really care much if stars were extremely difficult to view with the naked eye in space, to be honest – I’m writing a science-fiction novel, and if it comes to describing stars as an interlude at some point, I want it to remain real – not fabricated, as if our universe somehow isn’t gorgeous and astounding as it is.

  2. Thank you for your answer. I always thought you could see the stars from space and this confirmed it. It’s all a matter of where and at what time your looking of course. I dig space! It’s full of wonder.

    1. Stars must be visible to humans from the ISS or everywhere else in space. However, for photos from, and of, the ISS to show stars, I’d expect that they’d have to hold longer camera shutter exposure. And longer exposure means blurred star streaks painted across the dark space because the ISS is moving about 17,500 mph in its orbit around Earth. So any photo or video of a brightly lit object in space (e.g., ISS, space shuttle, moon, astronauts on spacewalk) taken even while on Earth’s dark (night) side would have black space all around it. A normal exposure photo would not capture stars onto an image.

      As such, any video out there that shows the ISS flying around Earth with the Milky Way Galaxy in the background has to be fake. If the stars could be photographed in real time, at all, by normal video or still exposure, they’d appear to be no more visible than a nighttime photo you’d take of your car under with a flood light shining on it here inside Earth’s atmosphere. You won’t see stars in the background sky when you view the photo. So to capture the stars from the ISS, you’d need longer exposure, which would give you bright curvy streaks across the darkness of space as the ISS zips around the planet once every 90 minutes.

      So how does the Hubble Space Telescope manage to take pictures of galaxies and nebulae? The answer is that it is a telescope assembly equipped with a gyroscope to orient it to any point in space and keep its gaze unbroken for extended periods of time without flinching or losing focus. It is not a mere camera but a highly sophisticated imaging system. The ISS, as far as we can tell, is just a human outpost without sophisticated astronomy gear.

      I hope that helps.

    2. From the space station you can not see space, only look through a band of atmosphere above Earths’ surface. To see space there would need to be windows looking away from Earth, and there are none in use except under very rare and not well publicised experiments. So technically, the question should be “can stars be seen from the ISS”, to which the answer is obviously Yes, but as we can not see space from the ISS (looking directly away from Earth, as we do from the surface), then if stars can be seen from space, with a regular camera, is a different matter.

        1. How so? The viewing geometry from the Cupola is fairly straight forward.

          1. Author

            Prove you can’t see space from the ISS. I met this astronaut once that said you could, so you’re wrong.

        2. Space can be seen from the ISS if the astronaut is on a top-side EVA, but not from within the Cupola. Numerous EVA astronauts who have had had the chance to look away from Earth while during the night portion of the orbit say it is totally black out there, as did Neil Armstrong while in cislunar space, and no photos of the stars or planets or even the Sun were ever taken by Apollo crews while in cislunar space. It is Earths atmosphere that makes the heavens visible to us from Earth, and from the Cupola the line of sight to the stars or planets MUST pass through Earths atmosphere, the geometry is simple.
          Sir William Herschel stated 200 years ago that it was our atmosphere that created the light, and heat, that we sense on Earth, and this has never been experimentally disproven.

          1. Author

            Numerous astronauts have stated you can see stars in space. And you admit space can be seen from the ISS. So it’s clear you are wrong. You can see stars in space.

        3. “You can see stars in space.”
          I’ll wait ’till the experiments are performed, empirical science, before I’ll accept that statement.

  3. You can’t see stars from space. If it is there would have been billons of photos from ISS when earth is dark and we would be seeing crystal clear milky way galaxy from ISS. The reason something not there because you can’t see stars. Now how Hubble space have stars? Well hubble space interpret non visible light. There are many many apollo photo in space with nearly 99% dark area and you won’t see stars. To take that photo they should had bigger aperture beacuse almost no light . No rbight object focussed. AND NO STARS either. There is no atmosphere to pollute the space. So if you are not focussing on bright object like earth , moon or sun , you must see stars. We never see stars because it seems like you can’t see stars without atmosphere. That brings one interesting question. if you can’t take picture without atmosphere then all moon photos are fake if moon has no atmosphere. 🙂

  4. It’s actually not too difficult to find Neil Armstrong saying very clearly that you can’t see the stars either from the moons surface or from the craft windows when in transit through space – the phrase he uses to describe space is “deep black”. He could see the sun and earth only. The interview link is below and there is no ambiguity about what is being said. The visors and windows for later Apollo missions were fitted with filters to allow the stars to be visible. The stars lack of visibility is also validated by modern high altitude balloon missions and sky drivers and the other early Appollo astronughts before the craft and visors were retrofitted.

    In terms of explanation, the stars being visible on earth is a function of the light passing through our atmosphere before arriving at our eyes. We see the light hitting matter rather than the light itself, at least that is the theory according to people like Eric Dollard. We don’t see light itself on earth either if you think about it, we see the light hitting objects and we then ‘see’ those objects. Eric would say you can’t see the sun either without the right visor material.

    In terms of space photo telescopes remember that most of the photos we see are of non visible light (to the human eye) light being transformed into spectacular color renderings so we can then see them – that’s not what we would ‘see’ with the natural eye. Also a camera is a rough analogue of the human optical process at best. Being able to photograph something doesn’t mean we can see it.

    Maybe an interesting way to approach the question can we see the stars in space is to ask why we expect to be able to ? Isn’t that just because we see them from Earth. This is confirmation or expectation bias in the reasoning and helps explain the often emotional reactions from people presented with counter information.

    https://youtu.be/PtdcdxvNI1o

    1. Author

      Countless astronauts have made clear they observe stars in space. The Apollo 13 crew has talked about how they used stars to align their spacecraft during their harrowing mission. Unfortunately folks like you and Dollard continue to cherry pick this video. Armstrong talking about how he didn’t see stars is not remotely the same claim as saying no one can see stars in space.

    2. It’s also very easy to find Armstrong talking about how many stars he could see when the moon wasn’t in daylight.

      071:59:20 Armstrong: Houston, it’s been a real change for us. Now we’re able to see stars again and recognize constellations for the first time on the trip. It’s – the sky is full of stars. Just like the night side of Earth. But all the way here, we’ve only been able to see stars occasionally and perhaps through the monocular, but not recognize any star patterns.
      071:59:52 McCandless: I guess it’s turned into night up there really, hasn’t it?
      071:59:58 Armstrong: Really has

  5. “But what about all those photos of objects in space, such as the one of the international space station seen above?”

    That’s not a photo… it’s a CGI, mede in computer. Why don’t you tell the truth?

  6. that image from iss with the stars is comletly garbage… its just a computer image and cgi, nothing more… I can see stars from the surface of the earth with all the atmosphere in front of my eyes but I can not see the same stars from the space ” the vacumme” – no atmosphere at all, no polution, no clouds and nothing? They show you a funny image instead of a film, movie or a clip with stars that are visible. They do not because any amator who is into stars can tell where and when ISS will be on the so called orbit around the earth

    1. Author

      Are you seriously claiming that NASA doesn’t release photos of stars on the ISS because then amateurs could track the space station? Do you realize there are countless apps that will tell you specifically where to look for the ISS as it passes overhead? Not that you’ll be convinced, but we even have Apollo 16 film photographs (yes, actual film!) of stars taken from the surface of the Moon in the vacuum of space that (gasp!) show stars.

  7. Dear Mr. Koberlein, although I was looking for where on Earth does one go to see the night skies like one does in photographs or movies with “moondust” and a pile of stars all jammed together that they appear fuzzy or blurry. I been looking it seems like forever w/o any luck. I posted this very question on a NYS website and now crossing my finger’s in anticipation of a positive response. Whatever. I been to AZ. where I been told I would get what I was looking for. However wonderful AZ. is and all the light shows I got were “out of this world” I never came close to any photograph. Is it from too many wacks to the grape? The angle? My eye’s? I’ll never give up and heaven is just fantastic regardless of the angle. This all being said when I read your article I gotta say that your words and wit made me smile. Thanks a lot(no joking). ))) Sincerely, Me.)))

    1. Author

      On some level what you see in photographs will never compare to what you see with your eyes. Many photographs are either long exposures, or multiple exposures combined to get the faintest of stars to appear in the image. Typically things just aren’t dark enough for us to see such a comparison. The richest night sky I’ve personally seen has been in the Atacama desert in northern Chile.

  8. I have been doing CGI, video and graphics in general for 20 years. This https://briankoberlein.com/2015/02/12/air-tonight/ image is Photoshop. First of all, those layers of Oxygen and Sodium are 2D added. They are just THERE, there is no 3D natural degrading colors. Its 2D circles. You know why? Because its almost impossible to do it to a 2D photo. It is best done in video, and you had no video there, so everyone should know, its an edited, fake photo. I can stake my life on it. TRUST ME, I KNOW.

    And by the way, I saw that every astronaut is smiling and laughing like every other talkshow host. My parents were one of the best couple in atomic physics GLOBALLY. Every interview EVER with any of them, multiple patents, phds, 1st deg researchers for a life time, multiple conferences, inventions in gas & liquid laser fields, they NEVER, EVER, E V E R, laugh and have fun like a sports personality while talking about their field of work. If its serious work, you’ve got to respect it. These people laughing and joking about space walks and space life is mind blowing!!!

    You know what the first questions of my father was when I told him that astronauts can’t seems to photograph stars from space because of the bright light of the moon, earth, sun, exposure, super-speed of the ISS etc, was?

    “Why don’t they turn their back to the light source? And what about that speed? It has zero significance. It should be insignificant in the vast space distances.”

  9. If the ISS circles the Earth in 90 minutes, how is it possible that NASA video “The world outside my window ” time lapse of earth from the ISS,
    Show the same group of stars for at least 45 minutes (half an orbit of earth by ISS) from the ISS,it shows these same stars the whole time , which I’m told is 45 minutes, although I think the earth does more than half an orbit, or I should say the ISS does more than half an orbit.

    If stars are visible behind earth from the ISS, how can they remain visible for 45 minutes, when the ISS has circled around to the other side of earth?

    The video is time lapsed and sped up, but surely if the ISS travels from one side of earth to the other (45 minutes) it’s impossible for a group of stars to remain visible the whole time ?

    Looking forward to someone explaining this to me.

    Cheers

    Paul

    1. Author

      It depends upon the orientation of the shot. The Earth rotates on its axis, so stars near the axis (near the north or south celestial pole) will simply appear to circle the axis rather than rise and set. You actually see stars in different orientations in the video. In some cases they do rise and set quickly, while in others they are more polar. The same effect occurs on Earth. For example, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere (say, Europe or northern North America) then the big dipper is visible every night of the year.

  10. Thank you, Brian! And everyone. For posting all this and doing your best to answer most questions. And most of it was relatively respectful. I am never convinced absolutely about anything, ever an open minded sceptic searching life’s mysteries. But I very much enjoyed this and will return after some more searching out there.

  11. You cannot see stars in Space, in the regular spectrum. That’s because we can only see light which refracts or reflects. In Space you can’t see light, just like you cannot see light here on Earth… you see its reflection. Not the light itself. So… no… you cannot see light in Space and you can’t see stars or our Sun which is why there are ZERO pictures of our star (SOL/SUN) in the visible light spectrum. They’re all in other spectra but changed for us to see… because we cannot see those spectra! Get it kids??? These people are lying to you or are just dead incorrect. You cannot see stars in Space.

  12. Biggest load of crap ever. I’m convinced Nobody has a clue we know less than our ancient ancestors. Yet we have a highly paid government agency film company to tell us don’t worry we see it all for you .Why would you question us we’ve been to the moon. Don’t you trust us. Well you should. By the way we’ve sent a rover to Mars. The reason why you will never see stars on NASA footage or ISS feed is the same reason you won’t see the thousands of satellites or billions of particles floating in the debris field…Because it’s fraudulent

    1. Author

      That’s where you’re wrong. You don’t have to trust NASA’s claim of going to the Moon and such. There’s plenty of evidence to confirm its validity. But instead of actually focusing on the evidence you’d rather claim there’s some conspiracy to fake these things. The only fraudulent claims here are the ones you’re making.

  13. Eugene Cernan did an interview, documentary, played today as a tribute by CNN as a tribute. In this he describes the scene as a blackness, not darkness, a blackness, there’s so many stars, it looks like someone took a big fat paintbrush with white paint, just went zap”
    First time I’ve heard someone from the moon describing the stars.
    I recorded the segment myself.

  14. I think science can clear this up. Anecdotal evidence from astronauts not needed.
    From the earth’s surface you can film the night sky with a camcorder and see bright stars in the footage. Movie cameras can do better. Cameras with ‘star’ settings can also capture many stars without time-lapse.
    In space, the bright stars should be plainly visible, as well as the other celestial bodies in our solar system.
    Stars are emitting light. They do not need to pass through matter to be visible. Passing through matter makes them less visible.
    Stars should especially be visible when the ISS is on the dark side, but they are not visible at all, at any time.

    Conclusion: There is currently no scientific explanation as to why stars are not recorded by live footage or photographs taken from space, but can be recorded by live footage or photographs taken from earth.

    1. Author

      Good gravy. There’s an image of stars seen from space in the post. What is it with people holding on to the nonsensical idea that you can’t see stars in space?

    1. Author

      Ah, the classic drive-by comment from someone who hasn’t read the article: “The origin of this misconception is usually traced back to an interview with the crew of Apollo 11, where (it is claimed) Neil Armstrong said he couldn’t see stars in space. What the crew were actually discussing at the time was the inability to see stars on the daylight side of the Moon, which is not surprising given how bright the lunar surface can be relative to the airless black of space.”

  15. Dear Mr. Kaberlein, I believe the problem you and others are facing is you are trying to persuade people living in the postmodern age of the Internet. Like no other time in history, people have access to multiple views and opinions on any subject. As a result, they are realizing, consciously or subconsciously, that much of what they were taught (rightly or wrongly) in school as “truth” and “fact” was actually nothing more than opinion and theory carefully selected by their governments to help indoctrinate them, thus developing malleable citizens who would go on to be patriotic, support government decisions on virtually all matters, and finally aid the powers that be in similarly indoctrinating the next generation, and so on. Rightly or wrongly, thanks to organizations such as wiki leaks, people are accessing information that is making them take notice and start thinking for themselves. As a result, they are becoming jaded and suspicious of all government bodies, all institutes of higher learning, and all previously unchallenged institutions such as NASA and the mainstream media. They question why there is so much secrecy and stonewalling over subjects like Antarctica, military black budgets and unaccounted for trillion dollar expenditures, the blatant discarding and ignoring of historical or scientific evidence that does not fit the accepted and promoted narrative of institutions of higher education, etc. People are now less inclined to accept what their governments tell them, what their professors tell them, what the mainstream media tells them, even what their parents tell them. They feel like they have been mislead, fed nothing but lies by all those institutions they were told they could trust, and they are fed up. So even if you are sincere and genuinely trying to be truthful and helpful, fewer and fewer people are buying what you are selling, because they have simply been conned one too many times. “Trust me, I’m a scientist” will no longer cut it; and accept it or not, you kinda have no one to blame but yourselves.

  16. Wow. The level of ignorance in these comments is unfortunately, not surprising. Somehow people would rather believe there is an impossibly huge conspiracy to trick everyone for some completely unfathomable reason instead of believing that some people grasp math, science, physics and cosmology more than they do. Learn math folks, then study how light works. Now go stand in a completely dark room with a pinlight shining in. Now add a 1 million candle power spotlight shining at you in that dark room and see if you can see that pinlight.

  17. Brian, thanks for the info. 🙂 Some of the technical stuff in the replies was hard to understand, but between it all, it cleared it up for me that in some pictures you can see stars & in some, you can’t…depends on several factors, including technology of the camera & position from where you’re taking the picture. Makes sense with the brightness of the sun on the moon & the person who said it’s a matter of expecting to see them.

  18. And there we have it, another scientific explanation we have to trust. Like maybe a possible cgi picture which tops this artice showing a twentieth of the earths horizon with a perfect picture of a SOLITARY object where according to NASA there should be enough space junk to swamp a landfill…….And you wonder why people believe the eart is flat.

    1. Author

      Clearly you don’t understand the scale of things. There is a lot of debris orbiting Earth, but there’s a lot of space out there. “Close” by orbit standards is on the order of tens of kilometers.

    2. This is what you don’t understand with “scientific explanations”: they’re not meant to be trusted, they’re meant to be TESTED. What conspiracist would never do, or would do wrong by avoiding any evidence that could lead them to what they don’t wanna hear.

  19. Clearly you dont understand how lying to people affects trust. CGI is CGI and an untouched photograph no matter what filter you use is an untouched photograph. Trillions of pounds spent on? I will put back on my tin foil hat and you can believe in your tin foil rockets but I would rather spend my money feeding the hungry. Shame we all dont have the choice what NASA spends our money on. Lies are lies and partonizing me is not going to help your cause Author. I have seen everythiing from animation sequences shot in a vomit comet to watching an astronaut supposedly force a 3 foot pole into the moon by leaning on it when the craft that took him there doesn’t even leave an indentation in soil you can leave footprints in.

    1. Author

      And there it is. The assertion that I’m lying. That NASA is lying. That thousands of scientist across the world are in a world-wide conspiracy to pull the wool over your eyes.

  20. OK Brian lemme open my mind and heart to you. I am not saying the Earth is flat, I am not saying we have never left Earth’s atmosphere, in fact you could not meet a person who thas attempted to be more open minded. Your assumption that I am a befuddled fool incapable of grasping simple concepts is the only truth I can see from our correspondance so far. In my opinion we are now in an age where all technological/social advances are no longer deemed suitable to be passed on to the general public. We are undisputably in an age where a tiny portion of people in the world have control of 90% of the world resources. The fact you are willing to respond to me even if you haven’t addressed my point shows it is worth me continuing this conversation, all I ask is that you open your mind. I have no assertion that you have lied, just that you have been lied to. You work for one of a few agencies that are allowed to spend our tax money and you in your capacity as their employee expect us to trust you. Research this for me and see if you find any truth in it. We dont need GM foods, we dont need fossil fuels, we didn’t need to mess with our atmosphere to correct cloud cover and harmfull toxins until the few people who benefit from raping the planet went a little too far. Time and time again it has been proved we cant control nuclear energy but it is still being exploited but not for the good of the many. The reason the masses suffer in this time of plenty is simple. The guys who you work for lie and cheat to maintain the right to experiment on us for their profit. NASA (and that includes you) wont answer specifics on blatant inconsistances in output, (I am trying to be real nice here) loosing huge amounts of data we paid for, and manipulating said data, sound and images. No amount of wool can disguise the horror that has been inflicted by the technology still being developed but they still maintain the right to secrecy. Should I be con-cern-ed by a group of people who want to create the GOD particle in a Hadron collider which displays a huge statue of Shiva “The Destroyer”. We gonna create a mini Big Bang okay. The World Bank is indisputably a lie creating invisible equity which we can earn to fund more research for you to play with, keep secret, weaponise and use to further the agenda of the people who pay you. If you have never encountered the “need to know basis” you aren’t looking hard enough. As for not understanding the scale of things I would direct you a wonderful song by Bob Marley “Who the cap fit”. Blind doesn’t care how clever you are, neither does Ignorant. The fathers of all science were nearly all alchemists and there is NO DOUBT they were in a secret organisation along with a lot of the people who govern and control us. Again thank you for taking the time to respond.

  21. Brian, I am not going to accept the answer because “so and so” said so.

    Gary could be right about atmospheric influences. The cornea of your eye is convex for obvious reasons and so is our atmospheric configuration due to the shape of our planet.

    If the cornea of your eye was flat( or not there at all), you would not be able to see anything of considerable distance.

    Also, there are inconsistencies that are not convincing enough to warrant the notion that an astronaut is actually telling the truth. Remember, they work for a governmental agency that can lie when it needs to.

    I have never seen overwhelming videos showing stars at night from space, ever.

    If you have a few, why only a few?

    Are we led to believe that star views are intermittent from space?

    Something doesn’t add up!

    1. Author

      Every image from Hubble is a view of stars from space. The raw images are available through the NASA repositories. The FITS files are literally the data collected from the CCDs, just like a digital camera but more advanced. If you want to argue that digital images are somehow “fake,” then there are film images of stars from the early NASA space program. Scanned copies of these photographs are freely available online. If that’s not convincing enough, I’m sure you could visit some of these photographs for yourself. All of this is available.

      But no, it’s more reasonable to assume that NASA employees are all involved in a conspiracy to lie about seeing stars in space, and create massive repositories of faked data that they don’t widely publicize, and then use this fake data to process beautiful color images that they do publicize, all to gain access to some amount of government money? These people have STEM skills that are in high demand, and they could easily work in the private sector for more money.

      Good grief. We can see stars from space. The earth is round. NASA is not a conspiracy.

  22. When an astronaut stands on the bright side of the moon in lunar day the sun is in his “sky” so is the earth. Those big bright shiny things block out the relatively weak starlight. It’s the same on Iss.
    If you are on the opposite side of the moon when the sun isn’t in the sky above then just like on earth you see the stars.
    With Iss you just need to be on the night side of earth and there they are.
    The atmosphere doesn’t create the starlight cos that’s just light. From Iss they can see the sun the moon and the earth and stars..and they like hubble are outside the atmosphere

  23. All we seem to have is anecdotal contrasting evidence from people who dont have a great history in telling the whole truth, who are paid by people who dont have the best intentions and like to think they have the right to secrecy “for the greater good”. I just watched a kid proove flat earth for a science project…..but you cant see why there might be a trust issue? I remember in school wondering how Christopher Columbus discovered America when there were already people there!!!!! My teacher was very patronizing when history was questioned, just as you are being now but how long will it be before all this secrecy blows up in our faces.

  24. Brian Koberlein: I am so sorry that you have to see all these comments from uninformed buffoons who cannot manage to separate the wheat from the internet “chaff”. It’s gotta’ make a learned man like yourself just sad. And…the bizarre garbage some of them come up with to back their beliefs? WOW!!
    I took Physics in High School so I know that hitting the moon is not all THAT hard using 400 year old math…all you need is good enough measurements and enough power, Apollo? yup! I had an art class where perspective was explained…converging/diverging moon shadow theories, debunked! I’ve shot a few rolls of film through a manual camera by day and by night and seen the brightness of the full moon…starless skies on moon making Apollo a hoax?…pure BS! Can’t see stars in space because you need air to see stars…somebody needs to go back to biology class and refresh themselves on how the human eye works…and maybe read up on how light is transmitted.
    How you remain sane, I’ve no idea! From the comments, it looks like you reached and helped one mind grasp a couple concepts. I try to do the same, but usually end up realizing that there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.
    Regards, and keep up the good fight!

  25. Reading some of the more outlandish claims expressed on this forum, it seems to me that we so-called ‘moderns’ are still at a very early phase of development with regards to what might be termed ‘internet maturity’. It took two or three hundred tempestuous years (e.g. the European Wars of Religion) for most folks to finally adapt to the information revolution, following the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg back in the 15th century. . . a worrying precedent, some might say.

    Regarding the problems some people have expressed about optics, especially the need for light requiring an intermediate medium (the Earth’s atmosphere) for it to be rendered visible, all I say is this: were it true, then the interiors of all vacuum chambers would be rendered permanently dark.

    For those wingeing on about shedloads of dollars being thrown into space research (money, for instance, that could be spent feeding the poor) I understand that the funds NASA receives from the US taxpayer is a tiny fraction to that thrown at the military. In terms of the annual gross US budget (almost three trillion dollars at the last count) the NASA cut is less than one measily percent. it’s not even possible to show in most pie charts. Apparently, Americans as a whole spend more on pizzas than they do on space research. What about giving some of these pizzas to the hungry?

  26. You can, through your eyes from the window inside a space vehicle, only see light when reflected on light refractive matter. Therefore yes when you in space you can see the moon the earth some near planets but not our sun and definitely not the other stars. End of story. Therefore the space vehicle windows have a special refractive coating in order to make the stars visible. Stars including our sun in space don’t emit light at the human eye visible spectrum.

    Show me one raw unedited picture taken from Nasa from space of our sun in the visible spectrum. Sun light in space is mainly transmitted in the infrared spectrum and UV and X-ray spectrum not the visible.

    1. Author

      What you are claiming goes against basic atomic physics.

      I’m curious about the “special refractive coating” you think NASA uses. Could you state in detail what it’s made of, its thickness, and how, according to Maxwell’s equations it renders stars visible?

  27. 1) The sunlight or any light by itself is invisible unless it interferes with matter. But, sun’s own material is already lit up by the energy it releases and that is what you see when you look at the sun in space or on earth. It has nothing to do with the reflective coating on spacecraft windows or the existence of atmosphere.

    2) Examples here: http://cosmic-watch.com/the-sun-from-space/ . If it was the windows coating, camera would have to focus very closely on the window where the source of light would be. But then you would not get a depth of field as you get in those pictures The camera would have to use a low aperture and long shutter speeds and this would blur the picture given all the movement of the ISS and the earth at that speed. In the pictures, the outward rays from the sun are produced by the aperture blades in the lens and not by some kind of reflection on windows.

    3) Sun is a star, therefore if you can see the sun in space then you can see the stars in space.

  28. Phew! Trawling through this comments section was, at some points, like swimming through a thick, stupidity flavoured soup. Anyway, back to the important stuff: thanks for the article Brian. As someone who is never, ever likely to venture into space (not well enough), I’ve often found myself wondering what it must be like to actually walk outside the barriers of our beloved home. The sheer miasma of emotions at seeing the unfettered eternity of our universe stretched out before you must be awesome and terrifying at the same time. I’ve lost count of how many hours I spent as a kid hunkered down in my parent’s old wooden shed pointing my telescope at as many points of light as I could. Space, the planets, the universe has always excited me. There are so, so many things I could post in conversation but I’ve already nearly worn my index finger down to the bone! Loved it when Chris Hadfield sang Space Oddity on the ISS. Anyway, thanks again for the article Brian. I don’t really care for the whys and wherefores. I just know that, even on the coldest night’s, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I look up into that night sky. And it has nothing to do with alcohol.

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