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Thread: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

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    Default Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now



    All celestial objects are in motion. Is there such a thing as a star map that shows where celestial objects are right now? What would our night sky look like if we could view it without the time delay from the speed of light? For example, if a star is 10 light years away, what we see is now is where it was 10 years ago. What if we could see all celestial objects from our point of view on earth based on where they are now? Does such a rendered image exist?

    I'm asking because I am an amateur sci-fi author and I'd like to take this effect into account in my star-hopping stories. Just FYI, I am a mechanical engineer, so I have a very basic understanding of physics. I realize that there are some very deep sky objects that have ceased to produce visible light but its ancient light is just reaching us.

    Many thanks!
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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    There are only a handful of stars whose proper motion is fast enough that there would be a significant difference in position over the span of a few years. And, by "significant", I mean that a good telescope and careful measurements would be required to see the movement.

    For movements over centuries or millenia (i.e. for more distant objects), you would have to predict movements and interactions for which evidence will not be available for a long time. That becomes a rather daunting calculation, given that there are billions of stars in our galaxy. It may become more feasible in a few years when data from the Gaia satellite becomes available.

    There really would be no reason to perform such a huge calculation.

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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    That sounds like an interesting story line. But as Kathy says, most of the sky would still look like it does normally. Take the Pleiades star cluster. They're about 100 light years away, but if you were to move them 100 years into the future and leave the rest of the sky alone, you still wouldn't be able to tell that their position had changed.

    On the other extreme, the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 32) is 2.5 million light years away and barreling towards us at about 250,000 mph. Even so, it will take about a billion years before you start to notice it getting a bit bigger and brighter in the sky and it will take 4 billion years before it starts interacting with our own galaxy. So suddenly move it 2.5 million light years closer to us... and meh, it still looks like a faint fuzzy patch in the sky, right where it has always been.

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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    Quote Originally Posted by kazbert View Post
    For example, if a star is 10 light years away, what we see is now is where it was 10 years ago. What if we could see all celestial objects from our point of view on earth based on where they are now? Does such a rendered image exist?
    One of the difficulties is distance. Stars at 10 light years 100 light years and 1000 light years are all going to need their own individual calculations. Then you have to add the suns own motion through space.

    I cant think of any story element that would need that sort of precision beyond some technobabble to convince the reader you know your stuff.

    If someone was to launch a probe to a star I think they would do an individual calculation rather than attempt to do the potential billions of calculations you would need to encompass a reasonable volume of space.
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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    Quote Originally Posted by kazbert View Post
    All celestial objects are in motion. Is there such a thing as a star map that shows where celestial objects are right now? What would our night sky look like if we could view it without the time delay from the speed of light? For example, if a star is 10 light years away, what we see is now is where it was 10 years ago. What if we could see all celestial objects from our point of view on earth based on where they are now? Does such a rendered image exist?

    I'm asking because I am an amateur sci-fi author and I'd like to take this effect into account in my star-hopping stories. Just FYI, I am a mechanical engineer, so I have a very basic understanding of physics. I realize that there are some very deep sky objects that have ceased to produce visible light but its ancient light is just reaching us.

    Many thanks!
    I've just moved the date to 1000 years ago on my Cartes Du Ciel star chart and I can confirm, not much has changed
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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    Many thanks for the replies!

    Let's limit the concept to just our galaxy: 100,000 light years across. So the relative movement of the most distant of those stars would still be insignificant?

    The Milky Way completes one rotation in ~ 250 million years, so 100,000 years would be about 0.14 degrees of rotation .... Hokay! I suppose I could have done that math first before positing the question here. Sorry!

    The concern I have in my fiction writing is for faster-than-light travel. I have seen discussions about the relative motion of celestial bodies in, say, teleportation and time travel. But I've yet to see an author mention the problem that I'm raising: We only know where the stars appear to be, not where they actually are. I picture star travelers possessing star maps that show where the stars and galaxies actually are, not merely be limited to what can be seen when we look up at a night sky. That then led me to wonder if there is already existing some kind of computer simulation that would show where the celestial bodies actually are now rather than merely where they appear to be, and that led me to this forum.
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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    Quote Originally Posted by kazbert View Post
    I picture star travelers possessing star maps that show where the stars and galaxies actually are, not merely be limited to what can be seen when we look up at a night sky. That then led me to wonder if there is already existing some kind of computer simulation that would show where the celestial bodies actually are now rather than merely where they appear to be, and that led me to this forum.
    As MG1692 suggested, in that scenario, the shipboard computers would most likely be given the task of computing a trajectory to the desired location and would already know its proper motion relative to the ship (or some galactic point) and be able to extrapolate its position at a given time. When you are only dealing with 2 bodies (the ship and the planet [or star]), the task becomes a lot easier. Unless another body lies directly in between, there's no need to worry about the exact position in space for every known object.

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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    Quote Originally Posted by starlogborg View Post
    As MG1692 suggested, in that scenario, the shipboard computers would most likely be given the task of computing a trajectory to the desired location and would already know its proper motion relative to the ship (or some galactic point) and be able to extrapolate its position at a given time. When you are only dealing with 2 bodies (the ship and the planet [or star]), the task becomes a lot easier. Unless another body lies directly in between, there's no need to worry about the exact position in space for every known object.
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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    Ben Kenobi: How long before you make the jump to lightspeed?
    Han Solo: It'll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navicomputer.
    Luke Skywalker: [frantic] Are you kidding? At the rate they're gaining—
    Han Solo: Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?
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    Default Re: Star map showing where all celestial objects are right now

    Which leads to a possible plot complication in the story: what happens when two FTL (faster than light) ships plot courses that intersect? How would they be able to slow down in time to avoid a collision, or would they even be able to detect another ship from far enough away to be able to slow down at all?

    Sorry... my mind works like that.
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