it results in big gifs

Barnard’s Star seen moving against the cosmic background.

Although it appears otherwise when looking up at the night sky, every object in the cosmos is actually moving. As a result of the Big Bang and gravity, stars are whizzing through space at astounding speeds - in fact, our own sun is orbiting the center of the Milky Way galaxy. But this motion through the heavens is not easily visible due to the sheer distances away most stars are from us.

However, Barnard’s star is an exception. Located just six light years from Earth, Barnard’s star is actually moving closer to our own star system and will pass within four light years roughly 8,000 years from now.

Due to its motion towards us and location in the sky, Barnard’s star has the highest apparent motion of any star in the sky, moving at roughly 10.3 arcseconds per year. Over the course of an average human life, about 72 years, the star will have moved roughly half the diameter of the full moon across the night sky. 

The gifset above was taken by astronomer Rick Johnson, who imaged the star once a year for nine years. In them, Barnard’s Star moved about 92.7 arcseconds in the sky.

Barnard’s star is one of the few stars where we can observe this apparent motion. To capture any others, we’d have to be taking repetitive pictures for centuries.

“…you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as–Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so–I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it.”

~ Alan Watts