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We assume that the stars' positions in the heavens are eternal. But everything in space is in motion. As our Milky Way rotates, our sun is carried once around the galaxy every 250 million years, slowly drifting up and down through the galaxy's disk, like a horse on a carousel. The stars in the galaxy tug on one another gravitationally, which forces them to shift around. Astronomers know of many clusters of young stars that formed together and are now migrating through the galaxy as a group. And scientists can identify individual cluster members that have been ejected due to gravitational forces exerted by surrounding stars.
For the most part, the motions of stars are not obvious over the course of human life spans. However, the constellations formed by stars have altered in appearance over recorded history. Additionally, multiple stars located close to our sun noticeably change their location from one year to the next, and skywatchers with backyard telescopes can watch the progress of these stars.
Stars - Direction - Space - Sideways - Towards
Because stars can move in any direction in space, they can travel laterally (sideways), radially (towards or away from our solar system), or a combination of both those types of motion. Lateral motions change stars' coordinates on the sky, gradually rearranging our star maps. Astronomers can also measure the Doppler shifts of a star's spectrum to determine whether a star is approaching or receding from our solar system, but such radial motion won't alter a star's position in our sky.
Astronomers use the term "proper motion" to describe the change in position of a star over time as viewed from our solar system; they also use the term "apparent motion." That perceived movement actually consists of a blend of a star's inherent motion through the galaxy plus the change in our sun's position over...
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