Why do stars twinkle but planets don’t? The kid who lives in my house once asked me this question when he was 7. He had just learned it in science class.
As we often did on summer nights, we were seated on the slope of the grassy knoll at the perimeter of our backyard and lazily looking up at the sky. He was settled between my outstretched legs and had reclined on my chest, the hair on top of his perfectly round head tickling my chin, his tiny palms resting on the back of my hands as I wrapped them around him.
The kid’s familiar kid smell brimmed me with a lovely warmth. Oh yes, kids have this smell that is unique to them. It permeates their pyjamas, their blankets, towels and pillows. Just entering their room is a stress reliever.
Getting back to his question, I pretended like I was considering it carefully. “Hmmm…let’s see now, “ I said, with a gravelly tone indicating gravity,” because stars are actually light bulbs with a faulty connection and they don’t have any elektrishuns in space ta fix ‘em?”
“Oof, ChooChoo!,” he gave me a faux admonishing look and playfully slapped my hand,” Stars twinkle because they are further out in space.”
The kid was right of course. Stars twinkle because of turbulence in the atmosphere of the Earth, which causes the light from a distant object like a star to get refracted helter skelter, constantly changing it’s brightness. Thus the twinkle. Planets do not twinkle the way stars do, being in much closer proximity.
The kid was in Primaire-Séconde and he wouldn’t be learning about the bending of light due to refraction for a while yet, but his science teacher had deliberately chucked a pebble into the still waters of his consciousness and that of his classmates. She explained things just enough for budding minds to be able to reason the solution within themselves, with logic.
I realized only later that night that the pebble that the teacher had flung and it’s ripple had awakened in the kid a thirst for a conversation and that I had thrown a wet towel on it with my idiosyncratic response.
Most times, fathers learn life lessons more often from their sons than the other way around……