Purpose:Illustrate why a planet does not "twinkle" like a star.
Description:A beam expander enlarges the laser beam to a few inches diameter on a distant wall or screen (photograph below). When a heater is placed under the beam, convection currents are readily visible in the large spot of laser light. However, because the spot is large it does not move, or "twinkle." This is contrasted with the direct light from the laser, which moves because of the convection currents from the heater. A star twinkles because it is so small, but because of the finite size of planets as viewed from the earth, planets do not twinkle.
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Last modified on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 13:56