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I would like for a scenario where some people are on a life filled planet orbiting a yellow dwarf sun. They look up at the starry sky during the night, but unbeknownst to them these aren't actually stars, just some sort of strange phenomena that gives the illusion of twinkling stars at night, and that space is actually empty of real stars.

How can this phenomenon occur consistently every night?

Edit: I'd like for the phenomenon to specifically occur on the planet/originate from the planet.

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  • $\begingroup$ probably there are lot of broken ice commets orbiting red dwarf, and they reflect light of red dwarf and it looks like other starts, but they are moving... $\endgroup$ – vodolaz095 Jun 25 '20 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ Phenomena is plural; the singular is phenomenon. So either "this phenomenon", or else "these phenomena". $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 25 '20 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ can this world be an artificial mega-structure, and do they have to be evenly distributed across the sky or is significant banding okay? $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Jun 26 '20 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ Real stars rotate in the sky during the night. Any atmospheric phenomenon would not behave the same. Is it Ok if these "stars" won't do sidereal rotation? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jun 26 '20 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ Yes it's perfectly fine. Although a fake starry sky with sidereal rotation is preferred. $\endgroup$ – Jefferey Dawson Jun 26 '20 at 1:00
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They are looking at the satellites which their forebears left in orbit prior to the collapse of their high-tech civilization. The ancestors knew the true nature of the lights in the sky but after several generations divided from proper education, the current generation just assumes that they are real stars.

As for the twinkling, perhaps the fall of their ancestors civilization left the upper atmosphere salted with highly reflective materials which sometimes block, sometimes disperse and sometimes focus the light from the satellites above.

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    $\begingroup$ Or more simply, the satellites are tumbling randomly because they ran out of fuel a while ago. Some sides of the satellite are more reflective than others. $\endgroup$ – user253751 Jun 26 '20 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ These satellites wouldn't behave as normal stars. If they were in geosync, they'd be in the same place in the sky every night for the entire night. And if in orbit, they'd transit much more quickly than should a normal star. I don't believe there's any orbital location that would look realistic. $\endgroup$ – John O Jun 26 '20 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnO True enough. Yet this applies to virtually every single method of creating the starry night illusion: With the planet careening around its sun at about 30km/s, encompassing a circle with a diameter of roughtly 17 lightminutes, spinning around its own axis like a top, you'd be hard put to find anything that would look pinned to the celestial sphere the way that real stars do. $\endgroup$ – cmaster - reinstate monica Jun 26 '20 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ The twinkling thing is a red herring, since the twinkle of stars is caused by the Earth's atmosphere. You don't need any motion in the "stars" to produce twinkling. $\endgroup$ – user3067860 Jun 29 '20 at 12:39
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They are inside a Dyson sphere.

inside of Dyson sphere

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere

A Dyson sphere is a megastructure which completely encompasses a star. Your planet is within such a structure, along with its star. They are looking at the inside of the sphere.

Why is there a sphere around their sun and their planet? Maybe it is to protect these lonely survivors from whatever event rendered the rest of space empty of stars.

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  • $\begingroup$ At what distance would parallax give away the trick? $\endgroup$ – John O Jun 26 '20 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnO At any. We are actually measuring parallaxes of real stars... $\endgroup$ – cmaster - reinstate monica Jun 26 '20 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ They could also be inside a Dyson swarm. Various planets look a lot like stars if you don't have a telescope. Maybe the "stars" are a large number of enormous mirrors (things with high albedo, anyway) floating around the star system. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Jun 26 '20 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ The original Dyson Sphere actually was a swarm. The hollow sphere concept was a misinterpretation and could never be stable. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Jun 26 '20 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ Forget parallax. Neptune's orbital period is 165 years, so casual observation would give away the trick long before they'd have telescopes to mount onto accurate goniometers. "To our grandmothers, Polaris was a permanent fixture in the skies, showing them the way to the north. Today, we are lucky to see it overhead if the winter clouds allow us so. We suspect our grandchildren won't get to see it with their eyes unless they become merchants and travel further than the eye can see." $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jun 26 '20 at 15:41
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Thinking somewhat outside the box here...

They are real stars

In the distant past, a cataclysmic event happened on a universal scale ("a collision with another universe" or some other appropriate sci-fi explanation), obliterating all matter in the universe. The sole exception is a single solar system where an technologically advanced but long-forgotten civilization managed to shield their planet and sun from the effects.

All other matter in the universe is gone, but the light that the stars once emitted are still travelling across the empty void, retaining the illusion of a vast universe with countless stars. Only over the course of centuries and millennia would one slowly discover that more and more stars are disappearing.

Furthermore, only with sufficiently advanced technology and enough reliable historical data would a civilization be able to measure the distance to the stars and realize, to its absolute horror, that the exact time when a star disappears is linearly proportional to its distance from the solar system, strongly suggesting that all other stars may have disappeared too (but the absence of their light simply hasn't reached them yet) and that they may truly be absolutely alone in an endless empty void.

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    $\begingroup$ Most of the visible stars in the sky are within less than 100 light years; so, this would have had to have been a very recent calamity. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Jun 26 '20 at 16:50
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OPTION A: Thousands of geosynchronous orbital habitats

Our own world is surrounded by over 2000 satellites but most are so small you cannot see them with your naked eye. Habitats on the other hand would be large enough to see from the ground. The habitats would also twinkle because they rotate to maintain artificial gravity. Their light would mostly be the sun reflecting off of them much like the moon does, but they could use a series of reflector dishes to shine sun light on them even in the planet's shadow so that they can get 24/7 sunlight to power thier solar arrays. This way they never become eclipsed by the planet.

Your world could have once been home to a near future level civilization that experienced a nuclear war or something similar. Some people fled into underground bunkers to survive while others went into space. After a few hundred years, your underground people came back above ground to see a star lite sky while your space people decided to stay in space.

OPTION B: Use a celestial wheel

Another option is that your planet is tidally locked and very close to the star making it uninhabitable. So, eons ago, a space faring race came along and installed a firmament like mega-structure that rotates around the world to give it a day-night system. During the day you have 1 large hole that passes over the the world giving you an apparently normal day cycle, then at night your other side is exposed to the nearby sun letting just small pinholes of light through giving the appearance of stars.

This would more closely resemble stars I think because you would get your sidereal rotation, but it only works if you are in the right place on the planet. As you move away from the world's "center" the sky would become darker until you get to the backside which would be shrouded by eternal darkness & arctic coldness.

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They are fireflies

Millions of them take to the heavens at night to escape depredation by the dreaded nocturnal Beelze Bugs.

They rise to a height where there are constant prevailing winds. These carry them along at a speed that seems to suggest orbit. They occupy a belt all around the planet.

The locals have nothing to compare them with so they are a mysterious phenomenon. They don't know that 'normal' stars have a constant pattern.

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    $\begingroup$ "They're fireflies. Fireflies that, uh... got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing." $\endgroup$ – Qami Jun 27 '20 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ I like the Lion King idea however, I don't think fireflies would fly in the same organised pattern night after night. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jun 30 '20 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps - Thanks for the info (I've never seen the Lion King btw!). I've added a little to my answer. The locals have nothing to compare with so they don't know there should be a consistent pattern. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Jun 30 '20 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ Couldn't find a working video clip for you but here is the conversation from the Lion King $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jul 1 '20 at 8:16
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They are distant galaxies seen from a rogue star drifting through intergalactic space after being ejected from the galaxy in which it formed.

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The star is not within any galaxy, so they do not see any real stars nearby. The “stars” are satellites that were placed by the civilization for the same purposes as our satellites.

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    $\begingroup$ Even if the planet was not near any other stars, you might be able to see galaxies (e.g. the Andromeda galaxy is bright enough to be seen without needing a telescope, and looks pretty much like a star to the naked eye) $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Jun 26 '20 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal yes, you can see Andromeda galaxy with the naked eye, from a dark enough location. No, it does not in any way look like a star. It looks like an elliptical cloud. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jun 26 '20 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think somewhere like the Bootes void could give you a location without any naked-eye-visible stars and galaxies. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Jun 26 '20 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal Sure, but, I don't know how many galaxies are visible with the naked eye, but I think it's only a handful. Unless it's necessary for the scenario that there be literally zero stars visible, this probably just doesn't matter. $\endgroup$ – Jay Jun 26 '20 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay Several Messier objects are galaxies, and most of those are naked eye visible, if you have a dark enough observing site. The number would increase if not for the thousands of "local" stars that prevent full dark adaptation of the eye. Dark enough locations are rarer than they once were, though; even miles back in the hills of New Mexico, lights from the nearest town (Socorro isn't anything anyone would call a city) form a dome on the horizon. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jun 26 '20 at 18:05

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