How do we study the stars? – Yuan-Sen Ting


The city sky is, frankly, rather boring. If you look up at the patches of
murk between buildings, you might be able to pick out
The Big Dipper, or perhaps, Orion’s Belt. But hold on. Look at that murky patch again
and hold our your thumb. How many stars do you think
are behind it? Ten, twenty? Guess again. If you looked at that
thumbnail-sized patch of sky with the Hubble Space Telescope, instead of points of light,
you’d see smudges. These aren’t stars. They’re galaxies, just like our Milky Way. Cities of billions of stars, and more than 1,000 of them
are hidden behind your thumb. The universe is bigger than
you can see from the city, and even bigger than the starry sky
you can see from the countryside. This is the universe as
astrophysicists see it, with more stars than all the grains
of sand on Earth. By staring up at the stars at night, you’ve taken part in the oldest science
in human history. The study of the heavens is older than navigation, agriculture, perhaps
even language itself. Yet unlike other sciences,
astronomy is purely observational. We cannot control the parameters
of our experiments from lab benches. Our best technology can send
man to the moon, and probes to the edge of
the solar system. But these distances are vanishingly small compared to the yawning gulfs
between stars. So how can we know so much
about other galaxies, what they’re made of, how many there are,
or that they’re even there at all? Well, we can start with the first thing we
see when we look up at night: the stars. What we are trying to learn
is their properties. What are they made of? How hot are they?
How massive? How old? How far are they from Earth? And believe it or not, we can learn all of these things
simply from the light shining in the sky. We can decipher one kind of stellar message
by turning starlight into rainbows. When you look at a rainbow on Earth, you’re really looking at light
from our Sun being scattered through water droplets
in the atmosphere into all the different wavelengths
that make it up. And we study the light from other stars, we can create rainbows on demand
using not water droplets, but other specific instruments that
disperse light. When we look at the scattered
light from our sun, we see something strange:
dark lines in our rainbow. These lines are the characteristic
fingerprints of atoms. Each type of atom in the solar atmosphere
soaks up light at specific wavelengths, and the amount of absorption depends on
how many of these atoms there are. So by observing how much light is missing
at these characteristic wavelengths, we can tell not only what elements are
in the Sun’s atmosphere, but even their concentrations. And the same idea can be applied to
study other stars. Make a spectral rainbow,
see what’s missing, and figure out which elements are present. Bingo. Now you know what stars
are made of. But we aren’t restricted to just
the wavelengths that our eyes perceive. Consider radio waves. Yes, they can bring the Billboard Top 100
to your car, but they can also travel almost
unimpeded through space. Because they’ve come so far, radio waves can tell us the very
early history of the universe, from just a few thousand years
after The Big Bang. We can also study the infrared light,
emitted by colder objects, like the gas and dust clouds in space, and the ultraviolet light from the hot
stars recently born from those clouds. Studying different wavelengths
not only gives us a more complete picture
of any single object but also different views of the universe. For this reason, astrophysicists use
several different kinds of telescopes covering the spectrum from the infrared
to the ultraviolet to the X-ray, from giant radio dishes to giant
silver mirrors to space satellites, detecting light that would be otherwise
blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere. Astrophysicists don’t just see the billions of stars among
the billions of galaxies in the universe. They hear, feel and sense them
through many channels, each revealing a different story. But it all begins with light,
the kind we can see and the kind we can’t. Want to know the secrets of the Universe? Just follow the light.

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100 thoughts on “How do we study the stars? – Yuan-Sen Ting”

  1. johanne7 says:

    One of the BEST Ted-ed animated lesson in a while. Thank you and congratulations.

  2. KnowledgePlaylists says:

    Wow the animation for this video is incredible!

  3. Faiz Vadakkumpadath says:

    Brilliant presentation

  4. Alagappapandian M says:

    just follow light . . . . .!

  5. LikeGoldenFire says:

    Most beautiful TED-Ed video I've seen

  6. Markus says:

    Note that images of other wavelengths uses false color. We can't actually get the qualia of seeing infrared, for example.

  7. Jenish Jain says:

    how do you create such animations 


  8. Danny Munoz says:

    Don't you dare hit the dislike button.

  9. Hien Nguyen says:

    This was enlightening!

  10. Sith S says:

    Without god, Eearth won't exist

  11. PraikonHS says:

    Well, I regret so bad that i didnt study astro-physics

  12. maxwell10206 says:

    Very well put together. If I could get educated in every subject this way I would fucking love it :)!

  13. Levi V.P. says:

    The 4 people that disliked this video probably think the universe is 4000yrs old

  14. LemmingsGoPOP! says:

    Beautiful animation and ambient music. I could watch this over and over again.

  15. Can says:

    Like we cannot see things in outer space without the right equipment, I want to believe that there are things we cannot hear in outer space. Not with human ears, anyway. Consider the dog whistle. Maybe earth is like a songbird in the forest of the universe, and the humans on the hiking trail can't hear us.

  16. Olivier Rovelli says:

    One of the best Ted-ed i've seen so far.

  17. Julika7 says:

    Beautiful video! <3

  18. Tim Cheng says:


  19. GianneNarnia says:

    Wanna know the secrets of the universe? Just follow the light! I like that part haha

  20. TheRamenMaster says:

    Loving that framerate.

  21. Sylvain Nulli says:

    The last sentence was just pure genius

  22. henriandco says:

    2:25 Pink Floyd! 😀

  23. Julio Cesar says:

    OMG, this is one of the most amazing videos I've ever watched in my life! Congratulations!

  24. Gio Best says:

    2:25 Dark Side of the Moooon

  25. Garrett Wizrin says:

    How do we study the stars?

  26. Brendan Feay says:

    …where's all the life though!?

  27. michael jeffries says:

    did you know and the Book of Enoch an angel named Cocobil taught man the study of stars and in this book he talks of 3 stars where the Angels took him and showed him the end of our galaxy but showed him many more heavens

  28. Spectrum Split says:

    Excellent amazing video! A lot of useful information!

  29. Anand Rahangdale says:


  30. Yao Teck Voon says:

    mind blow…….

  31. Arsalan Khan says:

    what about dark matter? We can't see that through light, can we?

  32. Hisham Elmahdi says:

    9 weirdo

  33. Valice says:

    Jupiter is on its way to becoming a star. It will burn in flames when it's collided with enough eventually. Wonder what the solar system will be like then. Could whip things around

  34. M says:

    These videos are amazing!

  35. AgeNO3 says:


  36. SA :O says:

    i like it 🙂

  37. Mew Master says:

    am so confosed from this video

  38. Lachlan Jackson says:

    Best video I have seen in a while

  39. runGisele runn says:

    Great video!

  40. Tom Field says:

    See www.fieldtestedsystems/poster for a cool poster that shows how we understand and classify spectra.

  41. stealthralvek says:

    and how do they study how far they are??

  42. ajay yuva says:

    hey anyone do reply me… I have to ask something about the star which, I see daily In the evening by 6:00 pm… And I am eager to know what that is and to whom I should ask this, like which person and how to contact them.? can some please help me as soon as possible. thanks

  43. DanishView says:

    Is there any parallel universe exist? And if this is true then what you think about Mandela effect?

  44. Kene Pinto says:

    The animation was amazing!!

  45. Salish says:

    this is best ted ed animation so far, I love the content and the narrator time to sleep now, thanks ted ed

  46. Azza Alhaj says:

    Could you please make more videos about stars and constellations?

  47. Chris Finke says:

    At 2:31 @gaypride

  48. !日曜の会 says:

    best video!!!

  49. g00gle WEARELEGION says:

    A great day to do it today in Vienna !

  50. Peter Salucci says:

    That’s why God said let there be light!

  51. cedric malloy says:

    There are a few components to getting a good numerology readings. One resource I found that succeeds in merging these is the Numerology Secret Blueprint (google it if you're interested) definately the most helpful guide i've seen. Check out the unbelievable information .

  52. Salah Al'Din360 says:

    Anyone knows a good documentary as good as this?

  53. Exulansis says:

    So how do we study stars ?

  54. Kanishk pratap singh says:


  55. Aman Rubey says:

    especially how we get to know the compo of stars

  56. Yatukih001 says:

    Can we turn rainbows…into an energy source and harness their power?

  57. Frank 'Ph says:

    I love it !!

  58. Shoban Anandh says:

    I love your stuff and your hardwork to teach us, thank you Ted ed.

  59. Chandresh Soni says:


  60. Hans Byager says:

    very pretty video, but it does not explain why we study this, i am currently taking a fysics class and i think the astronomy part is the worst. because Why is this relevant in any way, so i believe the title remains un explained

  61. Fatmah Suleman says:

    سبحان الله

  62. 12Fireblast says:

    Beautiful animation

  63. Waqqas says:

    This is mesmerizing

  64. SherTheDugtrio_YT says:

    Thx Ted-Ed, I love Astronomy! I hope you can make more videos about "ASTRONOMY"!
    I'm discovering about the universe cuz I want to work at NASA! 😀

  65. نايف الخالدي says:

    I loved that .

  66. omkar maratkar says:

    awesome information about earth & galaxy .

  67. aesthetic rosé says:

    so how do we study stars?
    im confused?

  68. Arjun K Biju says:


  69. Ronei Roger says:

    Light is the beginning ..

  70. Chao Pang says:

    Wrong Chinese translation.

  71. JamesTheFox says:

    So we should follow the light when we are dying

  72. Artur Zathas says:

    damn, these video and its narration is like poetry

  73. b1aflatoxin says:

    Geesh, I guess spectroscopy was a forbidden word?

    Ok everyone, these concepts might be too hard to grasp, so be careful!


  74. willbreaker 21 says:

    you lost me after the big bang..

  75. FATEMA BHARMAL says:

    Mesmerizing video😊😊👌👍

  76. Diory N says:

    Good thing i watched this. Thank you.

  77. park Sheimin says:

    He brought me to the universe in just 4:45 mins …..

  78. Obay Al-raslan says:

    My words are not able to describe how brilliant and amazing your videos are

  79. KooKiE HIBA JK says:

    How can i mary the universe? Im in love with the astronomy wish me luck to be an astronomer

  80. Abdullah Yılmaz says:

    Do you want to learn the secrets of universe, just follow the light.

  81. Aeron Arador says:

    I don't quite get the "See what's missing" part. I need help😭

  82. cotton candy skies says:


  83. Mr. Forehead says:

    I little bit scared on what he said that "Just follow the light"

  84. Anuska Roy says:

    Thanks for creating such an amazing video .May "the stars" bless you 😳so you can keep making such awsome videos .Keep up the good work .👍

  85. Luis Carlos Tabian says:

    Whenever we go to provinces. I will always visit the shore, where there are almost no lights at all. And look at the sky to see stars.

    At one point, I literally saw the images i see on google whenever i search for galaxy. “So what i am seeing right now is the edge of our galaxy.” I was totally amazed

  86. Sucharithan Nagarajan says:

    Stunning visuals and narration too.

  87. Marilia Tatone says:

    Just me or some point he using the cover of Pink Floyd .. the triangle with rainbow

  88. facite non victimarum says:

    "A little learning is a dangerous thing." – Long Duk Dong (Chinese for Carl Sagan)

  89. facite non victimarum says:

    "A little learning is a dangerous thing." – Long Duk Dong (Chinese for Carl Sagan)

  90. TheKoreanGuamanian says:

    By listening to Owl City

  91. Güzel Sözler says:

    Beautifully explained.

  92. Muniya Rahman says:

    This video touched my soul 💙💙💙💙💙💙💜💜💜💜💜💜🌞🌛🌝🌠🌟 Ted ed has all the answers to my questions ❤❤❤

  93. Barış Aygün says:


  94. Saurabh Tewari says:

    The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you
    -neil d Tyson

  95. Sarah Coates says:

    So there's lots off different visual ways of discovering the stars but have we tried smelling our way through the universe yet??

  96. WaveParticleDuality says:

    Is it just me or is the video laggy?

  97. Dan Conser says:


  98. Raja Wajahat Mehmood says:

    Respect from Lahore Pakistan

  99. PowerOf One says:

    If the Earth is spinning at 1,000 MPH as it revolves around the Sun at 66,600 MPH while the Sun shoots through space at 450,000 MPH,  then why haven’t the constellations changed in thousands of years? EARTH IS A FLAT & MOTIONLESS.    Polaris Proves the Flat Earth too.

  100. WaveParticleDuality says:

    Scientia Nobis Benedicit

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