Summary: Existence of Fixed Stars was well known to ancient astronomers. Physicists have built the entire edifice of laws of physics upon notion of Fixed Stars despite the fact that the notion suffered a setback in 1718 with discovery of proper motion of Fixed Stars. However to explain the phenomena on the basis of known laws of science is just not possible and so the phenomena continues to be as mysterious as ever.
Night sky looks the same, viewed from any location on Earth.
Stars form patterns known as Asterisms consisting of groups of two or more stars. Member stars of an asterism bear constant spatial relationship to each other despite being physically unrelated.
Asterisms further constitute defined areas of celestial sphere known as Constellations.
North Pole star Polaris is always aligned to North Pole of Earth and is used to determine latitude and longitude of a place in Northern hemisphere. Likewise South Pole star - Polaris Australis bears a constant spatial relationship to South Pole of earth. North Pole star despite bearing a constant spatial relationship to North Pole does not occur at a specific point in space, it rather occupies the spatial locus defined by precession cycle of Earth’s axis which takes place in a span of 25,772 years. During the cycle actual pole star keeps changing. For example presently, Polaris is the North Pole star but in 3000 CE Gamma Cephei is expected to be North Pole star and in 5200CE Iota Cephei will assume the title.
Ancient astronomers referred to all these stars as Fixed Stars, since they were unable to observe their motion in relation to a geographical locus. However in 1718 Edmund Halley announced his discovery that Fixed Stars are not fixed but have proper motion. The Fixed Star with largest known proper motion is Barnard’s star. Besides Fixed Stars ancient astronomers also defined wandering stars which were seen to move and change their position in the manner of Sun and Moon. They change their position within a band of stars known as Zodiac.
Notion of Fixed Stars even though no longer valid has impacted physicists in a profound way.
In Newton's time the fixed stars were invoked as a reference frame supposedly at rest relative to absolute space (http://en.wikipedia.org/
In formulating Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Einstein believed that inertial property of rigid bodies to move along straight lines in accordance with Newton’s first law of Mechanics was due to influence of fixed stars. This was also in accordance with Mach’s Principle which says “Local physical laws are determined by large scale structure of the universe”.
But all the above discussion raises the question of demonstrable connection between Fixed Stars and rigid bodies on earth forcing them to move along a straight line until and unless acted upon by an external force. Unfortunately, no such connection has been demonstrated so far.
Irony of the situation is that notion of fixed stars upon which rest the entire edifice of Newtonian Mechanics, Einstein’s theory of Relativity, Mach’s Principle etc. in itself was found to be incorrect as early as 1718 by Edmund Halley. So, laws of physics stand on a shaky foundation. Hence, there does not arise any question of laws of physics explaining star fixations.
It is quite amazing that two or more celestial bodies apparently having independent motion, having no demonstrable physical connection maintain relative position to each other. Not only this, even actual celestial bodies change from time to time while keeping relative positions all the time. Presently, there are no known scientific laws that can explain the phenomena. Rather, scientists have been misled by the phenomena.
Clearly nature is mysterious much beyond our imagination and presently it is not possible to explain all the known scientific facts on the basis of known natural laws.
Author: Dr Mahesh C. Jain is a practicing medical doctor and has written the book “Encounter of Science with Philosophy – A synthetic view”. The book begins with first chapter devoted to scientifically valid concept of God and then explains cosmic phenomena right from origin of nature and universe up to origin of life and evolution of man. The book includes several chapters devoted to auxiliary concepts and social sciences as corollaries to the concept of God. This is the only book which deals with origin of nature and universe from null. Several chapters of the book are devoted to physics.