For most people, birthdays are special days to celebrate the ones we love. It’s a marker, a “welcome to” sign on this journey of life, signifying the completion of another trip around the Sun.
We are all born within a snapshot of time which some believe shapes aspects of who we are and will become, as referenced by astrology with star signs and birth charts.
If the person celebrating this milestone in life is a lover of the night sky, then pointing out their birthday star can be a deep and meaningful experience.
**Use the “Article Contents” menu to quickly find the birthday star chart or any points of interest.
What is a Birthday Star?
A Birthday Star is a star whose light has taken as many years to reach Earth as the number of years in your life.
Space is so incredibly vast it is difficult to imagine or comprehend. The light from a star travels at a constant speed, the speed of light. When we look up into the night sky, the light we see illuminating from stars has traveled great distances, each varying depending on which star we are looking at.
A measurement of distance used when relating to stars is a light-year. One light-year is the time and distance a photon or wavelength of light will have traveled during one year on Earth.
So, for example, if a star is at a distance of 30 light-years from Earth, then its light we see at night has traveled 30 years to be seen by our eyes.
In essence, if today you are 30 years old and gaze upon a star thirty light-years away, that light you are seeing first began its journey in the same year you began your journey of life, your birth.
At that moment, both journeys of light and life intersect amid our wonderous cosmos. This star is your birthday star.
How and Where to Find Your Birthday Star
On a clear dark night, hundreds to thousands of stars may be visible. So finding a particular star, let alone discerning how far away a star is, can seem almost impossible. Luckily as the saying goes, “There’s an app for that!”
There are online birthday star calculators and many apps to choose from. The one I have and will use as an example in this process of how to calculate a star’s distance and where to find them in the night sky is the app SkySafari 7 Pro for IOS. They offer three different tiers: Basic, Plus, and Pro, all paid subscriptions.
We’ll begin by opening the app and following the steps outlined below.
Open the Sky Safari 7 App and click on the search icon at the bottom right of the screen. An arrow is pointing to the search icon.
Once on the next screen, select “Named Stars” to bring up a list of the most well-known, documented stars.
A list of all the stars will appear on this page. Select the filter icon in the top right corner to arrange the stars in order of distance.
These are the filter options you will see. Next, select the “Distance” option to arrange the stars by the number of light-years from Earth.
Now you have an extensive list of stars, including their distance in light years from Earth, beginning with the nearest star, our Sun.
Proceed down the list to find the star whose distance matches the age of the person identifying their birthday star. There may be multiple selections.
When deciding between multiple birthday stars, choose the brightest star, which will be easier to find. The “Mag” (Apparent Magnitude) number below the birthday star name will let you know its level of brightness in the sky. The lower the number, the brighter the birthday star will be.
Anything higher than a Mag number of “6” will require some form of visual aid, such as a telescope or binoculars. Therefore, selecting a birthday star below a magnitude of six is best when possible.
Remember, each new year brings a new star as you will be a year older. So you’ll repeat these steps, finding your birthday star whose distance reflects your current age welcoming its light from the year of your birth.
You have identified your birthday star! When ready, use any available app, like SkySafari, to locate your star in the night sky.
I have also provided a chart at the end of this article in case you need to find your star quickly.
There are many space and astronomy products marketed as gifts for birthdays. For example, a print of the selected birthday star’s information may be a great gift idea. A birthday star map is also pretty neat but entirely different compared to what a birthday star is.
I’ll explain more about the map next so you will understand the difference.
What is a Birthday Star Map?
A Birthday Star Map is a printed re-creation of how the night sky appeared from the perspective of a birth location, time, and date here on Earth.
These stars are not the birthday stars we discussed earlier but a celestial map of all stars seen in the sky at the specific time, a snapshot of the night sky at birth. Therefore, the stars will all have varying distances.
Is it possible to Buy or Name a Birthday Star?
It is not possible to purchase, own or name a birthday star. Some astronomy and space products are marketed as gifts selling the idea of naming or owning celestial objects such as stars, but this is more for entertainment value and not officially recognized by the scientific community.
All names of stars and other celestial objects recognized by the scientific community are given their names by the International Astronomical Union.
What is your Birthday Star?
Find your Star in this Birthday Star Chart
This chart was created using the process described earlier in this article.
Since the closest star system beyond our Sun is four light years away (Alpha Centauri), this chart spans age (4) through age (100). Stars were selected with the brightest magnitude rating available for the age group available through this process.
Remember, any star with a magnitude number higher than “6” will require some type of visual aid to be seen, such as binoculars or a telescope.
Once you have found your star, take the name of the star and put it in your star finder app to locate it in the night sky while stargazing.
The darker and clearer the skies, the better for seeing stars. How soon after sunset the stars begin to appear will change throughout the year. So planning a time of the night to view your star will help make it a successful evening. A New Moon or Gibbous Moon is best for dark skies. Learn more about these phases of the Moon here.
Your Age = The age of the person to be matched with the distance of the star
Birthday Star = The name of the Birthday Star
Magnitude = The brightness of the star in the sky. The lower the number the brighter the star will be.
L/Yrs. = The number of light years from Earth
Constellation = The constellation from which the star can be found in
**Barnard’s Star was used in age “6” as it is so close and there was not a better candidate for this group.
|YOUR AGE||BIRTHDAY STAR||Mag.||L/Yrs.||Constellation|
|10||Ran (epsilon Eridani)||3.73||10.5||Eridanus|
|12||Luyten’s Star||9.84||12.4||Canis Minor|
|23||268 G. Cet/|
Xi Ursae Majoris
|31||61 Uma||5.31||31.2||Ursa Minor|
|71||Head of Hydrus||2.85||71.8||Hydrus|