If you have ever wondered what the North Star is like, you’ve probably come across Polaris. While it is a beautiful star, Polaris isn’t the brightest in the night sky. In fact, Sirius is brighter than Polaris. Yet, it is still easy to spot, and it is a stepping stone to more interesting objects. Here are a few things you should know about this star. Then, get ready to explore the night sky in a whole new way.
The star’s name derives from its fixed position in the night sky. Various cultures in the northern hemisphere have a strong connection to the North Star. Norse mythology states that Polaris is the end of a spike on which the sky rotates. Mongolian mythology says that it is a peg that holds the world together. In 2008, NASA even beamed the song “Across the Universe” to the North Star.
While not the brightest star in the night sky, Polaris can be spotted in most areas, even in cities. It is situated in the direction of true north, not magnetic north. In fact, polaris is the north star of the Northern Hemisphere, and it is located more or less directly over the north pole of the Earth. The North Star is also located on the rotational axis of the Earth, an imaginary line that runs through the planet and makes it rotate.
In the early modern era, Polaris was named Cynosura. This was the old name for the constellation Ursa Minor. Cynosura comes from Greek kunosoura, meaning “dog’s tail”, and Ursa Minor was associated with a dog in ancient times. The star was also known by the Arabic name al-Judeyy, which dates back to pre-Islamic astronomy. It was also known as al-kutb al-shamaliyy in medieval Islamic times.
You can see Polaris in the night sky by spotting the constellation Ursa Minor. The Little Dipper asterism is made up of seven stars, including Polaris. The stars on the handle of the Little Dipper point to Polaris. And in the Big Dipper, you’ll find the star Merak. And, of course, the North Star. It takes 23 hours and 56 minutes for the stars to complete a circle around the constellation.
The brightest star in Ursa Minor, Polaris is the current northern pole star. It is a triple star system, containing Polaris Aa and two smaller companions. The main star, UMi Aa, is a yellow supergiant. Its two smaller companions, Polaris Ab and Polaris B, are in orbit around it. The distances are calculated at 433 light years from Earth, while some other methods have derived Polaris’ distance as 30% closer to Earth.
Observers can locate the North Pole and Polaris by simply looking up the sky. The constellation is closest to the north celestial pole, so observers near the North Pole can see it directly overhead. Those further south, on the other hand, can see it closer to the horizon and observe the star from New York’s latitude. But, whatever the case, you’ll be able to see it from anywhere, if you know where to look.
Polaris is a little bit off the Earth’s axis, but it still isn’t a far-off star. In fact, it is about one degree off the north celestial pole. It doesn’t move much in the night sky, while other stars trace larger circles around it. Nevertheless, it’s still a great sight to see and admire! There’s nothing quite like a dazzling show to wake up to on a clear night.
Because of its distance from Earth, Polaris appears dim to our naked eye. It’s actually a yellow supergiant that is in a short-lived phase before ballooning into a red supergiant. It’s the largest member of a triple star system, consisting of two main sequence stars and one variable star, called Polaris Aa. It fluctuates in brightness by a few tenths of a magnitude every few days.