If you’ve ever wondered what is Polaris, then you’re not alone. The star is a powerful symbol for northern hemisphere cultures. Norse mythology explains Polaris as the point at which the sky rotates around the earth. And Mongolians believe the star is a peg that holds the world together. So, what is Polaris and why is it so important? Let’s look at some of its most fascinating facts.
The star Polaris is one of the brightest in the constellation Ursa Minor. It is approximately 433 light years away, and its parallax was measured by the Hipparcos astrometry satellite. The star is closer to Earth than previously estimated, as high resolution spectral analysis has shown. It is also the nearest Cepheid variable to Earth, and the only one with dynamically measured mass.
Observers also use Polaris as a guide to the northern horizon. Because it appears motionless, it serves as a fixed point for astrometry and celestial navigation. It has been used for centuries and will continue to be used for navigation and astronomy. As a star, Polaris lies in the constellation Ursa Minor, or the Little Bear. A closer view will show the star in more distant constellations.
The name of the star reflects its role in ancient astrology. In the ancient Egyptians, the North Star was symbolically represented by a female hippopotamus. Ptolemy, a Greek astronomer who lived between 85 and 165 B.C.E., also discovered that Polaris was close to the celestial North Pole and thus very useful for navigation. It also appeared on the flags of Alaska and Nunavut.
Interestingly, Polaris is 4.6 times brighter today than it was when Ptolemy observed it. In addition, the star’s brightness was increased after the minimum in 1908, and then decreased again as it moved farther away from the north celestial pole. And this is just one of the fascinating facts about Polaris. The star is important for astronomy and navigation, as it is a low-amplitude Cepheid.
It is also a triple star system – Ursa Minor’s North Star. This triple-star system consists of three distant stars. Each of these stars is a variable star. The star is named Stella Polaris – which means “pole star” in Latin. It is nearly directly above the North Celestial Pole, and is easily identified by the Little Dipper. There are many myths about the star. But the fact remains that it has many historical uses.
The star was known as the North Star by ancient Egyptians. In fact, it was the North Star when they built their pyramids, and it’s located in the Ursa Minor constellation. The North Star is actually quite fainter than the Little Dipper, so it’s not difficult to find. The star is 430 light years away and is located in the north-west region of the sky. It is an evolved class F (F7) yellow supergiant with a mass six times that of the Sun.
During classical times, the North Star was the Thuban star in the constellation Draco. However, by 320 BCE, it was closer to the constellation Beta Ursae Minoris. By late antiquity, Polaris would be close to the North Pole, but not as close as it is today. In the meantime, other stars in the night sky would trace larger circles around it. The star will remain the North Star for centuries to come.
You can also find Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor. Ursa Minor contains a group of stars called the “Little Dipper.” The star is in the handle of the Little Dipper, but is not always very bright. The easiest way to locate Polaris is to locate the seven stars in the Big Dipper constellation in Ursa Major. These stars form a bowl-shaped star pattern. Polaris lies in the end of the handle.