Polaris, the North Star

Polaris, the North Star

The Polaris is also called North Star or Stella Polaris, resulting from its position as the closest star to the North Pole in the night sky. It has an apparent brightness of about 2 mag, which is relatively high. However, it is not the brightest star visible from Earth, as often mistakenly believed. On the list of the brightest stars, the Polaris is only number 47.

What is special about Polaris?

The special feature of the star is that it does not change its location during the night, but is always in the same place. Thus, with the help of Polaris, the direction to the geographic North Pole can be found out approximately. In this way, Polaris is often used as an orientation aid in the night sky. It can be found in the night sky all year round in the northern hemisphere, but never in the southern hemisphere.

Polaris and the Constellations

It is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, also called Little Bear, which is similar to Ursa Major (or Big Dipper). The tail of Ursa Minor points towards the celestial pole. Polaris symbolizes the end of the tail. Since Polaris is currently very close to the North Celestial Pole, the constellation seems to rotate around it. In contrast to the constellation of Ursa Major, the constellation Ursa Minor is less bright and therefore less easy to find in bright light. This constellation is therefore a good indicator to estimate the darkness of the night sky or light pollution.

How can you find Polaris?

To find Polaris in the sky, you can simply orientate yourself by the constellation Ursa Major by drawing an imaginary line through the two stars that form the tail. If you extend this line (approximately five times its length), you'll find it directly.

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