Starbox begin
name=Alpha Ursae Minoris
Starbox image

caption=Polaris as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Starbox observe
ra=02h 31m 48.7s
dec=+89° 15′ 51″
constell=Ursa Minor
Starbox character
class=F7 Ib-II SB
variable=Cepheid variable
Starbox astrometry
Starbox detail
mass= 4.3 +1.1 for Pol B
luminosity=2200 | temperature=7200
metal= 112% solar [cite journal
last = Cayrel de Strobel
first = G.
coauthors = Soubiran, C.; Ralite, N.
title = Catalogue of [Fe/H] determinations for FGK stars: 2001 edition
year = 2001
journal = A&A
volume = 373
pages = 159–163
url = http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2001A%26A...373..159C
rotation=~17 km/s
Starbox catalog
names=Polaris, Cynosura, Alruccabah, Phoenice,

Lodestar, Pole Star, Tramontana, Angel Stern,

Navigatoria, Star of Arcady, Yilduz, Mismar,

Поля́рная звезда́ (Polyarnaya zvyezda), 1 Ursae Minoris, HR 424,

BD +88°8, HD 8890, SAO 308, FK5 907,

GC 2243, ADS 1477, CCDM 02319+8915, HIP 11767.

Polaris (α UMi / α Ursae Minoris / Alpha Ursae Minoris, commonly North(ern) Star or Pole Star, and sometimes Lodestar) is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor. It is very close to the north celestial pole (42′ away as of 2006), making it the current northern pole star.

Polaris is about 430 light-years from Earth. Concerning the detailed physics, α UMi A is an F7 bright giant (II) or supergiant (Ib). The two smaller companions are: α UMi B, an F3V main sequence star orbiting at a distance of 2400 AU, and α UMi Ab, a very close dwarf with an 18.5 AU radius orbit. Recent observations show that Polaris may be part of a loose open cluster of type A and F stars.

Polaris B can be seen with even a modest telescope and was first noticed by William Herschel in 1780. In 1929, it was discovered by examining the spectrum of Polaris A that it had another very close dwarf companion (variously α UMi P, α UMi a or α UMi Ab), which had been theorized in earlier observations (Moore, J.H and Kholodovsky, E. A.). In January 2006, NASA released images from the Hubble telescope, directly showing all three members of the Polaris trinary system. The nearer dwarf star is in an orbit of only 18.5 AU (2.8 billion km; [ [http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2006/02/fastfacts/ There's More to the North Star Than Meets the Eye] ] about the distance from our Sun to Uranus) from Polaris A, explaining why its light is swamped by its close and much brighter companion. [cite conference | author= Evans, N. R.; Schaefer, G.; Bond, H.; Bono, G.; Karovska, M.; Nelan, E.; Sasselov, D. | title=Direct detection of the close companion of Polaris with the Hubble Space Telescope | booktitle=American Astronomical Society 207th Meeting | date=January 9 2006 | url=http://www.aas.org/publications/baas/v37n4/aas207/1130.htm]

Polaris is a classic Population I Cepheid variable (although it was once thought to be Population II due to its high galactic latitude). Since Cepheids are an important standard candle for determining distance, Polaris (as the closest such star) is heavily studied. Around 1900, the star luminosity varied ±8% from its average (0.15 magnitudes in total) with a 3.97 day period; however, the amplitude of its variation has been quickly declining since the middle of the 20th century. The variation reached a minimum of 1% in the mid 1990s and has remained at a low level. Over the same period, the star has brightened by 15% (on average), and the period has lengthened by about 8 seconds each year.

Recent research reported in "Science" suggests that Polaris is 2.5 times brighter today than when Ptolemy observed it (now 2mag, antiquity 3mag). Astronomer Edward Guinan considers this to be a remarkable rate of change and is on record as saying that "If they are real, these changes are 100 times larger than [those] predicted by current theories of stellar evolution."

Pole Star

Because α UMi lies nearly in a direct line with the axis of the Earth's rotation "above" the North Pole — the north celestial pole — Polaris stands almost motionless on the sky, and all the stars of the Northern sky appear to rotate around it. Therefore, it makes an excellent fixed point from which to draw measurements for celestial navigation and for astrometry. The antiquity of its use is attested by the fact that it is found represented on the earliest known Assyrian tablets. In more recent history it was referenced in Nathaniel Bowditch's 1802 book, The American Practical Navigator, where it is listed as one of the navigational stars. [Nathaniel Bowditch: The American Practical Navigator, 2002 Bicentennial Ed., Chapter 15 Navigational Astronomy, page 248, Figure 1530a. Navigational stars and the planets] At present, Polaris is 0.7° away from the pole of rotation (1.4 times the Moon disc) and hence revolves around the pole in a small circle 1½° in diameter. Only twice during every sidereal day does Polaris accurately define the true north azimuth; the rest of the time it is only an approximation and must be corrected using tables or a rough rule of thumb.

Due to the precession of the equinoxes, Polaris will not always be the pole star. Over tens of thousands of years, perturbations to the Earth's axis of rotation will cause it to point to other regions of the sky, tracing out a circle. Other stars along this circle were the pole star in the past and will be again in the future, including Thuban and Vega. Polaris has been close to the actual position of the north pole for over 1000 years and during the course of the 21st Cross (Crux) points fairly accurately towards the south celestial pole.

Etymology and cultural significance

To the Bedouin people of the Negev and Sinai, Polaris is known as الجديّ "al-jadiyy", "the billy goat". It and "Suhail" (= Canopus, α Car) are the two principal stars used for nomadic wandering at night. Because it was circumpolar and hence always visible, it became associated with a steadfast nature, as opposed to "Suhail", which disappears below the horizon and hence 'flees'. [cite journal |last=Bailey |first=Clinton |year=1974 |title=Bedouin Star-Lore in Sinai and the Negev |journal=Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London |volume=37 |issue=3 |pages=580–96 |url=http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0041-977X%281974%2937%3A3%3C580%3ABSISAT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Q (abstract)|accessdate=2008-01-14]

A monkey's head is the emblem of the Mayan god of the pole star.

Christopher Columbus didn't have to use Polaris for navigationbecause the compass was already invented. But he did check the direction of the compass needle against the glow of this star. Afterleaving Canary Islands he noticed that the compass needle pointed toward NW, discovering a phenomenon called variance where a secondary magnetic field is superimposed on the primary field of a dipole.cite book |last=Cooper |first=JC |title=Symbolic and Mythological Animals |pages=163 |year=1992 |publisher= Aquarian Press |location=London |isbn=1-85538-118-4]

See also

* Polaris in fiction


External links

* [http://www.astro.uiuc.edu/~kaler/sow/polaris.html Info on Polaris]
* [http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0002406 Polaris: astrometric orbit, position, and proper motion(mass = 6.0±0.5 M)]
* [http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/newsdesk/archive/releases/2006/02/ Polaris Ab imaged by Hubble]
* [http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0609759 Polaris: Mass and Multiplicity (mass = 5.0±1.5 M)]

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