Title: Studying the Cosmos: The Quest for the Polaris Star

The celestial sphere, which forms the backdrop of our night sky, is filled with a myriad of stars, each with its own unique story. One such star that has captured the fascination of humans for centuries is the North Star, also known as Polaris. This star, located almost directly above the Earth’s North Pole, has played a crucial role in navigation and astronomy throughout history.

The North Star is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, also known as the Little Bear. It is also the last star in the tail of the Little Bear, which is why it’s often referred to as the ‘tail star’. However, its brightness is not what makes the North Star special. Rather, its significance lies in its position in the sky. It is the only star in the night sky that remains fixed while all other stars appear to revolve around it. This is due to the Earth’s rotation on its axis, which is aligned with Polaris.

Thanks to its steady position in the sky, the North Star has been used for navigation for centuries. Sailors, explorers, and wanderers have relied on it to determine their direction and maintain their course. Its location can also be used to determine latitude, making it a vital tool for cartography and geography.

The method of finding the North Star is relatively simple and involves locating the Big Dipper constellation, also known as Ursa Major or the Great Bear. The two outermost stars of the Big Dipper, known as the ‘pointer stars’, create a line that leads directly to the North Star.

Despite its importance in history and navigation, the North Star is not the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it’s only the 50th brightest star. However, its brightness varies over time due to it being a Cepheid variable star. This means that its luminosity fluctuates over a period of roughly four days.

The North Star’s fixed position will not remain forever, though. Due to the Earth’s axial precession, the North Star will eventually shift to other stars. In about 12,000 years, the star Vega in the constellation Lyra will take over as the North Star.

The study of the North Star is not limited to its role in navigation. Scientists are also interested in understanding its composition, lifecycle, and the potential planets that may orbit it. In 2006, it was discovered that Polaris is not a solitary star but part of a three-star system. This discovery sheds light on the complexities of the universe and our ongoing efforts to understand it.

In conclusion, the North Star, with its fixed position and historical significance, continues to captivate the interest of stargazers and scientists alike. As we continue to peer into the cosmos, the North Star serves as a constant reminder of our quest to understand the universe and our place within it.


The article shares insights from The Great Orbax, a science communicator from the University of Guelph’s Department of Physics, about what to expect from the June night sky. The Great Orbax provides a monthly Star Gazing Guide to help those interested in astronomy to better understand the celestial bodies that can be seen.

One of the main topics discussed in the article is the recent ‘Parade of Planets’. The media had presented this as a significant event, but without a telescope, it was difficult to see three out of the six planets involved. Furthermore, the remaining planets were only visible for a brief time around sunrise. This highlights the importance of having realistic expectations when it comes to astronomical observations.

The Great Orbax also talks about Polaris, the North Star, which is a near-constant presence in the night sky. To locate Polaris, one must look north and use the two stars at the far end of the Big Dipper’s cup to draw a line that leads to Polaris. The reason Polaris always appears in the north is because it lies on the Earth’s axis of rotation, meaning all other stars seem to revolve around it. This also means that Polaris never sets below the horizon and that several constellations near it, known as circumpolar constellations, also never set.

Interestingly, the article reveals that Polaris is only temporarily our North Star due to the wobble in the Earth’s axis of rotation. This wobble follows a 26,000-year cycle, meaning that 14,000 years ago Vega was our North Star and in another 12,000 years, it will regain that title.

For those who want to learn more about astronomy, The Great Orbax recommends watching the June Star Gazing Guide video on the Guelph Physics YouTube channel. Stargazing can be a fun and educational way to spend time with others, and it provides an opportunity to learn about space, planets, and the stars.



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