Stars are visible in the sky depending on the change of seasons. But in the northern hemisphere, there is a star that remains constant in the sky: the North Star or Polaris. This name is given by its position, fixed above the North Pole, according to the axis of rotation of the Earth.
As the Earth rotates, Polaris' position remains almost fixed, while the rest of the stars seem to rotate around it. Polaris is made up of three stars, being locked in a mutual orbit, appearing as a single star in the constellation Ursa Minor. The largest of these is a gigantic, yellow star with a mass five times greater than that of our Sun and with a brightness 1,000 times stronger. It is positioned about 400 light-years from planet Earth, being in 50th place, for the brightest star.
The Star of the North can be seen from any point in the Northern Hemisphere. The easiest way to find it is through the constellation Ursa Major.
The Polar Star or North Star has been accompanying our world for thousands of years. People are fascinated by its shining nature and the fact that it looks motionless in the night sky of the Northern Hemisphere. Sailors called it, in ancient times, the Star of the Sea (Stella Maris), being useful in navigation and drawing maps. Most people have dedicated legends that celebrate its beauty and name.
Its real name is Alpha Ursae Minoris, and in 2016, the International Astronomical Union also approved the traditional, Latin name – Polaris. The Greeks, in the olden times, called it Kinosura (referring to a constellation that had the shape of a dog) or Mismar, Tramontana, Phoenice, etc.
Before the invention of radars and geographical location systems, as well as GPS, Pole Star was used as a guide in navigation because it is oriented towards the geographical celestial pole.
It is easy to identify, as it is completely fixed. It is close to the constellation Ursa Major. Both constellations are similar because they consist of 7 stars.
It is known as the constellation Ursa Minor because the stars that compose it shine less than those of Ursa Major. That is why you should know a little more about astronomy and how to identify constellations to be able to observe them from the sky. If the sky is completely clear and without light pollution, it is quite easy to see it in the sky.
Strabo tells us that the Greeks adopted Ursa Minor around 600 B.C.; Thales, who knew that the Phoenicians were using the star Polaris
to orient himself, advised the Greek sailors to give up Ursa Major (which they used to find out north) and to make use of Polaris, which is a more accurate indicator.
Seen from the North Pole, it lies almost above the head; considered the most important star in the sky (after the Sun), it was known by different names, to various civilizations: The Path, the One that shows the Road, the Navel of the World, the Gate of Heaven, the Center of the Cosmos, the Highest Peak of the World Mountain, Polar Star, Ruling Star, Ship Star, Stella Maris - Star of the Sea.
Greek navigators from Antiquity called it Kynosoura - Dog's Tail, hence the cynosure derives, which in English means "Central Attraction".
About Polaris the ancient Arabs believed that there was a hole in the sky through passing the axis of the Earth, the Mongols considered that the Universe was suspended by it. Indian astrologers called it the Pivot of the Planets.
In China, it was known as the King of Heaven or Tou Mu, the God of the Astral of the North, (from the Taoist faith) who was believed to give longevity (and if someone prays to him enough, his prayer will be fulfilled).
The Arabs did not consider it an auspicious star; under the name Of Al Kiblah (closest to the Pole) they believed it a Giedi or Al Jadi - "The Killer of Man." Polaris is said to have killed the children of Al Na'ssh. Islamists use the star to turn to Mecca during prayers or pilgrimage.
In the year 320 BC. Ch. the Greeks realized that Polaris did not mark the exact Pole. Until then there was faith that the Heavenly Pole was fixed for eternity, but of course, it was not so. It will be the closest to this position in the year 2100.
When it was discovered, the planet Uranus was at a degree
longitude away from this star. Polaris along with other stars of Ursa Minor have a Uranian influence worldwide representing inventions, revolutionary technologies, new proclaimed countries, women's right to vote, the end of slavery, health services, first space travel, education...
The Polar Star was considered a kind of deity in Mayan mythology. Merchants used this star as a guide to be able to follow their destination and not get lost. It is perfectly noticed in the Yucatan, and because of this, they felt guided on their long journeys.
It had a symbolic and spiritual meaning for the Mayans since it represented the path that people should follow in life. Not only did it served as a guide to business travel, but also as a guiding light in life.
Many of the Mayans called this star the God of the night or the God of winter. Despite what you might think, the Mayans had extensive knowledge of astronomy. They used to guide by certain stars, and they religiously studied the stars above the sky. They had identified numerous constellations that we can observe today. That's how they managed to maintain a perfect spiritual balance with the cosmos.
One of the uses of Pole Star was that it could find all the answers to life's questions. One of the most common doubts at that time was what role to play in the underworld. For the Mayans, the polar star had the answer.
Today it is still serving as a method of measuring latitude and azimuth. The azimuth is the angle that is established between the meridian and that passes through a specific point on our planet. Thanks to the Polar Star we can orient ourselves to the north direction, although it will depend entirely on the location of the observer. A fairly reliable measurement is that taken into account the height in which the polar star is on the horizon.
As you can see, this star has a lot of history and significance, and even today it is quite popular among astronomers and hobbyists.
Lately, astronomers have discovered that Polaris has become brighter.
They say that the star suddenly became brighter after two decades of adjusting the light intensity, but the motivation is not known.
A team of researchers led by Scott Engle of Villanova University in Pennsylvania compared Polaris' current measurements to those made by Ptolemy on d.Hr 137 and Persian astronomer Al-Sufi on d.Hr 964, as well as others, the Daily Mail reports.
After analyzing the star's fluctuations over several years, taking into account historical records, but also the data provided by the Hubble Space Telescope, the team found that the North Star is 2.5 times brighter today than in the time of Ptolemy. Isn't that strange? I'm sure science will later discover more and more interesting facts about the North Star.
On a final note, I should say that The Earth's axis is tilted by moving like a gyroscope in a slow process called precession. That means that in a few thousand years, Polaris will no longer be the Star of the North. This honour will go, instead, to Gamma Cephei, a binary star system in the constellation Cepheus.
But no worries, inside your being you will always find the way to the North Star and the path to follow to achieve your goal.