The North Star is the brightest in the night sky, right? It’s actually the 48th brightest!
The brightest is Sirius, the “individual” seen from the southwest this month. It will soon disappear during the summer and rise again in November.
The North Star is not. The lack of brightness is more than compensate for consistency, at least for us who live in the Northern Hemisphere.
The North Star or North Star is better known as Polaris.
Polaris literally has a special place in the night sky. Earth’s north axis happens to point directly at Polaris, so it appears to be perfectly stationary while all other stars move across the sky and the stars near the pole move in circles around them.
Look at the photo of the northern sky above, made with a long exposure of about two hours. Polaris is at the center of that circle!
But how do you find Polaris when you look at a typical starry sky?
First you need to find the Big Dipper. It should look something like this: Anytime this month, you can go outside as soon as it gets dark.
“Spring up, fall down” is a way to remember the location of the Big Dipper.
To find Polaris anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, first look for Merak and Dubhe at the end of the Big Dipper’s “bowl”.
If you draw an imaginary line from Merak to Dubhe and continue traveling about 5 times the distance between the two stars, you will reach Polaris, the only bright star in that region of the night sky!
The North Star is always the tip of the “Big Dipper” opposite the Big Dipper.
All other stars in this star, also called Ursa Minor, are fainter than the Big Dipper, so you’ll need a pretty dark sky to see them.
Polaris is 430 light-years away from us and the farther north you travel, the higher it will appear in the sky. At the North Pole, the North Star is always directly above it.
Standing at the North Pole between October and March will not only allow you to see the North Star from above, but it will never go out of sight. The sun never appears beyond the horizon because the Earth’s axis of rotation points away from the sun for 6 months. Therefore, the North Pole is always in darkness.
Hope you have clear skies and wide eyes.