Polaris, or The North Star as we know it is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, or as we more commonly know it, The Little Dipper. It was discovered by Astronomer William Herschel in the year 1780, and up until 1990, was estimated to be 425 light years away from the Earth. A European Space Agency’s Hipparcos Satellite put the estimate at 434 light years away in 1990, but all that may have changed.
A new study has indicated that the star is only 323 light years away, 111 light years closer than previously thought.
Dr David Turner, Professor emeritus, senior research fellow and lead researcher for the project by astronomers from Canada, Belgium and the Ukraine established the stars new distance with the aid of high resolution observation telescopes that have enhanced the stars light spectrum.
“Polaris presents certain anomalies that have so far defied a straightforward interpretation,” said study leader David Turner of Canada’s Saint Mary’s University. “Our high-resolution spectroscopic observations of Polaris may signal the beginning of a new era in understanding the star.”
Polaris has been viewed by many a season traveler over the centuries, as it is aligned with the axis of the Earth, making it the current Northern Pole Star. It has long been the most popular star with regards to celestial navigation, as ancient travelers guided themselves by the stars.
Polaris does not rise or set like other stars but is almost fixed in the northern sky year round, and all other stars circle it.
This new information about the actual distance of the North Star from Earth could be a boon for Scientists in detailing the size and scope of our Universe.
Article by Jim Donahue