Science & Tech

North Star

  • Vice President said Parliament is the “North Star” of democracy, “a place of discussion and deliberation to realise the aspirations and dreams of the people”.
  • The term “North Star” refers to something constant/permanent that leads and provides direction.
  • Polaris, also known as the North Star or the Pole Star, is a very bright star (about 2500 times brighter than our sun) located less than one degree north of the celestial pole.
  • Because of its location and brightness, humans have used it for navigation since late antiquity.
  • It is located in the constellation Ursa Minor, approximately 323 light-years from Earth.

How does it aid navigation?

  • It appears to rotate around all the stars in the northern sky as it stands almost motionless in the night sky.
  • This makes it an ideal fixed point for drawing measurements for celestial navigation.
  • Simply raising the star above the horizon gives the observer’s approximate latitude, and in the northern hemisphere, if you can see Polaris, you can always tell which way is north.
  • The North Star is lost over the horizon when crossing the equator to the south and thus no longer serves as a useful navigational aid.

When was the North Star first used for navigation?

  • Ptolemy, a Roman mathematician and astronomer who lived from about 85 to 165 B.C., appears to have charted Polaris first.
  • While there is some evidence that the star was used for navigation in late antiquity, it is during the “Age of Exploration” that it becomes such an important part of human history.
  • On his first trans-Atlantic voyage in 1492, Christopher Columbus “had to correct (his ship’s bearings) for the circle described by the pole star about the pole,” his son wrote in his biography.
  • As European colonists set sail for exotic locations around the world, the North Star became increasingly important. 
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