Aquarius – Mind – Crown: POLARIS

Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor and is located about 431 light-years away. It is located almost directly above the north celestial pole, making it the Earth’s pole star. It appears as a fixed point in the night sky, around which all other stars revolve, and has been used by sailors for centuries for orientation.

Although Polaris is a triple system, it can be divided into a binary system and a lone star located much farther away. Binary systems are important because their stars are among the few whose masses can be accurately determined. But calculating the mass of each star in a binary system requires full knowledge of their complete orbits. This in turn requires visual observation of their motions, something that has so far been impossible in the Polaris binary system.

Because of the precession of the equinoxes (due to the Earth’s nutation motion), the stars do not really remain fixed in the celestial vault. Therefore, Polaris will not always be the closest star to the north pole, nor was it in the past. Polaris keeps moving closer to our north celestial pole, then gradually moving away from it, to which it will return within one complete precession cycle, 25,780 years from now. Other stars, including Thuban (α Draconis) and Vega (α Lyrae) were the pole star in the past and will be again in the future.

The close companion Polaris Ab was known to exist, due to its gravitational pull on the main star, but has only been imaged directly using the Hubble telescope.

The other companion, Polaris B, is much farther away and has been imaged before. NASA, ESA, N. Evans (Harvard Smithsonian CfA), and H. Bond One of its stellar companions is clearly visible with a telescope, but the other hugs Polaris so tightly that it had never been seen before until now, astronomers, using the Hubble space telescope, have photographed this close neighbor for the first time, recording its ultraviolet light. «The star we observed is so close to Polaris that we required every last bit of Hubble’s resolution capabilities to see it,» said Nancy Evans, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who participated in the research.

The newly observed companion is about 3.2 billion kilometers away from Polaris. Astronomers had already known about it for about 50 years from analysis of light arriving from the triple star system, but it was so faint compared to Polaris that direct observation was impossible. «With Hubble, we have brought Polaris’ companion out of the shadow and made it visible,» said astronomer Howard Bond of the Space Telescope Science Institute, who control Hubble for NASA and the European space agency.

I invite you to read Matias’ post with the topic of the day.

Finally, I encourage everyone to reflect on the concept of the day. No one else but us can re-signify our own being

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