North Star Polaris Is Getting Brighter
By by Nola Taylor Redd, SPACE.com ContributorFebruary 4, 2014 10:46 AM
The North Star Polaris Is Getting Brighter
This long-exposure photo (left) shows how the North Star, Polaris, stays fixed in the night sky as other …
The North Star has remained an eternal reassurance for northern travelers over the centuries. But recent and historical research reveals that the ever-constant star is actually changing.
After dimming for the last few decades, the North Star is beginning to shine brightly again. And over the last two centuries, the brightening has become rather dramatic.
“It was unexpected to find,” Scott Engle of Villanova University in Pennsylvania told SPACE.com. Engle investigated the fluctuations of the star over the course of several years, combing through historical records and even turning the gaze of the famed Hubble Space Telescope onto the star. [Top 10 Star Mysteries]
(In)constant as the North Star
Scientists have known since the early 20th century that the familiar star was part of a pulsating class known as Cepheid variables; its variations were suspected as early as the mid-1800s. But unlike most Cepheid variables, the pulses of Polaris are very small.
“If it had not been so popular as the North Star, we likely wouldn’t have known it was a Cepheid until modern times,” Engle said.