THE North Star is famous for being the celestial object that can help lost travellers because it appears to remain stationary in the sky in the direction of north.
However, because the Earth is wobbling on its axis due to a process called precession, the star that holds the famous title actually changes over time and the North Star that we know now will no longer be in the north in 13,000 years.
2 Vega is a bright blue and white starCredit: Wikimedia Commons/Stephen Rahn
Our current North Star is called Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor.
For centuries this has been the star that has guided people home but it will one day have to give up its title to Vega, a star that had the title several thousand years ago.
Astrophysicist Sarafina Nance recently explained in a tweet: “Our North Star, Polaris, is a beacon in the night sky, an unchanging anchor in the cosmos but the North Star actually does change!
“The Earth wobbles, causing its axis to shift and point towards a different “north” every 26,000 years. In 13,000 years, our new north will be Vega.”
How to spot VegaHere’s what you need to do to see the North Star of the future…
Vega is part of the Lyra constellation
It can been seen in the summer sky in the Northern Hemisphere
The “Summer Triangle” constellation is made up of the bright stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair and Vega is at the top of this triangle
The best way to find a star is to use its right ascension and declination, which is “18h 36m 56.3s” for the right ascension and 38 degrees 47 minutes 01 second for the declination
This may sound a bit confusing but there are lots of free smartphone apps you can get which you can hold to the sky, move them around and then eventually spot Vega
It is a bright blue and white star and never sets in most of Europe
2 The North Star is famous for being a celestial guideCredit: Andrew Whyte
Vega is the fifth brightest star in the sky and is located 25 thousand light years away from Earth.
It was actually the first star, other than the Sun, to be photographed.
As Vega is a relatively young star, scientists are currently studying it to learn more about the early stages of star evolution.
Why does the Earth wobble?Here’s what you need to know about the process of precession…
As the Earth rotates on its axis it actually wobbles like a spinning top
This is called precession and one period of precession lasts for 26,000 years
Precession is caused by the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon on the Earth
The Earth moving in this way means that the North Star is constantly changing to a different star depending on which way Earth is tilting
We don’t notice the process of precession on Earth
Diagram shows how a hot gas giant exoplanet effects a surrounding star
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How do you feel about the changing of the North Star? Let us know in the comments…
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