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 The mystery of the North Star: Astronomers baffled to find Polaris is getting BRIGHTER

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PostSubject: The mystery of the North Star: Astronomers baffled to find Polaris is getting BRIGHTER   Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:18 pm

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;





The mystery of the North Star: Astronomers baffled to find Polaris is getting BRIGHTER



  • Team found that Polaris is 2.5 times brighter today than in 137CE

  • Experts say find is 'entirely unexpected'



By MARK PRIGG

PUBLISHED: 16:17 EST, 5 February 2014 | UPDATED: 16:18 EST, 5 February 2014
Astronomers have discovered that Polaris, the north star, is getting brighter.
They say the star has suddenly reversed two decades of dimming.
It is expanding at more than 100 times the rate they expected - and nobody is sure why.



+3
Is Polaris getting brighter? Stars appear to rotate around Polaris, the north star, in this long exposure picture taken near the 4-meter telescope dome at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. The image is composed of 114 30-second exposures of the night sky combined to make the equivalent of a nearly one hour exposure in which the earth's rotation causes the stars to appear to move across the night sky.

THE NORTH STAR



Polaris, also known as the North Star, Northern Star or Pole Star, is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor.


Historically it has been used to guide travellers, and is very close to the north celestial pole, making it the current northern pole star.


Recent papers calculate the distance to Polaris at about 434 light-years, although some suggest it may be 30% closer which.


A team led by Scott Engle of Villanova University in Pennsylvania recalibrated historic measurements of Polaris by Ptolemy in 137 C.E., the Persian astronomer Al-Sufi in 964 C.E., and others. 



They investigated the fluctuations of the star over the course of several years, combing through historical records and utilising the Hubble Space Telescope.
The team found that Polaris is 2.5 times brighter today than in Ptolemy's time, which they say is a remarkable rate of change. 


'If they are real, these changes are 100 times larger than predicted by current theories of stellar evolution,' says Villanova astronomer Edward Guinan. 



The team's data also hint that the star's cyclic 4-day variation in brightness, although still weak, is once again growing more robust--but no one knows what's driving these flutterings or how long they will last.



Engle and his team began to research the star around the beginning of 2000, when they found that the dropping brightness was on the rise again.


+3
Pinpointing Polaris: Researchers say it is getting brighter far more quickly than they expected after reversing its dimming

'It was unexpected to find,' Engle  told SPACE.com.'It started increasing rather rapidly.'


'Polaris is arguably the best-known star in the Northern Hemisphere, since it lies within a degree of the North Celestial Pole,' the researchers wrote.



'For much of human history, Polaris was highly regarded for its unchanging nature. 

'However, we now know that Polaris is a Cepheid variable, undergoing ultra-low-amplitude pulsations.


'Thirty years ago, a paper in the Astrophysical Journal by A. Arellano Ferro announced that the amplitude of these pulsations was diminishing. 



'This behavior was confirmed, and it was believed that soon enough Polaris would no longer be a Cepheid variable. 




Star Trails above Beccles, with Polaris in the centre

'We started photometrically monitoring Polaris in 1999 and discovered that the amplitude of pulsations had reached a minimum and was now, in fact, growing again. 



'It was while gathering historic photometry for the amplitude study that we noticed the published magnitudes of Polaris were systematically fainter, the further back in time the data went. 



'This is an entirely unexpected behavior for a Cepheid variable, and one that we wanted to investigate further. 



Engle presented the results of his research in a poster session at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2552530/The-mystery-North-Star-Astronomers-baffled-Polaris-getting-BRIGHTER.html#ixzz2sVoc5Gdn 

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The mystery of the North Star: Astronomers baffled to find Polaris is getting BRIGHTER

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