Enchanted Skies


'Polaris Trails'

Galaxy M51

I get some 'creative' ideas occasionally. This was one of them...

Denizens of the Northern Hemisphere can follow two bright 'pointer stars' in the pan of the Big Dipper asterism to a fairly bright star, Polaris, which lies close to Celestial North, the imaginary point in the sky that all of these stars appear to rotate around. We affectionately refer to Polaris as the North Star, but how close to 'true' North is it? These magnified star trails show Polaris as a bright arc that seems well removed from Celestial North.

There are certainly plenty of stars north of our North Star. The current angular deviation between Polaris and true north is actually about 40 arc-minutes (only 2/3rds of a degree), so it's fairly close. Precession is causing Polaris to slowly move closer to true north. By the beginning of the next century, the North Star will be within 28 arc-minutes of Celestial North. Then it will slowly move away as part of the continual dance of stars around our celestial poles.

The image was acquired using an Orion ED80 telescope and a Canon T2i camera at prime focus. Five minute subs stitched together using Photoshop. Imaged from my driveway in Las Cruces, NM.

Enchanted Skies - Astrophotoimages copyright, Rich Richins)

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