By Lenny Pierce
For those of you who are currently lost in the woods (but also have access to Nerdist.com), take note of the ongoing changes being observed in the famed homing beacon Polaris, or the “North Star.” Though the star has decreased in brightness over the last few decades, a closer look at historical observations of Polaris has shown that in the long run, the star has actually been brightening for a long time.
Astronomers have known since the early 20th century that The North Star fluctuates in brightness. This puts it in a class of stars called Cepheid variables, which can regularly change in intensity – kind of like that flickering light bulb in the bathroom that nearly gives you a shower seizure every morning. Recently, however, scientists have found that even with the intermittent flickering, Polaris has been getting progressively brighter in the grand scheme of things.
Desperation-prone hikers can rest easy knowing Polaris will be brighter than ever the next time they take a wrong turn. (Greg Bacon, STSc)
Scott Engle of Villanova University set out to get a broader perspective on this star’s brightness record. To do this, he consulted a century’s worth of data that …read more