A friend and I were walking in a field in the early evening. We were camping in a remote area, away from even the smallest of towns. There was almost no light pollution where we were and the stars were brilliant. It’s amazing just how many celestial bodies can be seen with the naked eye when there’s no man-made light sources around to interfere.
I looked up and noticed that one object was extremely bright, brighter than any other object in the night sky. It was Venus shining brightly above the horizon.
I pointed up and commented on its brightness. My friend said “Wow, the North Star is bright tonight.”
Not the Brightest Star in the Sky
My friend is not alone in misidentifying the Polaris, aka the North Star. Many people falsely believe that it’s the brightest star in the night sky. But that’s not right. Polaris is about average in its brightness; in fact from a backyard in a subdivision, it’s hard to see at all because of the porch and street lights.
What makes Polaris unique is that it’s the only object in the sky that appears to be stationary. It is almost directly in line with the axis around which our planet rotates. Polaris appears not to move during the night while the other stars seems to traverse through the evening sky.
Polaris can be found using several methods. I’ve already mentioned a couple of ways in other posts. Both the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia point to the North Star. Polaris also is part of the constellation known as the Little Dipper as well.
For all its prominence and importance, the North Star’s brightness is only average. So, don’t be fooled when you see a bright object in the sky. It not likely to be North Star.