Tags: north | star | polaris | brightens

North Star Polaris Brightens, After Dimming For Two Decades

Wednesday, 05 Feb 2014 02:04 PM

By Courtney Coren

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After dimming in the 1990s, the North Star Polaris is getting brighter and the change is rather dramatic, scientists say.

"It was unexpected to find," Scott Engle of Villanova University told Space.com.

Engle studies the changes the star has gone through over the years by looking through historical records and sometimes with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientists started noticing in the early 1990s that Polaris, which is known for its brightness, was starting to dim. When Engle and his team began studying the star in 2000, they discovered that the Polaris was starting to brighten again.

"It started increasing rather rapidly," Engle said.

After combing through a substantial amount of data kept on the star from the last century, Engle's team concluded that the star had brightened over the last century.

Observations kept by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in the 16th century, Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahaman al-Sufi and Roman astronomer Ptolemy in the second century lead Engle's group to determine that the star may have brightened 4.6 times what it was in ancient times.

He presented his findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C. in early January.

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