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EARTH: North Star loses mass but still shines bright

May 03, 2012
Alexandria, VA - The North Star, the Pole Star, the Guiding Star, Polaris: Its many names reflect the many centuries humans have gazed northward to it for guidance. However, recent studies have shown that the North Star is losing mass at a significant rate. Will Polaris, steadfast beacon for early sailors and adventurers alike, vanish from the night sky?

Hilding Neilson of the Argelander Institute of Astronomy at the University of Bonn in Germany thinks that he and his colleagues have unlocked the answer to the North Star's decreasing mass. Although the North Star's peculiar alignment with the Earth's North Pole makes it seem motionless, the North Star actually pulsates, varying daily in size and luminosity. Neilson and his colleagues say that the lengthening of these pulses may hold the key to Polaris's enhanced mass loss. Why? Read more and find out online at

Check out this story and more in the May issue of EARTH Magazine, available online now at Shed some light on life-bearing planets with Earthshine; determine whether M.Y. is an abbreviation or a unit of time; and, travel to Santorini, Greece, all in this month's issue of EARTH.


Keep up to date with the latest happenings in Earth, energy and environment news with EARTH magazine online at Published by the American Geosciences Institute, EARTH is your source for the science behind the headlines.

The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of 50 geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

American Geological Institute

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Friday 20 November 1998
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