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News Release Archive:

News Release 395 of 961

January 9, 2006 09:20 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2006-02

There's More to the North Star Than Meets the Eye

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Image: Hubble Images Polaris's Companion

Hubble Images Polaris's CompanionSTScI-PRC2006-02a

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ABOUT THIS IMAGE:

This sequence of images shows that the North Star, Polaris is really a triple star system.

For the first time, the close companion of Polaris has been seen directly.

The left frame shows Polaris's location very close to the position of Earth's north celestial pole in Ursa Minor (the Small Bear).

The upper right image shows Polaris A and its distant companion Polaris B, as viewed by Hubble. They are separated by approximately 240 billion miles. Polaris B, the wide companion, is visible in small telescopes, and was first noticed by William Herschel in 1780. The close companion, Polaris Ab was known to exist from its gravitational tug on Polaris A, but has only been seen directly now using Hubble (lower right image). The companion is only 2 billion miles from Polaris A.

The triple system is 430 light-years away.

Object Names: Polaris, Alpha Ursae Minoris, North Star

Image Type: Astronomical/Illustration

Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Evans (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), and H. Bond (STScI)

NEWS RELEASE IMAGES

The above montage includes these images:

Constellation Illustration Image Type: Astronomical/Illustration Constellation Illustration Polaris A and Polaris B Image Type: Astronomical/Illustration Polaris A and Polaris B Polaris A and Polaris Ab Image Type: Astronomical/Illustration Polaris A and Polaris Ab

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