Polaris has been used for navigational purposes for many years because of it's closeness to the north celestial pole and it's appearingly fixed position in relation to the horizon from any one geographical latitude. Polaris itself is quite faint but easily seen because it stands relatively alone in the night sky.

Other names for the star are the North Star or the Pole Star. Also, the Lonestar (guiding star) - in figurative language, one's lonestar is one's aim or guiding principle. The Finnish call it Taehti or the Star at the Top of the Heavenly Mountain. In China one name for it was Great Imperial Ruler of Heaven. When the emperor gave certain audiences, he sat on his throne facing south so that the Pole Star was above his head for those he received. The Laplanders called it the North Nail, while the Arabs called it the Northen Axle or Mill Peg, the sphere of stars around it being imagined as a turning millstone. It has also been named Cynosura.

Polaris is within the constellation of the Little Bear (Ursa Minor), and is the brightest star at the end of the handle of the little dipper.

It should be noted that ancient references to the Pole Star relate to whichever star was nearest to the pole at that time. Polaris itself should be approach closest to the pole on March 24, 2100, according to Jean Meeus.

Polaris is also the name of the first operational SLBM system deployed by the United States. Begun in the mid 1950s, the program was motivated by the desire to find an absolutely secure second-strike system, as well as the Navy's desire to spoon off as much of the postwar 'missile money' boom as possible. Immediately following the war, the U.S. government began to fund ballistic missile programs at a rapid rate; the U.S. Army had the Jupiter project, the Air Force had Titan and others, and the Navy needed in. They created an entire bureaucracy named the Special Projects Office, which survives to this day.

The Polaris was, in fact, the missile system carried by the submarines, although they were referred to as 'Polaris boats.' These subs, which were in the initial run simply nuclear attack submarines that had been bisected and had a missile room installed, carried sixteen Polaris A1 missiles on their initial patrols. This missile had a range of approximately 1200 nautical miles, allowing the submarines to remain in an operational area ranging from the North Sea to the Mediterranean while still being able to hit strategic targets inside the USSR (read: Moscow).

Successive upgrades increased the range of the missiles, allowing the subs larger and larger patrol areas. The development of this system spurred technology in a range of fields, from solid-fuel rocketry to inertial navigation systems. The concept of the SLBM has continued to evolve, through the Poseidon upgrade to the Polaris and on into the Ohio class Trident missile boats currently in service.

Po*la"ris (?), n. [NL. See Polar.] Astron.

The polestar. See North star, under North.


© Webster 1913.

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