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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.