From which New York State location would Polaris be observed to have an altitude closest to 43° above the northern horizon?

1 Answer
Nov 26, 2015

Any location at #43^o# latitude.


Polaris is the name of the north star in the constellation Ursa Minor. Astronomers call it the north star because as the Earth rotates on its axis, Polaris does not appear to move in the sky. If you were to extend the Earths axis of rotation into space, it would point nearly directly to Polaris.

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That means that if you were standing on the north pole, Polaris would be directly above you. You would only ever see the north half of the celestial sphere. If you were on the equator, on the other hand, Polaris would be at the horizon. This is because the Earth always blocks half of our view of the sky.

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Notice that that for a spot at latitude #theta#, the view of the sky makes the same angle #theta# with the north pole. Since Polaris is at an extension of the north pole, this is the angle at which Polaris lies above the horizon. Therefore, for Polaris to be #43^o# above the horizon, we must be standing at a latitude of #43^o#. Perhaps Syracuse, Batavia, or Ballston Spa.