Welcome to You Ask Andy

Will Kimball, age 10, of Medicine Lodge,

Why does the Bid Dipper point to the Pole Star?

Imagine yourself riding a carousel  Your handsome horse prances around and around the pole in the middle, If you put out your inside arm, it points to the pole and it keeps pointing to the pole as around and around you go  Now pretend you are the Big Dipper with the two pointer stars on your arm  Polaris the Pole Star is on the pole in the middle of the carousel  Around you go, with your pointer stars pointing to the Pole Star 

Of course, you are not the Big Dipper and Polaris and its circling stars are much more complicated than a carousel  But the general idea is the same  Polaris hangs high in the sky directly above the earth is North Pole  The big globe on which we live is forever spinning around and around  It rotates on its axis once every 24 hours  The axis is like an imaginary needle, straight through the middle from pole to pole 

Our globe is a great ball, hanging in space  Around it on every side,  the starry heavens stretch far and wide  As the earth turns, we face first one view and then another of the splendid skies  The sun, the moon and the stars rise in the east, climb over the sky and set in the west  The heavenly parade seems to be waltzing around and around our little world  But actually it is the earth itself which is turning 

One turn of the entire earth takes 24 hours, but some places have farther to travel than eithers.   Half way between the two poles is the equator, the wide waist of the world  It must turn some 24,000 miles in 24 hours  Farther from the equator, the distances are shorter and the travel time is slower  Wichita, Kansas has about 20,000 miles to travel around and Nome, Alaska less than 8,000  And as we turn, faster or slower, the stars seem to turn with us 

However, the North Pole, at the exact tip of the  axis, does not turn at all  Above it hangs the Pole Star, which does not move  Around it swings a circle of starry constellations, which neither rises nor sets  One of these constellations is the Big Dipper which happens to have two stars pointing to Polaris, dust as your arm pointed to the pole in the middle of the carousel 

As we leave the North Pole, we go over the hump of the globe and Polaris appears lower and lower in the sky  But wherever it isp the Pole Star is surrounded by its circling constellations  We call them the circumpolar constellations because they circle the Pole Star  And one of them is the Big Dipper  It circles around once every 24 hours, but its pointing arm always points to Polaris and the north direction.


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