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Space Science

On Second Thought, Polaris Really Does Seem 434 Light Years Away 75

Posted by timothy
from the shaggy-dog-story dept.
sciencehabit writes with this excerpt from Science Magazine "Last November, astronomer David Turner made headlines by claiming that one of the sky's best known objects—the North Star, Polaris—was actually 111 light-years closer than thought. If true, the finding might have forced researchers to rethink how they calculate distances in the cosmos as well as what they know about some aspects of stellar physics. But a new study argues that distance measurements of the familiar star made some 2 decades ago by the European Space Agency's venerable Hipparcos satellite are still spot on."
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On Second Thought, Polaris Really Does Seem 434 Light Years Away

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  • Ooops! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Looks like another mixup between metric and imperial measurement systems. /jk

  • Alas... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2013 @01:29AM (#42632307)

    ...eleventy-one light years is far too short a distance to travel among such excellent and admirable stellar phenomena.

    • Just be glad that the Dark Lord Saturn hasn't found you yet. And don't put his ring on, it's too heavy a burden for you (on the order of 10^19 kg).
  • Do they have a Stargate?
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by witherstaff (713820)
      We'll never know. The network that made Stargates decided to stop making Science Fiction and instead just shows wrestling and whatever else constitutes sy fy.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        that pissed me off so much, universe was actually getting quite good....Someone needs to invest in a real scifi network that only show...oh i dunno....science fiction?

        A good starting lineup would be stargate, a star wars tv series, A reboot of firefly, and some good old fashioned early 90's anime....

        • by arth1 (260657)

          Someone needs to invest in a real scifi network that only show...oh i dunno....science fiction?

          A good starting lineup would be stargate, a star wars tv series, A reboot of firefly, and some good old fashioned early 90's anime....

          Buffy in Space never belonged on SciFi - it should have been on a premium channel, so they could have shown all the sex they and the audience wanted.
          There are TV channels for anime too, at least where I live.

          That said, The Channel Formerly Known as SciFi has fallen far indeed. It used to be my starting channel on the TV. Now I prefer the fscking Travel Channel and the mangled rerun channel (a.k.a. BBC America).

        • by gmuslera (3436)

          People are getting disappointed with science fiction. We are already in the BTTF future, and there is no flying cars, we are finally getting a hint on how hard is to get out of our solar system, much more to get to another star, and the most accurate sci-fi predictions are dystopias like 1984 or disaster films.

          At least Syfy is not as bad as History Channel, they got Continuum after all.

        • by evafan76 (2527608)

          that pissed me off so much, universe was actually getting quite good....Someone needs to invest in a real scifi network that only show...oh i dunno....science fiction?

          A good starting lineup would be stargate, a star wars tv series, A reboot of firefly, and some good old fashioned early 90's anime....

          I think many SciFi and Anime fans have gotten to the point where they just download or stream or buy DVDs/BluRays (or some combination of the 3) of things they want to watch, which is why I don't think a new SciFi network could be successful. The consumers have moved on to other media.

          That said, I wonder why SciFi producers in the west haven't tried to copy the OVA model used by some in the Anime Industry, where some Anime goes direct to DVD. They wouldn't have to deal with having to get their show on a net

      • SG-1 was on Showtime until season 5.

    • As far as I know Polaris doesn't have any planets, so probably not.
  • by PacRim Jim (812876) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @01:48AM (#42632365) Homepage
    Polaris is a sneaky, underhanded, deceitful star, not to be trusted. Fortunately, in about 15,000 years, it will no longer be the north star. Sir Alop
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by waTeim (2818975)
      Oh yea? and I suppose Vega is soooooo much better! She sends us a text to come to her party, but when we get there there are already 8 other dudes hanging out, and we're in the friend-zone!? Small moves? bullshit, that two-timing whore.
  • It still doesn't mean that Turner is wrong. Remember Piltdown Man? Even people who are committed to science sometimes still get it terribly wrong.

    • by fotoguzzi (230256)
      Does this discrepancy only exist for Polaris? Do all other stars give the same results for both measurement methods?
      • by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Saturday January 19, 2013 @02:56AM (#42632527)

        Does this discrepancy only exist for Polaris? Do all other stars give the same results for both measurement methods?

        Short read. [wikipedia.org]

        You'd think making Hubble take an accurate bead on the thing on Dec. 31 and Jul. 1, then comparing the two readings to triangulate would be all that's needed (basic geometry); nuh uh. How about Type 1a supernovae which ought to all be the same luminosity, or Cepheid Variables, ditto.

        Nope. It's not that easy. Fun problem.

      • by macraig (621737)

        I'd like to know. I can't answer it, but I hope others can eventually.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Polaris is the easiest to measure. Anything off axis from our tilt takes a lot more work to measure and get right

        • by popoutman (189497) *
          Actually Polaris is not the easiest - it's any stars nearer the Ecliptic Pole, which is based on the Earth's orbit. This is in Draco, and the nearest naked-eye star to the Ecliptic poles are 36 Dra in the northern sky at about 2 degrees from the ecliptic northern pole, and Eta1 Dor at the south ecliptic pole. Surprisingly enough, the LMC is only about 4 degrees from the southern ecliptic pole.
          However, Polaris would show the most diurnal parallax, as that is indeed based on the earth's spin.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2013 @02:05AM (#42632415)

      Yes, that's why we call it science. If it were never wrong, it would be religion.

      • by macraig (621737)

        Which of course is exactly why I mentioned the Piltdown Man fiasco, because for some of the people involved science had become a religion. They were too emotionally invested in a particular fact or discovery. It certainly was not the first nor last example of that.

        • by TapeCutter (624760) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @07:15AM (#42632909) Journal
          Like the autism/vaccination link, Piltdown man was a deliberate fraud exposed by scientists themselves, to me these and other famous frauds are strong evidence that science works as advertised. For an honest man capable of introspection, the scientific method (eventually) weeds out wishful thinking, propaganda, and fraud, this is it's strength. It's weakness is in the undocumented assumption that all involved are honest men acting in good faith.
        • Forget the Piltdown Man fraud.

          Who is implicated in the Lanney Kekua scam?

          Is Mr. Mani Te'o innocent in all of this. That he lied about meeting Ms. Kekua so his dad and others wouldn't think less of him for being head-over-heels for a virtual girlfriend?

          Does the set of geek dudes who are too shy to have a real girl friend intersect the set of star college football players?

          If Mani's musician-dude friend is behind the thing, does the musician have a serious man-crush on Mr. Te'o?

          Forget the parallax o

  • by nephillim (980798) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @02:10AM (#42632435)
    Probably an error converting between metric light-years and American light-years.
    • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Saturday January 19, 2013 @05:59AM (#42632777) Homepage

      The Imperial system uses light fortnights (3.62628957 * 10^14 m), whereas the metric system uses light megaseconds (2.99792458 * 10^14 m).

      One light year contains 31.536 light megaseconds, but only 26.07 light fortnights.

      :-P

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      American Light years are BIGGER, but slower, and usually dont have enough gas mileage to get there.

      Holy crap, that does explain the difference!

  • Am I the only one who first read "Solaris Really Does Seem 434 Light Years Away"?
    Man, I'm glad I was sitting ..
  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Saturday January 19, 2013 @05:53AM (#42632765) Homepage

    The Polarans solved FTL travel ages ago, and now use it to troll other civilisations by placing their star along some life-bearing planet's axis of rotation, waiting for people to develop advanced astronomy, then randomly feinting at them to mess with the scientists' heads.

    • by bar-agent (698856)

      The Polarans solved FTL travel ages ago, and now use it to troll other civilisations by placing their star along some life-bearing planet's axis of rotation, waiting for people to develop advanced astronomy, then randomly feinting at them to mess with the scientists' heads.

      Applying Occam's Razor to the question, you are almost certainly correct.

    • If this were Reddit, you'd have Reddit Gold right now. Priceless. :-)

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      I figured a ship using a warp drive simply got in the way of the scientists making the measurement, throwing off their calculation with the distorted space-time.

  • It's 1000 light years from home.

  • Strange methods (Score:4, Interesting)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @10:19AM (#42633427)

    Reading up, it turnes out the whole argumentation is exactly the other way round than I would hav eexpected.

    You can meassure the distance of stars in multiple ways, most depend on assumptions that can be pretty hard to get right. There is ONE way, though, to accurately determine the distance:

    By simple geometry. If you observe the star 6 months apart, you get a trianble with a base of 2AU, which is enough accurately triangulate the distance of stars up to a some 100 ly away.

    This was exactly the method used 2 decade ago.

    Not this new guy used a very indirect way (measuring the brightness we see the star, guessing its real brightness by looking at spectra and then deciding how far away it must have been), gets a 30% different number and claims his, indirect and error-laden, way is yielding the more correct of the results.

    Tard.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      By simple geometry. If you observe the star 6 months apart, you get a trianble with a base of 2AU, which is enough accurately triangulate the distance of stars up to a some 100 ly away.

      This was exactly the method used 2 decade ago.

      Not this new guy used a very indirect way (measuring the brightness we see the star, guessing its real brightness by looking at spectra and then deciding how far away it must have been), gets a 30% different number and claims his, indirect and error-laden, way is yielding the more correct of the results.

      So, by your own words, Polaris is too far away to use triangulation. Yet, you insist that's the correct method for finding it's distance. Then end off by calling the guy names.

      • By simple geometry. If you observe the star 6 months apart, you get a trianble with a base of 2AU, which is enough accurately triangulate the distance of stars up to a some 100 ly away.

        This was exactly the method used 2 decade ago.

        Not this new guy used a very indirect way (measuring the brightness we see the star, guessing its real brightness by looking at spectra and then deciding how far away it must have been), gets a 30% different number and claims his, indirect and error-laden, way is yielding the more correct of the results.

        So, by your own words, Polaris is too far away to use triangulation. Yet, you insist that's the correct method for finding it's distance. Then end off by calling the guy names.

        Depends on what he means by "accurately". Certainly not the "off by 25%" the new guy is claiming.

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