Mistakenly believed to be the brightest star in our universe, to this day Polaris remains – symbolically and literally – our guiding star
The Nautical star, as it is known in the iconography of tattoo art, is a five-pointed star in the Traditional style which represents the star more commonly known as the Pole star.
Since the Middle Ages, it has been the reference point for nocturnal navigation. The celestial guide sailors used to find North no matter where they found themselves on their vessels.
And yet, even the Nautical star (or North Star) has changed its course slightly over the centuries. No fault of its own, of course, but because of the constant pull of the Sun and Moon on the Earth.
Without going into complicated explanations from Physics and Astronomy, suffice to say that the Earth’s axis – under the combined influence of our satellite (Moon) and hottest star (Sun) – is continuously, almost imperceptibly shifting. Which changes the position of the North and South poles.
All the same, the North Star is still the star visible to the naked eye that is easiest to locate. There is however a widespread misunderstanding that it is also the brightest but it comes quite low in the list in forty-eighth place.
In order to find it you need to first locate Ursa Major whose stars are visible even when the sky is not completely dark.
Take the outermost stars of the Big Dipper also known as the Plough (Dubhe and Merak, the “pointers”) and draw an imaginary line between them. Now extend this five times to the North and you will find Polaris, the star featured in so many tattoos.
Polaris, by the way, is a name in Latin, and the most appropriate language for our star, seeing as how the ancient Romans also loved to call it Stella Maris, Tramontana and Navigatoria. In fact it is from the last of the three that we get the name Nautical Star.