I haven't been to south pole but can the Polaris still be viewed if the viewer is in the south pole? Or this question makes no sense at all?


3 Answers 3


Currently Polaris is at a declination of a bit over 89 degrees, which means that no one south of 1 degree south latitude can see Polaris. That's almost all of the Southern hemisphere, let alone the South Pole.

Polaris won't be the North Star forever, thanks to axial precession. In about 13000 years or so, Polaris will have a declination of about 46 degrees or so (twice the 23 degree axial tilt). Polaris will thus be visible in 13000 years or so as a wintertime star to all of Africa, all of Australia, and most of South America, but none of Antarctica.

After millions of years, proper motion may make Polaris visible over Antarctica. But then again, being a yellow supergiant, its unlikely that Polaris will be visible anywhere (without a telescope). It will instead be dead.

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    $\begingroup$ How can we explain this national geographic photograph?nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/12/… It states tha Polaris is seen from Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Which is almost 3 degrees South. $\endgroup$
    – cryptow
    Nov 21, 2019 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ @cryptow - Kilimanjaro rises about 5000 meters above the plateau from which the mountain arises, which means one can see above 2.3° below the horizon from the peak of Kilimanjaro $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2019 at 18:26

While the majority of the celestial sky is visible on both hemispheres, you are not able to see Polaris on the south pole, since Polaris is pointing directly towards the north pole. I know that during winter time, you can definitely just see the plough/big dipper (part of the Ursa Major constellation) as far south as Uluru/Ayers Rock in Australia, but that is not enough to see the northern star. The northern star will generally speaking disappear below the horizon when you are at around the equator. There is no "southern star" to orient yourself on the southern hemisphere, but there are a number of rules of thumb to find the south celestial pole on the southern hemisphere as well, several of them involving the "southern cross", or the Crux constellation.

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    $\begingroup$ At the South pole no stars north of the celestial equator will be visible. $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2016 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesScreech At one time, but the Earth's 23.5 degree tilt allows views of 227 degrees of night sky over 12 months, 180 degrees at a time. The earth's atmosphere also diffracts in another degree or two and if you climb a mountain, you get another degree or three that way, so you can probably see over 230 degrees of the night sky from the south pole at some point in the year. Estimating by area, that's probably over 80% of the sky, but anything within about 70 something degrees are so from the North star would never be visible. (unless I'm missing something) $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Jul 1, 2016 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ @userLTK -- You're missing something. Axial tilt is not a factor over the course of a year. Over thousands course of hundreds of years, yes, but over a year it's very small. takes about 26000 years for the earth's rotation axis to complete a cycle. From the south pole you can see half the sky. $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2016 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen You're right. That makes sense now that you've pointed it out. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Jul 1, 2016 at 21:44

At the South pole no stars north of the celestial equator will be visible.

The general equations of the declination limit at a given latitude:

declination limit = $latitude - 90$ (for the northern hemisphere, $latitude > 0$)

declination limit = $90 + latitude$ (for the southern hemisphere, $latitude < 0$)


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