circumpolar star, star whose diurnal circle lies completely above or completely below an observer's horizon. A star whose diurnal circle lies above the horizon never sets, even though it cannot be seen during the day. Designation of a star as circumpolar depends on the observer's latitude. At the equator no star is circumpolar. At the North or South Pole all stars are circumpolar, since only one half of the celestial sphere can ever be seen. For an observer at any other latitude a star whose declination is greater than 90° minus the observer's latitude will be circumpolar, appearing to circle the celestial pole and remaining always above the horizon. A constellation made up entirely of circumpolar stars is also called circumpolar. From most of the N United States (above lat. 40°N) the Big Dipper is circumpolar.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.