celestial pole

celestial pole, one of the two points at which the earth's axis of rotation intersects the celestial sphere . The celestial pole is important as a reference point in the equatorial coordinate system the celestial meridian passes through it, as do the hour circles of the stars. The polestar (see Polaris ) lies within 0.5° of the north celestial pole. Although there is no bright star near the south celestial pole, the Southern Cross (see Crux ) points directly to it. The altitude of the celestial pole in an observer's hemisphere is equal to the observer's latitude on the earth.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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