A lodestar is a relatively bright, easily found, star that is used to find direction, particularly with reference to Polaris, which during the 20th and 21st centuries indicates the direction to the north within a fraction of a degree. (Due to the slow precession of the Earth's axis, this is not a permanent relationship).

The component lode is etymologically related to the verb to lead – lodestars serve as a guide to navigators, as do lodestones, naturally magnetic stones historically used in compasses. The lodestar Polaris in particular is an essential element of the definition of the Cardinal directions used in modern cartography and compasses.

Lodestones can be used to approximately find the northern direction, and are particularly convenient when the stars are not visible. Due to uneven magnetic deviation a lodestone can be significantly less accurate than a lodestar.

In a figurative sense, "lodestar" can mean anything that acts as a guide, inspiration, or example to follow. An example is Comrade general Kim Jong Il, whom the North Korean government likes to regard as "an invincible military commander, prodigious humanist and lodestar of the 21st century."

The lodestar is present on many of those flags of African nations that use the Pan-African colors. In this context, it represents the ideal of (African) freedom.

See also

  • sextant - a tool used by navigators to deduce their location from observations of lodestars

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