Have You Ever Been Lost In The Wilderness?
Are you wondering how to find the North Star? The ability to pinpoint the North Star or Polaris in the night sky is one of the most basic survival and celestial navigation skills. It is helpful for wilderness explorers of all levels. Here, you’ll learn how to find the North Star!
Navigation using stars and the constellations they make-up, is an ancient method that still proves useful today. In fact, for thousands of years, sailors used only the position of the North Star to accomplish arduous journeys across the sea.
After lengthy observation and navigation experience, humans gradually came to the understanding that the North Star always points true north. This can be immensely helpful in finding direction, even on the darkest of nights.
Understanding The Night Sky
It is important to understand that earth’s northernmost axis directly points to Polaris. This essentially means that when you observe the North Star, you are facing the direction of the North Pole, which is called true north.
Many people are under the incorrect assumption that the North Star is easy to find as it is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. In reality, Polaris has about average brightness when compared to other stars, so it does not immediately stick out to the naked eye.
The best method of locating Polaris in the sky is to first pinpoint a popular constellation known as Ursa Major or, more commonly, The Big Dipper.
Once you see the Big Dipper, follow the edge of the cup in the constellation about five times its length until you spot a star with medium brightness. This is the North Star.
Another way to ensure that you have found Polaris is to locate the Little Dipper, also known as Ursa Minor. Start by locating the two stars that make up the Big Dipper’s outer edge. Draw an imaginary line straight through those two stars, moving toward the Little Dipper. This imaginary line will point closely to the Little Dipper’s handle. The brightest star in the Little Dipper, which is a bit harder to find in the night sky than its brighter counterpart Ursa Major, is at the end of it’s handle. This is also known as the North Star.