Navigation by the Stars

Navigation by the Stars, in the southern hemisphere, is pretty easy, ‘X’ marks the spot. In the Northern hemisphere, We really on Ursa Major a.k.a. ‘The Big Dipper’ a.k.a. ‘The Great Bear’ to mark our way to Ursa Minor ‘The Little Bear’ – similar in shape but much much dimmer. This is where the Northern North Star resides.

There is a misconception amongst many that the North Star is a bright star. Relative to many other stars, it is usually visible but not outstandingly bright. Generally the brightest points in the heavens are planets, not stars, Ursa Major is fairly bright and easily recognizable but Ursa minor (where the North Star resides) is pretty dim in compassion.

Finding Ursa Major, however, allows us to find the North Star easily, Imagine that the Ursa Major constellation represents the cross-section of a spoon or ladle (it takes a lot more imagination to see a bear). As the diagram below shows, the North Star can be found by drawing an imaginary line from the farthest edge (from the ‘handle’) of the spoon’s ‘bowl’  to the nearest brightish star. That’s the North Star. Don’t expect to see anything particularly majestic – or fantastically accurate, but this star indicates a Northerly direction.



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