Find north by finding
the North star

Being able finding the North star is a basic celestial navigation skill for all wilderness travelers in the northern hemisphere. Navigation by the stars is an old method that is still useful, assuming the sky is clear. Mariners have used celestial navigation for thousands of years.

North Star

In the northern hemisphere, the location of north can be determined by the North Star. The North Star, also known as the Pole star, is a valuable navigation aid because it's located almost above polar north. The North star is not a very bright star, but unlike the other stars, it remains at a fixed location in the sky.

finding the North star
In finding the North Star, the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and Cassiopeia (shaped like a W) are helpful. Neither of these constellations ever sets and they are always visible on a clear night, however, they are not always in the same place. The position of the stars in the sky depends on the time, date and geographical position (latitude and longitude). You probably have noticed how stars appear to move across the sky during the night. The reason for that is due to the Earth's rotation around its axis. That's also the reason the sun moves across the sky in the day. That means the picture you see on this page probably does not match the sky you are viewing, but that is an easy fix as you can just rotate the image.

To locate north:

· Find the Big Dipper in the sky. Follow the edge of the cup 5 times its length toward a medium bright star. You have found the North Star, which is virtually north.

· To double check that it’s really the North Star, locate Cassiopeia. The North Star resides halfway between Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper.

Sky maps

Sky maps show the positions of stars in the sky at a certain day, time and the latitude and longitude of your observing location. Stars appear to move across the sky during the night because of the Earth’s rotation around its axis. That's also the reason the sun moves across the sky in the day. There are many types of sky maps, and it requires a bit of explanation to use it. Are you new to sky maps, read this.

What does the sky look like where you are?

Do you want to find out? First you need to know the latitude and longitude of your location.

Now, when you know your geographical position and how to read a sky map, create a sky map adaptable to your location.

Celestial navigation

Celestial navigation is more than just finding the North Star. Do you want to learn more, read the book "Stars". This book has a lot if interesting information and a very good layout. Complete with charts and an atlas of the entire sky. Details of all 88 constellations of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Usable anywhere in the world.

This pocket sized version fits easily in your backpack including your pocket. Ideal for practical observation.

Are you located in the southern hemisphere?

Learn how to find south using the Southern Cross.

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how to find north star

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navigate by the stars