Locate the the big dipper and it will lead you to the north star. Knowing about the North Star and how to locate it is useful information for sailors or mountain hikers; for the rest of us locating it and being able to point to it on these starry nights when we porch sit and star gaze is reason enough to learn about it. This article if for us. For those whose interest go deeper, or higher as the case may be, there’s sites galore online ready to fill in your blanks.
Surely, the uninformed will ask, it has another more scientific name? Yes it does. Polaris it is called in scientific circles, or Lodestar. It is such an important star it has a guided missile named after it. That informational tidbit is of secondary important to us, however, as we go about locating it. Once we’ve found it remember that simply by looking at it, you are facing north. If, while following its direction to a certain destination you have lost sight of it, maneuver around until you can see it again.
And another warning. If you hike and camp a lot don’t rest with the information that should you get lost the North Star will guide you home. Locate it first and keep a small compass in your knapsack for such times as these. The night you get lose could be cloudy or even raining and no stars will be shining. But for more romantic starry nights and when you are more adventurous than desperate, learn how to navigate by starlight.
Okay, you say, cut the gab, how do I find it? You first find the big dipper by finding the star in this group that is the brightest. That will be the North Star. The Big Dipper and the Little Dipper are not true constellations – groups of stars forming shapes – but are minor stars suggestive of an old fashioned dipper rural American once used to dip into a bucket to get themselves a drink of water. Faucets and running water have rendered them nostalgic items of the past right alongside the North Star as navigation tool.
Another name for the Big Dipper is the Great Bear. Supposedly this star is easy to recognize, but there is disagreementabout that. The Little Dipper, shaped almost in the same way, is not as easy to find, but once you find the big one, baby bear will also be easier to locate. Why confuse the issue with telling us about the Little Dipper when all we want to do is to locate the Big Dipper and see which star making up that group is the brightest?
Hold on, we’ve sidetracked a bit. The North Star is located at the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper and is its brightest star. Let’s start again and see if we can locate our illusive little star:
Find the Big Dipper by locating the two stars that form its outer edge and imaginatively draw a line from these to the Little Dipper. You should be near the handle of the Little Dipper. Its brightest star will be the North Star. The truth is, according to another online site directing us to the North Star, it is not so easy to locate, and contrary to what we are led to believe, it is not the brightest star in the sky. Season of the year and where we live makes a difference.
Therefore, an easier way would be to find online maps of the stars and print out these and armed with this information you can search the skies until you are satisfied you have found your star. You may need practice so whenever the night is clear and you are out among the stars; make it a habit to locate it. Make it your favorite and put the thoughts of it in your pocket for safe keeping. It may prove to be a very good help should you ever become lost.