Navigate by the Stars

Discussion in 'Bushcraft' started by Brokor, Sep 13, 2015.

  1. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Learn Two Constellations
    There are two major constellations used to determine direction in the Northern Hemisphere. They are Ursa Major (also known as the Big Dipper or the Plow) and Cassiopeia. Each one occupies an established position in the sky and never sets, so they are always visible on a clear night.

    The Big Dipper is a seven-star constellation in the shape of a ladle, with a long handle and a rectangular head. Cassiopeia has five stars that form a shape like a “W” on its side.

    Locate the North Star
    The North Star, also known as Polaris, sits directly over the North Pole, in line with the earth’s axis. It always indicates north. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, learning to identify it in the night sky is the most important navigation trick.

    To locate the North Star using the Big Dipper, look for Merak and Dubhe—the two stars that form the outer edge of the dipper away from its handle. Draw an imaginary line from these two bright stars and extend it about five times the Merak/Dubhe distance to the North Star.

    When looking at the Big Dipper, you can locate Cassiopeia just behind you, on the other side of the North Star.

    The North Star is almost equidistant from the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia, so Cassiopeia can also be used to find it. Locate Cassiopeia’s middle star, at the center point of the side-lying “W,” and draw an imaginary line straight out to the North Star.

    Once you’re facing the North Star, stretch your arms out to your sides. Your right hand will point due east and your left hand due west. Turn around to head due south.

    Determine Your Latitude
    The angle of elevation of the North Star is equal to your latitude on the map, so measuring the angle between it and the horizon will provide your latitude. Latitude refers to the distance in degrees north or south of the equator, so a latitude position can help determine how far north (or south) you are.
    To find latitude, draw an imaginary line from the North Star straight down to the horizon. If you are standing at the North Pole, the North Star will be directly overhead at an angle of 90 degrees. At the equator, the star will be sitting on the horizon with an angle of zero. You can approximate the degrees of your location by extending your arm out toward the horizon and making a fist. Your fist will take up approximately 10 angular degrees.

    Find NORTH with Polaris

    Ursa Major

    Find NORTH with Orion
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