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How to Navigate with the Stars

Jana G.Jana G.
Stars and sky

Since ancient times, people are focusing on stars and one of the important tasks of astronomy was navigating. Masters of ships get oriented by the stars when they go out to sea.

The stars help orientate caravans in the desert and for centuries stars have helped misguided travelers to find the right path.

The term dates Lodestar back to the ancient times, when people followed the guidance of the stars. The compass became known in Europe only in the XI century, and until then, people were oriented only by the stars.


The easiest task for orientation with the stars to find out which direction is north. At night, it's easy. You only need to find the North Star in the sky. It will indicate north to within a degree.

Once you find the polar star, you can find not only the north, but the other cardinal points, and then determine the place where you are located. This occurs due to the fact that this ancient helper of travelers is about one degree away from the North Pole.

The easiest way to find Polaris is using the Big Dipper constellation. It is a few bright stars that are located far away from each other and form a sort of ladle.

You can look at the two end stars of the dipper and push an imaginary straight line through them. On it, mark five such lines one above the other at the top of the ladle, each of them is equal to the distance between the two end stars. At the end of the fifth line, you will see the North Star. It is located at the end of the Ursa Minor constellation.

stars in space

Once you find the North Star and you take in the desired direction in the world, you can keep the right course by selecting a benchmark, being one bright star that is on your path.

We must recognize that the stars rotate around Polaris at a rate of fifteen degrees per hour, so every 20 minutes, tally your course and choose a new benchmark.

Polaris serves as a reference when you are in the Northern Hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, as a guide serves the Southern Cross constellation. It consists of five very bright stars in the shape of a cross.

In it’s left lower corner are two bright stars from the Centauri constellation. An imaginary line is drawn through the long axis of the cross, which points to the south.