Monday, June 6, 2011

Finding Direction - Your North Star

 Let's say you're lost (on a mysterious island or in the city). What do you do?  The stars can guide you my friends...

Although the Little Dipper is faint, and the Little Bear is dim, this constellation holds the most famous star in the sky. Polaris, also known as the North Star, is the guide of travelers, stargazers, and all-around lovers of the night. Polaris is the star on the end of the Little Dipper's handle or the Little Bear outrageously long, stretched-out tail.

Contrary to popular opinion, the North Star is NOT the brightest star in the sky. In fact it ranks about 48th in brightness. Through the city haze, it is just barely visible.

The best way to find the North Star is to use the brighter stars of the Big Dipper to guide you. Follow the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper's spoon (named Merak and Dubhe) and they will point you to Polaris. This is called the "Pointer Star Method" and can help you find your way around many parts of the sky - even over to Cassiopeia.
Around Cincinnati the North Star is always about halfway up in the sky. Now that you can find the North Star, you'll never be lost again!