Finding direction with the Pole Star

Finding the Pole Star with the Constellation of Ursa Major

Only in the Northern Hemisphere the Pole Star is visible, and its location is mainly indicated by the position of the two pointers of the Great Bear (also called Big Dipper), which is the Constellation of Ursa Major. These two pointers are the two stars Merak and Dubhe at the frontal wall of the ‘Dipper’. The distance between these two stars is then being extended five times in the direction away from the upper side of the dipper, which leads to a medium-light star, Polaris. And Polaris is located directly over True North

Finding Polaris with the Constellation of Ursa Minor

If seeing the ‘Small Bear’ on the sky, Polaris is the last star at the end of its tail.

Finding the Polaris with the Constellation of Cassiopeia

Viewed from the Great Bear, on the opposite side of Polaris, the Constellation of Cassiopeia is located. It is also called ‘W in the sky’. In case the Big- or Small Bear are obscured or under the horizon, Cassiopeia is a good alternate locator of Polaris, which is the brightest star, pointed at by the open arms of the ‘W’-shape of the Constellation.

Drawing a vertical line from Polaris to the horizon is nearly exactly True North.

Lessons learned from finding direction with the Pole Star:

  • Polaris, the Pole Star is only visible in the Northern Hemisphere
  • Find the Great Bear and extend its two pointers 5 times in the upper direction, which leads to Polaris
  • Alternatively, spot the Small Bear and the last star at its tail is Polaris
  • Or the Constellation of Cassiopeia can be used as an alternative for finding the Pole Star.
  • True North is directly below the Pole Star on the horizon.