How to Find the North Star
Polaris, otherwise known as the North Star, is one of the most influential celestial objects for the human race. Arguably third only behind the Sun and the Moon, this heavenly body has one specific quality that solidifies its importance with mankind. That quality is embedded into its name; it’s located directly above Earth’s northern axis. If you would draw a straight line from the true South Pole through the center of Earth to the true North Pole, this same line would continue to extend directly to Polaris. Why would this be an important feature? No matter where you are in the northern hemisphere, this star will always face north. This means that this fixed point in the sky can be seen be almost 90% of humans on Earth. Other stars can be seen moving across the night sky throughout the night, but the North Star remains stationary. The star’s perceived stillness sets the foundation for navigation and has been utilized as such for millennia. In recent years the star’s necessity has had a sharp decrease. However even as human navigational use has dwindled, this is still a very important waypoint and it should be known by all. Here is the easiest method that I used to find the North Star.
Step 1. Find the Big Dipper
The Big Dipper is one of the easier constellations to find, and is usually the first people learn to locate. This monumental fixture in the night sky is easy to spot not only because the stars are bright, but the constellation itself is big. The big dipper can be seen throughout the entire year in the northern hemisphere. Look for the large set of stars that look like a ladle.
Step 2. Locate the outer two stars on the “cup” of the Big Dipper
Once you have found the big dipper, find the outer two stars on the “cup”. These will be the start for the next step
Step 3. Draw a straight line from the outer two stars of the Big Dipper’s “cup”
Starting at the bottom star, draw an imaginary line to the upper star and continue to extend for another 15 degrees or so. Both of these stars will point directly at the North Star.
Step 4. Verify with the Little Dipper
How do you know the star you think is the North Star is actually the North Star? I verify with the Little Dipper. The North Star is the end of the handle for the Little Dipper. I verify by following the handle down to make sure that the star I am looking at is in fact part of the Little Dipper. If all of these things line up together, I know I have located it properly.
The North Star is and has been an integral part of human existence for millennia. While the necessity for use as a navigational aid has diminished, it is still an important landmark everyone should know. The process to find it is relatively simple. It comprises of finding the Big Dipper, extending a line from the outer two stars of the Big Dipper’s “cup”, and following that imaginary line to the star located at the end of the Little Dipper's handle.
Ryan is a freelance photographer and FAA part 107 commercial drone pilot based out of Duluth, Minnesota, United States. Ryan enjoys the extremes of mother nature and is constantly seeking out new experiences that will push the boundaries of his own comfort zone just a little bit more. An avid hiker, camper, and traveler, Ryan enjoys his time experiencing the elements. Catch him up the North Shore or exploring remote places on the other side of the globe.