Useful Tips

Tip: How to navigate the stars


Orienteering and determining the cardinal directions at night by stars is quite complicated, and not everyone is able to find the right constellation to determine where the south, north, east, west are. Such a difficulty lies in the fact that it’s rather difficult to find the stars you need in the sky. To navigate the stars need some practice! If you really may need star orientation, practice in an urban setting, try to find and determine where which side of the world is. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with how to navigate without a compass?


A polar star in our sky is always in one place, or rather, the difference between a polar star and a polar pole is 1 degree. Therefore, the polar star always points north. In order to find the polar star, you need to do the following: in the night sky you need to find the constellation Ursa Major, it looks like a large bucket and consists of seven stars, three extreme left stars

The big dipper look like a bucket handle, the other four stars look like capacity, in general, it gets a bucket with a handle. Next, we draw a straight line through the two rightmost extreme stars of the Ursa Major constellation and bring such a straight line to the Ursa Minor constellation, such a straight line will touch the extreme point of the Ursa Minor constellation (it touches the most extreme star of the handle of the Ursa Major dipper). The small dipper is almost similar to the big dipper, but it is slightly smaller in size. Actually, the polar star is the most extreme star of the handle of the bucket of the minor dipper. Now you know how to learn how to find the polar star and navigate it in the night forest.


polar Star

The most important landmark in the night sky is the North Star. She alone does not "travel" through the sky, while the other stars and constellations change their location in the sky.

The North Star always points to the north, deviating during the night only one and a half degrees. This, of course, is essential for accurate navigation, but for a lost tourist it is not so important.

Before you find the North Star, you need to find in the sky the two most famous constellations - Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. In Ursa Major, we need the two right-most stars, forming, as it were, the “wall” of the bucket. We draw a straight line from the upper star equal to four distances from the two “extreme” stars of the Ursa Major and ... we see the North Star attached to the handle of the Ursa Minor’s bucket.

Of course, it would be easier to immediately find Ursa Minor, but, as practice shows, Ursa Major immediately catches the eye, but the Ursa Minor is sometimes not very visible.

If Ursa Major is hidden by clouds or dense vegetation prevents it, you can find the North Star using the constellation Cassiopeia. This constellation, clearly visible on the background of the Milky Way, resembles the letter "M" or "W", as you like. The North Star is located in a straight line to the left of the central star of Cassiopeia.

So, when we found the North Star, determining the cardinal directions remains a matter of technology: when you look directly at the star, there will be east on the right side, west on the left, and south on the back.

Southern Hemisphere

In the Southern Hemisphere, the Polar Star is not visible; therefore, the Southern Cross, pointing to the south, serves as a star reference here. The Southern Cross is four bright stars arranged in the shape of a cross. It is important not to confuse it with the False Cross, which is to the right, its stars are less bright and are located further from each other. In addition, two reference stars are located to the left of the Southern Cross.

The direction to the south is determined by drawing an imaginary line through the vertical axis of the Southern Cross. Here we need those same landmark stars. Mentally draw a line between them, and draw a perpendicular from the center of this line. Where the lines emanating from the Southern Cross and the landmark stars intersect, the South Pole will be located.

Constellation position

If you are well versed in the constellations, it will not be difficult for you to determine the cardinal directions on a clear night. Constellations change their position in the sky, not only during the night, but throughout the year. It must be remembered that at midnight in the south you can see the following constellations: in January - Canis Major and Lesser Dog, in March - Leo, in May - Bootes, in November - Taurus, in December - Orion. In addition, the Milky Way extends approximately from south to north, but these directions are very, very approximate, and therefore use the Milky Way as a guide should only be for additional safety.

Primitive Observatory

This method will require a little preparation. Two sticks of different lengths should be buried in the ground. By the movement of any star, except the Polar one, relative to these sticks, you can easily determine in which direction you are looking.

If the star rises, you are looking east. If it goes down, you are looking west. If the star makes loop-like movements to the right, you look to the north, and if to the left, you look to the south.

It should be remembered that this method shows only approximate directions and it is necessary to apply it only in the most extreme cases.

How to navigate the stars

If your location is in the south, it is important to understand that all the rules for finding the sides of the horizon suitable for the northern hemisphere will not work like that here. And to understand how the orientation of the stars occurs, where which side of the horizon is located, find the constellation of the Southern Cross. It includes five stars, in themselves they are very bright. Four stars of this constellation have the shape of a cross, such is their location, and to determine the sides of the horizon just mentally connect them and imagine a cross.

In the resulting figure, one line will be longer than the other, so this star will be further away, forming a kind of handle for holding the cross. It is it that needs to be presented longer, about four times, and put vertically on the horizon, which will be the south side. If you have time, and there is no desire to do all the above mental manipulations, just wait for the cross to become upright, and then the pen will look south.

Another way is orienteering using a polar star. Wait for the night time. The night should be clear and the sky cloudless. Find the constellation of the Ursa Major, which will serve as a good guide in your search for the bucket of the Ursa Minor, if you mentally draw a line between the first stars of the Ursa Major, then the polar star will end the line. Turn to face her and spread your arms to the sides, then you will face north, back south, left west and right east. You can read more about how to find a polar star on our website.

The third way of orientation is the constellation Orion, although using this method is difficult! In general, it looks like three bright constellations of Orion, which are located in the middle of the constellation. It is always directed to the east side of the world at the time of dawn, and to the west at sunset, because it is located at the equator.

Polar star orientation

To resort to this method of orientation, you must wait for the night time of the day. The night should be clear and the sky cloudless. Find the constellation Ursa Major. How it looks is quite well known and almost every inhabitant of the country can find it in the sky.

Polar star orientation

Its finding will serve as a good guide in your search for the small dipper dipper, if you mentally draw a line between the first stars of the big dipper, then the polar star will end the line. Turn to face her and spread your arms to the sides, then you will face north, back south, left west and right east.

By the sun and the stars

The sun and stars have always been considered the best natural compasses and allowed using some knowledge and techniques to determine the sides of the horizon.

  • One way to keep track of which side was located was sanctified at the start of the journey. When the route is completed, remember this point and continue moving in a certain direction.
  • If you need to determine the sides of the horizon in the summer, then stand with your back to the sun at 12:00 and then the north will be ahead, the south behind, the east on the right and the west on the left.

In addition, the clock and the sun can also help determine the sides of the horizon.

  1. Move the clock to the sun.
  2. Check the resulting angle, which is in the middle: the direction of the clock and the number 1 (or thirteen hours). It is this angle that you need to mentally divide into two parts.
  3. The line that you will succeed will serve as a peculiar arrow of the resulting natural compass. The arrow pointing forward shows the south side of the terrain, respectively, the north side will be behind.

You have to navigate the terrain on the moon, if suddenly you get lost at night, the sun has already set and you can’t determine the direction of movement from it. This does not always happen on the full moon. What if the moon is growing or waning?