Let the North Star Guide You
Posted on 07/05/2010
Have you ever found yourself in a cleared area staring up at the sky gazing at the stars? If so, have you ever wondered about what you’re exactly looking at? We’re going to start small (actually, stars are kinda big) to help you have a better appreciation for the night sky.
You should have some familiarity with the Big Dipper, so let’s start there. The Big Dipper looks like a pot with a handle, with four stars outlining the base of the pot. This constellation will help us find others.
Look at the two stars of the front end of the pot on the Big Dipper. These two stars are referred to as “Pointer Stars,” and will guide you to the North Star, Polaris. Form an imaginary line that points out from the top of the pot. Keep going with your line until you reach a faint star that’s at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper.
If you keep following that imaginary line you formed with the Pointer Stars and Polaris, you’ll run into a constellation that looks like the letter “W.” This constellation is called Cassiopeia, named after a Greek queen.
Go back to the handle of the Big Dipper. These three stars form an obtuse triangle when you connect the dots. Find the middle star and follow the direction it’s pointing until you come across two stars close together in a line. These two stars are part of Draco, which is a constellation that curves between the Big and Little Dipper.
You can find another constellation using the Big Dipper by following the stars in the handle until you come across a bright star called Arcturus. This star will be in an ice-cream cone constellation called Bootes. If you keep following this path from the Big Dipper to Bootes, you will reach a “Y” shaped constellation called Virgo. You’ll know if you made it there if you see the bright star, Spica, which is a part of this constellation.
These are a lot of the Northern constellations you can find in the sky. Still wanting more? Do some more research before heading out to star gaze. But the hardest thing to find may be a dark sky without the city lights obscuring your view.