How do you find the North Star?


Quick Answer

The North Star, Polaris, is found by mentally drawing and extending a line between the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper's bowl. Polaris can be seen from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, provided there isn't too much light.

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How do you find the North Star?
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Full Answer

  1. Make your way to a clear location

    The north horizon needs to be clear, and most of the stars need to be visible after sunset. If possible, get away from cities because they produce too much light pollution and block out starlight. Use a compass to determine which way is north. Note that north on a compass is pointing to magnetic north, about 14 degrees to the east of geographic north.

  2. Find the Big Dipper

    Starting from the north horizon, look gradually higher until the Big Dipper is in sight. Depending on the time of the year, it will be in slightly different locations. Consult a star chart if necessary. The Big Dipper is a group of seven stars and one of the easiest constellations to find and recognize, because it looks like a ladle.

  3. Draw a line from the two end stars

    The two stars that make up the outer edge of the Dipper's bowl are named Dubhe and Merak. Draw a line between these two stars and extend it out of the bowl. The line will always intersect Polaris, which is also the end of the Little Dipper's handle. Because the Little Dipper is dim, it's harder to spot it and locate Polaris by using it alone.

Learn more about Stellar Astronomy

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