How do you discover the North Star?  This is how the space compass works

How do you discover the North Star? This is how the space compass works

If you’re on the road and get lost, nowadays you can simply use Google Maps and before you know it you’ll be back on track. You don’t have to think about what is right or left anymore. With a cell phone in your pocket, getting truly lost is almost impossible. It was different in the Middle Ages. At that time, you had to rely on the stars in the sky to find your way home, as the North Star was an important navigator. But then you have to know how to find it.

What is the North Star?

The North Star is the star closest to the north celestial pole. If you extend the Earth’s axis of rotation from the North Pole out into space, you will reach the North Star. For this reason this star is also called Polaris or the North Star. Because the North Star is located directly above the north celestial pole, it appears to stay in the same place almost all night. In other words: If you were standing exactly at the geographic North Pole, you would see the North Star directly above you. While the Earth rotates on its axis, the star stays in place.

Polaris was not always the star closest to the north celestial pole. Because the Earth’s axis of rotation changes very slowly, over time, another star will take over the role of the pole star. Before Polaris was given this honor, Vega, Tuban, and Planet were respectively the stars directly above geographic north. Thousands of years later, around the year 13727, he will be Vega again.

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This is how you can find the North Star

On a clear evening, you can always see the North Star in the Netherlands. It’s not the brightest star, that being Sirius, but the orb is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye and can be distinguished from other stars. Where is the North Star located in the sky? Polaris forms the tail of the constellation Ursa Minor. If you can’t see it right away, first look for the Big Dipper, shown in the image below.

This constellation is easy to find because it is shaped like a pot. Once you spot it, focus your eyes on the pot bowl. Draw a straight line from the two back stars of the bowl and you will reach the North Star.

If you look at the two stars in front of (part of) the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Big Dipper, you will find the pole star Polaris is an extension of them.

Christophe Lenav//Getty Images

Read also: These are the best places to stargaze

Headshot of Willick van Doorn

Willick Van Doorn studied journalism and traveled the world for a while, eventually ending up in the editorial offices of Quest, National Geographic, and Runner’s World across the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. She is interested in the world, prefers to travel every month and always takes her running shoes with her.

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