How can we locate the North Star?

          From the ancient times, the mariners in the Northern Hemisphere have been finding their way by observing the position of a bright star that is almost exactly in line with the North Pole. This star is called the North Star or the Pole Star or Polaris. Of course, with the invention of the compass, mariners no more depend on it. Moreover, the latest radio-direction-finding-technique has almost eliminated the need of the North Star. But since this star played a very important role in navigation for a long time it is desirable on our part to know the method of locating it.

          If you look towards the north of a clear night sky, you will see a group of seven stars that look like points placed along a dipper with a curved handle. When you have found such a group or constellation, look around in the same direction for another constellation. This too is shaped like a dipper, but with its handle curving in the opposite direction to that of the first dipper. The larger of these two is the Big Dipper, and the other one is the Little Dipper. They are also called Ursa Major (Big Bear) and Ursa Minor (Little Bear).

          Note that the forepart of the bowl of the Big Dipper is made up of two stars. The one at the top of the bowl is called ‘Dubhe’ and the other one is called ‘Merak’. These two stars are known as the pointers because if you draw a line from Merak to Dubhe, and continue the line for a distance equal to about four times the distance between the pointers, you will arrive at a bright star which is the one we are seeking – the North Star.