Stargazing tips – The Pole Star and The Plough

A starry, cold night. Stargazing tips.

And all I need is a tall ship and a star to steer her by”
(John Masefield)

A diagram of The Plough constellation pointing to the Pole Star. Stargazing tips.
A diagram of The Plough constellation pointing to the Pole Star. Stargazing tips.

Stargazing is a cheap pastime made easier by the clear air and long nights of winter, away from street- lamp pollution.

Stargazing tips: In years gone by, stars were the only means of path-finding at night; no hobby – a necessity.
The most useful star in the Northern Hemisphere is No.8 on the diagram, Polaris – the Pole Star; always at the same position in the sky, exactly North and constant.
It is not a bright star but easily found by reference to the PLOUGH nearby, which is Nos 1 to 7 on the diagram and also known as the DIPPER or CHARLES WAIN.

Whereas the Pole Star remains constant, when viewed at night the PLOUGH and all the other constellations appear to rotate around it.
The position of a star at any hour also varies throughout the year – not so easy!

Cut out the diagram and fix it on a flat surface with a pin through No.8, The POLE STAR.
Rotate the disc until Nos. 1 to 7 resemble your observation, looking roughly to the north.
Now extend a line from No.6 to No.7 and beyond (four times the space between them).
This should find the POLE STAR and North.

‘Global Position Indicators’? – Batteries can fail.
‘Solar Powered’? – not at night.
WW2 aircraft had quite sophisticated navigation equipment, that is if it wasn’t shot to pieces, and it could also reveal your position to the enemy – big deal!
But the navigator had star maps, and through an ASTRO DOME, got a ‘fix’ from the POLE STAR.
It was always there, CONSTANT, DEPENDABLE AND CHEAP, (one for the price of nothing).

There are quite a few stars in the Bible.
The most familiar is the Star of Bethlehem, leading the wise men to the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:2).

ASTRONOMY is a scientific study of the stars.
ASTROLOGY allows certain people to make fast bucks from the gullible and vulnerable.
Try the Bible first!

So you know where you are going?
Are you sure?
You need a good, dependable guide.

Joe Lucas March 2005

By Joe Lucas

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