Finding Polaris

Guide produced by Bradley Swift

One of the first stars an astronomer learns about is the North star, named Polaris.

It's the one star that appears not to move in the night sky. The star all other stars revolve around.
If you stand and face Polaris, you know you are facing true North.
If you are going to be using a telescope with the EQ type of mount, then you will need to know how to find Polaris for your setup procedure.

The easiest way to find Polaris is by the tried and trusted method of 'Star Hopping'. No, really it is. A complete novice can be pointing at Polaris before you've even opened you're smartphone app!
Let's suppose you've gone to a remote location with a nice dark sky to do some observing. There's no 4G! No wifi!! Besides, 'star hopping' can be a very rewarding way of finding targets in the night sky. I find it adds a little more sparkle when you first find that globular star cluster you've been searching for.

So here's a brief guide on how to find Polaris. Hopefully giving you an idea of the basics of 'star hopping' in the process.
First you need to locate the Plough. The Plough is not a constellation itself, but what is called an asterism. An asterism is the bright prominent part of a constellation. The Plough is part of the Great Bear constellation also known as Ursa Major. Sometimes the Plough is referred to has the big dipper, saucepan or big question mark, to name but a few.

Location of The Plough

For this guide were going to think of it as a saucepan.

The Plough

Follow the curved handle along to the pan head.

Finding Polaris

From the two stars in the pan head that are furthest from the handle, start at the bottom star (Merak) and draw an imaginary straight line up to the next star (Dubhe).

Star hop to Polaris

Now just keep that imaginary line going straight to the next bright star you come to and you have just 'star hopped' to Polaris the North star.

Locating Polaris

Hopefully this little guide makes it easier for some beginners to find the North star. Whilst showing how simple it can be to have a go at star hopping and finding targets in the night sky.

Give it a try and see how satisfying star hopping your way around the cosmos can be! Good luck.

The Aurora
Did you know you can see the Aurora from our area?
Upload your images
You can upload your images to the website!
Great Red Spot
If you have a telescope you can see the Great Red Spot on Jupiter!

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.