There Is No Southern Polaris

We need a time of reference for our circumpolar observations, and mid-April is as good a time as any. Imagine that you are in the countryside near Sydney or Cape Town or Buenos Aires and that you go outdoors to stargaze at around 10:00 p.m. Assume that the sky is clear, there is no haze, and the Moon is below the horizon so that its light does not interfere with stargazing. You know that the south celestial pole is 35 degrees above the southern horizon. You search for a significant star, or at least a constellation, to mark the spot using the "fist rule." (Hold your right arm out straight and make a tight fist. Point the knuckles toward your right. The top of your fist is about 10 angular degrees from the bottom.) You find the southern horizon using a compass or your knowledge of the area and proceed three and a half fists up into the sky. There is nothing significant. The south polar region is devoid of bright or even moderately bright stars. This caused some trouble for mariners who ventured south of the equator. They needed a convenient way to locate the south celestial pole.

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