Finding The North Pole

the key guide to Polaris is one of the most familiar patterns in the sky—the seven stars that make up the saucepan-shaped outline of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, which is always visible from latitudes above 40° north. Two stars in the bowl of the saucepan, a (Alpha) and P (Beta) Ursae Majoris, are known as the Pointers because they indicate the position of the north celestial pole.

1 First locate the constellation of Ursa Major (commonly known as the Big Dipper), and then identify the Pointers, Alpha Ursae Majoris and Beta Ursae Majoris, on the right-hand side of the outline of the saucepan. Imagine that a straight line connects the two stars.

2 Keep in mind the distance between the two stars and then extend that line by five times, to arrive near the north Pole star, Polaris. At second magnitude, the north celestial pole is the brightest star in Ursa Minor. Its brightness varies, but the variations are invisible to the naked eye.

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