How to Navigate Using the Stars, Sun and Moon
Knowing how to navigate using the stars, sun and moon can be a great skill to have in an emergency.
Many people are interested in knowing how to navigate using the stars, moon and the sun but feel that will be too hard. However, this article will give you a few easy-to-use tips that will be practical and useful in an emergency.
Stars and Constellations
Pole Stars. Polaris, also known as the North Star or Polar Star, is one of the brightest stars in the sky and never moves within one degree of true north. To find Polaris, first find the Big Dipper – part of the Ursa Major constellation. The two stars that form the right side of the dipper’s cup when lined up point directly to Polaris. Interestingly, the distance between the Big Dipper and Polaris is roughly equal to your current latitude.
Cassiopeia. Many star navigators will also recommend that you find the constellation Cassiopeia in the sky. This will allow you to double check the Polaris star. The North Star sits right between Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper. Cassiopeia is shaped like a rough W.
Orion’s Belt. Orion’s Belt is a helpful constellation to locate in order to help you navigate your way south. The belt roughly runs east to west. However, to determine south, follow the sword that hangs from Orion’s Belt. If you follow this belt, it will point you directly south.
Star Movements. At night, stars will rise in the east and set in the west. If you’re disoriented, place two sticks into the ground about 2-3 feet apart. Line up the edges of the two sticks with a bright star that you can track. Follow the path of the star for 15-30 minutes and you’ll be able to determine which way you’re facing.
The moon rises in the east. That means that at midnight, it will be in the south and then set in the west. However, the angle of the moon’s orbit is less reliable than other objects in order to help you navigate.
You can however, use a crescent moon to navigate. If you draw an imaginary line down the side of the crescent moon (from tip to tip), that line will point you south. If the moon rises before sunset, the illuminated side of the moon will face west. If the moon rises after midnight, the bright side will face east.
Setting and Rising. We all know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. However, due to the tilt of the earth, the direction might not lead you in a true east or true west direction. The sun rises and sets closest to east-west during the equinoxes (March and September). During the summer, the sun will rise in a more northeasterly direction and set in the north-western direction. During the winter, the sun will rise in the southeast and set in the south west.
Using a Watch. Hold your watch horizontal and level to the ground. Point the hour hand directly towards the sun. The imaginary line that sits between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock mark will run north to south. By using the shadow test above, you’ll be able to determine which way is east and west and navigate as you wish.
Shadows. Place a stick in the ground and mark where the shadow of the stick is on the ground. Wait about 15-30 minutes and place another rock where the shadow has moved. If you line up those two rocks it will point roughly east to west.
What do you use?
Besides buying a compass or downloading William Shatner’s voice on your navigation system (Get it? Navigating with the STARS?), how do you navigate in an emergency? Comment below to tell us what tricks or tips you have that might help others.