Nighttime Survival Navigation

a. Mark North. To aid you in navigating at night, it is beneficial to watch where the sun goes down. If you're going to start moving after dark mark the northerly direction.

b. Locating the North Star. There are two methods used in locating the North Star. (WSVX.02.07e)

(1) Using the Big Dipper (UrsaMajor). The best indictors are the two "dippers ". The North Star is the last star in the handle of the little dipper, which is not the easiest constellation to find. However, the Big Dipper is one of the most prominent constellations in the Northern Hemisphere. The two lowest stars of the Big Dipper's cup act as pointers to the North Star. If you line up these two stars, they make a straight line that runs directly to the North Star. The distance to the North Star along this line is 5 times that between the two pointer stars.

(2) Using Cassiopeia (BigM or w). Draw a line straight out from the center star, approximately half the distance to the Big Dipper. The North Star will be located there.


NOTE. Because the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia rotate around the North Star, they will not always appear in the same position in the sky. In the higher latitudes, the North Star is less effective for the purpose of orienting because it appears higher in the sky. At the center of the Arctic circle, it would be directly overhead, and all directions lead South.

c. Southern Cross. In the Southern Hemisphere, Polaris is not visible. The Southern Cross is the most distinctive constellation. An imaginary line through the long axis of the Southern Cross, or True Cross, points towards a dark spot devoid of stars approximately three degrees offset from the South Pole. The True Cross should not be confused with the larger cross nearby known as the False Cross, which is less bright, more widely spaced, and has five stars. The True Cross can be confirmed by the two closely spaced very bright stars that trail behind the crosspiece. These two stars are often easier to pick out than the cross itself. Look for them. Two of the stars in the True Cross are among the brightest stars in the heavens; they are the stars on the southern and eastern arms. The stars on the northern and western arms are not as apparent.

Note: The imaginary point depicted in the picture is the dark spot devoid of stars.

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