How to find True North or South without a compass?

 For the Northern Hemisphere

  • Locate the North Star (Polaris) at the night sky.
  • The North Star is the last star in the handle of the Little Plough (Ursa Minor) constellation.
  • If you have trouble finding it, find the Plough; the two end stars in the Plough (the outermost stars of the cup of the Plough) form a straight line that “points” to the North Star.

  • Then draw an imaginary line straight down from the North Star to the ground.
  • This direction is true north, and if you can find a landmark in the distance at this point, you can use it to guide yourself.



For the Southern Hemisphere

  • Find the Southern Cross constellation.
  • In the southern hemisphere, the North Star is not visible, and no single star always indicates north or south, but you can use the Southern Cross and the pointer stars as your guide.
  • The Southern Cross constellation is formed by five stars, and the four brightest stars form a cross that is angled to one side.

  • Identify the two stars that make up the long axis of the cross.
  • These stars form a line which “points” to an imaginary point in the sky which is above the South Pole.
  • Follow the imaginary line down from the two stars five times the distance between them. 

  • Draw an imaginary line from this point to the ground, and try to identify a corresponding landmark to steer by.
  • Since this is true south, true north is directly opposite it (behind you as you are looking at the point).



For the Equator

  • This Orion Constellation is visible from both hemispheres depending on the time of the year, but it is a permanent feature on the equator.

  • Look for Orion’s Belt – Orion has several prominent stars – see above the `belt’ (3 stars in a row) runs from East to West.

  • Project a line From the sword through the middle star of the Belt.
  • That is the general direction of North.

  • Orion lays across the Equator: the Belt rises & sets at east & West.


(All above infographics from wikihow – Thanks to wikihow for the diagrams above to allow you visual the images.)

Back to  Your First Night Sky page.


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