Which Stars Can You Use for Navigation in Different Parts of the World?
Science Fair Project Guide
Astronomy Project Ideas
Time required Very short (a day or less)
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No hazards
In this experiment you can determine which stars to use to navigate in each hemisphere of the globe.
Does your new family car have a global positioning system, or GPS unit? This amazing device can tell you where you are going while traveling by car, airplane, boat or train. Most modern navigation is done using GPS, which uses information from ...view middle of the document...
Occasionaly they would navigate long distances across the Atlantic Ocean in the summer. During these voyages they could not have used stars to navigate because at such northern latitudes the sun never sets during the summer months. Instead they used a sun compass, which could tell them direction by casting a curved shadow onto a disk with notches carved on it.
Ancient Greeks: The ancient Greeks learned to voyage around Europe and the Mediteranean Sea. Two major advances in navigation were made by Ptolemy, a famous Greek astronomer. Ptolemy was the first to make maps using stories from travellors and sailors. He also was the first to use latitude and longitude to tell position on a map.
Europeans: Eventually, Europeans learned to navigate using a magnetic compass and an accurate clock. How did they navigate before the discovery of the compass? They had the advantage of using Ptolemy's maps to show them where to go and primarily used coastal navigation. To orient themselves they used basic celestial navigation, which means that they used information from the stars and from the sun to orient themselves. The rising and setting of the sun could orient them East or West. The positions of navigational stars could orient them North and South.
Which stars are important for navigation? There are several, but the most famous navigational stars are the North Star, called Polaris, and the Southern Cross. The North Star (Polaris) is a part of the constellation Ursa Minor, commonly known as the Little Dipper. The Southern Cross is a constellation of four stars called Crixa, two of which point towards the celestial south pole.
Depending on where you are in the world and where you want to go, one navigational star will be more important than the other. In this experiment you can use the internet to find a star chart from anywhere in the world. You can look for the North Star and the Southern Cross from different locations around the world to see which star to use for navigation.
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research
To do this type of experiment you should know what the following terms mean. Have an adult help you search the Internet, or take you to your local library to find out more!
North Star (Polaris)
Little Dipper (Ursa Minor)
Southern Cross (Crixa)