How to Find Constellations

If you are into astronomy, then you will have heard of looking at the moon, stars, constellations, and all celestial objects.

Constellations have long been used by humans in order to navigate across the globe, long before there were navigational tools or Google Maps!

Because constellations happen within the night sky, and you can see this from all over the world, people would look to the stars in order to find their way.

Even nowadays, the practice of looking for stars and constellations is a great way to learn about the world, our galaxy and to have fun. 

What are constellations?

A constellation is generally a group of stars that work together to form a recognizable pattern. These constellations are typically named after mythological figures, and each have their own patterns, shapes and outlines.

Being able to identify such constellations would have been a skill that was paramount to survival and navigation in previous civilizations, as it would have been the only way people were able to orient themselves.

Even now, recognizing constellations is an impressive skill, especially for those who are passionate about astronomy, and learning about the night sky. If this interests you, then you will need to know how to find constellations. 

How to Find Constellations

Nowadays, it has become much harder to spot different stars as there is far more light pollution in the world.

This makes it harder for stars to shine more visibly, and we may struggle to see them with the naked eye. 

Use Astronomy Tools

In addition, it may be difficult to note different stars, as some are only visible where you are at different times of the day or year. You can however use many various tools that will help you identify the shapes and characteristics of star constellations. 

Some of the best tools to help you see and recognize various constellations are Starmap and Google Sky. These tools can help you practice and understand regular star movements, appearances and locations. 

You can also use a website called AstroViewer, which will help you to create a customized and personalized star map based on where you are within the world, to help you get started on your constellation finding journey.

If you want to find constellations whilst on the go, then you can use the smartphone app Starmap, which will turn your phone into a personal guide of the constellations in the sky.

Change Your Location

In order to properly view stars, you will need to go somewhere where it will actually be possible for you to see them.

As previously mentioned, light pollution can make it hard to see the stars and any constellations within the sky.

This is why it is so important that you go somewhere away from busy cities, or places where there are a lot of lights. 

Use a Telescope

Obviously, one of the best ways to view constellations is by purchasing or using a telescope.

This will help you view the sky in greater detail, which will make picking out and identifying constellations so much easier for you. 

Try using one that is perfect for beginners in order to get you started.

Familiarize Yourself with the North Star

The North Star, or the Polaris is generally aligned with the Earth’s rotational axis, which makes its position in the sky pretty consistent. If you are able to accurately pinpoint the North Star’s location, then you will be able to find other constellations, in relation to the location of the North Star. 

The North Star is typically best seen in June, in the Northern Hemisphere, and is so important because during the night, it will not move. Then, you can begin to identify other constellations around its location.

Once you have located the Polaris, or the North Star, you can begin looking for the Little Dipper and the Big Dipper.  

How to Find the Little Dipper Constellation

The Little Dipper and the Big Dipper are most likely two of the most famous constellations in the world.

They are widely known and recognized by so many people, both astronomers and not. This is why you will want to know how to properly recognize them when you look up into the night sky. 

The Little Dipper is one of the easiest constellations to find because of its distinctive shape and pattern. The Little Dipper is actually shaped much like a bowl, with a little handle.

This constellation actually has the brightest star, right at the end of the handle. This is the North Star. It is the brightest point within the night sky, which makes locating the Little dipper simple. 

How to Find the Big Dipper Constellation

In addition to the Little Dipper, the Big Dipper is also a famous star constellation to locate. The Big Dipper actually rotates around the North Star, all throughout the night.

This constellation will begin at a low point in the Northeast sky during nightfall, however it will move upward during the later hours, reaching its highest point in the night just a few hours after midnight. 

The Big Dipper is also called Ursa Major, and is one of the most recognizable constellations in the Northern Hemisphere, as it is almost always visible from this location.

The Big Dipper also has seven stars, much like the Little Dipper, but is much larger, but still replicates the look of a bowl and a handle. 

Once you have mastered the art of finding these constellations, you will be able to use your star maps and tools in order to find other constellations and patterns within the night sky. 

Gordon Watts