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Use Big Dipper’s pointers to find Polaris, the North Star

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Tonight for February 7, 2015

If you can find the Big Dipper in the northern sky in mid to late evening tonight, you can find the North Star, Polaris. The Big Dipper is low in the northeast sky in the evening on February evenings, but it’ll climb upward during the evening hours, to reach its high point for the night in the wee hours after midnight. A well-known trick for finding Polaris, the legendary North Star, is that the two outermost stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper point to it. Those stars are Dubhe and Merak. They are well known among amateur astronomers as The Pointers.

Can’t find the Big Dipper? Yes, you can!

It really does look like a dipper, and it’s pretty bright. You just have to look for it at a time when it’s visible. And that’ll be tonight, and for many nights to come over the coming weeks and months … in the north in mid-evening. Once you find the Big Dipper, use the pointer stars to find Polaris, the North Star.

The Big Dipper isn’t a constellation, by the way. Instead, it’s an asterism, just a recognizable pattern of stars on the sky’s dome. It’s part of the constellation Ursa Major, the Greater Bear.

Bottom line: Use the Big Dipper to find Polaris, the North Star. Plus, early in the morning on February 24, look for the moon to be edging toward Venus in the eastern sky.

February 2015 guide to the five visible planets

A planisphere is virtually indispensable for beginning stargazers. Order your EarthSky Planisphere today.