Knowing how to find the north star in the northern hemisphere is one of the most basic survivalskills.Those of us in the north are fortunate to have the North Star as a handy survival tool fordetermining direction without a compass. Visible from the surface of the earth during clear nights,nearly everybody has heard of this celestial body and most probably feel confident they would beable to find the North Star whenever they choose.For many thousands of years Polaris has been used as a guiding star and reference point fornavigators and astronomers. Through experience and observation wayfarers discovered theNorth Star lights the way to true north.In ancient times locating this lodestar was crucial to navigating long distances through thewilderness. The beauty of using the north star for navigation is that unlike a magnetic compassthe north star always points to to true north. There is no magnetic declination to deal with.locating the north starNorth Star LocationBy shear luck, the northern axis of the earth points directly toward the North Star. This means thatwhen you are observing this star you are facing true north toward the North Pole. Because of thiswe also call the North Star the Polestar or Polaris, its astronomic name.When you are facing the North Star you are looking toward true north. This is because by chancethis lodestar lines up with the celestial sphere almost perfectly, so that all other stars appear torotate around it. Simply by finding the North Star travelers are able to determine all the points ofthe compass: westward would be on your left, eastward to the right, and southward in back ofyou.Do You Know Where the North Star Is?Experience has shown that knowing about and reliably locating the North Star in the night sky aretwo different things. Being lost in the wilderness without a compass is not the time to be trying tofigure out where the northern polestar is.You need to know where the north star is before it is a matter of survival.Many people erroneously think the North Star is one of the brightest stars in the sky and so iseasy to find. In actuality the star is not so outstanding in its order of magnitude, or brightness,which is about average when compared to all the other stars in the celestial sphere.Finding the Big Dipper is Key to Finding the North StarThe key to locating the North Star in the night sky is to first find the Big Dipper, a constellation ofstars known as Ursa Major (the dippers are not a true constellations. They are groups of starsknown as asterisms located within a constellation). The Big Dipper is perhaps the best knowngroup of stars in the northern sky and is easy to distinguish from all others. Also known as theGreat Bear, the Big Dipper is located just north of the celestial pole. Knowing how to find the BigDipper makes it easy to find the north star.