NAVIGATE BY THE STARS
It'll make you look cool, but is actually pretty easy
AN UNSPOKEN RULE of Hollywood movies - right up there with never say "goodbye" on the telephone and always enter a scary basement alone - is that sexy cowboys, explorers and wise indigenous peoples can all navigate by the stars. They glance skyward, make a quick mental calculation and then bark "This way!". Wouldn't it be cool to be able to do that?
To emulate such at-one-with-nature majesty, all you actually have to know is how to locate the North Star - also known as the Pole Star or Polaris. Unlike most stars, which appear to wander the night skies like forgetful fireflies, Polaris holds its position very well, and on a clear night and with a li le know-how, it's easy to spot.
To find Polaris, "first find the Big Dipper", says desert adventurer and explorer Ripley Davenport (www.ripleydavenport.com). It's also known as The Plough. You're looking for the bowl at the opposite end to its long, straight handle. "You need the two stars on its outer edge. Draw an imaginary line through these two stars towards the Li le Dipper." He's talking, of course, about Ursa Minor, a neighbouring constellation that looks like Big Dipper, only smaller. Your line should lead straight to the tip of Li le Dipper, its handle. "The brightest star on the handle is the North Star," says Ripley. "From this you can now gauge west, east and south." You might want to check with a compass at first.
Ready to show offyour celestial navigation skills? Ideally you'll be under the clear, starry skies of somewhere terribly exciting like Fez, Morocco, looking for your riad. And ideally with an impressionable audience. Look for the tell-tale Big and Little Dippers to orient yourself. Now raise your arm, shout "This way!" and pray like mad that you're right.