How to Find a Star

Two Methods:Using a Star Map and SignpostsUsing a Telescope with Setting Circles

Some stars can be very interesting. However, it is annoying when you look around the sky and can't find what you are looking for.

Method 1
Using a Star Map and Signposts

  1. Image titled Find a Star Step 1
    Check that you can see the star from your latitude. There's no point looking for something that will never rise above the horizon. As a general rule, people on the equator can see the entire sky, people in the northern hemisphere can see the northern part of the sky and people in the southern hemisphere can see the southern part of the sky.
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    Do some research on the star. What constellation is it in? How bright is it? Will you need a telescope, or can you do without? Can you see it from the city or do you need to go to a dark site?
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    Find it on a star map. This will show you where to look in the sky.
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    Use the star map to find signposts to your star. These are brighter stars that you can use to find the way to your star (like how the Big Dipper points to Polaris). Ideally, you want pointer stars that are easy to find, which means they must be a) bright and b) part of a recognisable pattern, such as the Big Dipper, Orion's belt, the Square of Pegasus or the W in Cassiopeia.
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    Go outside and take a look. After it gets dark, find your signposts and use them to find your star.

Method 2
Using a Telescope with Setting Circles

  • If you have a telescope equipped with setting circles, you can find a star much more easily.
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    Look up the co-ordinates of the star - two things called declination (the space equivalent of latitude) and right ascension (equivalent to longitude).
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    Align the telescope properly, then use the setting circles to point it at the right co-ordinates.
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    Take a look. It should be pointed at your star.


  • Pick stars that are within range of your optical instrument. If you have a telescope, you want stars with a lower magnitude (lower magnitude = brighter star) than magnitude 10 or 11 (depending on how good your telescope is). If you're using 7x50 binoculars, you want stuff lower than magnitude 9. With the naked eye, you can see stuff lower than magnitude 6, but if you have good eyes and a dark site, you may see stuff between magnitudes 6 and 7.
  • Dim stars can be harder to see. If you locate a star that is very dim, don't look directly at it. If you look slightly to the side, the dim light will appear brighter.


  • Most stars don't look particularly impressive. If you just restrict yourself to stars, the main two things to look for are colour (usually red, orange, white or blue), and if it is part of a multiple star system. If you use the method to find deep sky objects (clusters, nebulae, galaxies etc.) then it can get more interesting, but they still don't look anything like the brilliant pictures from space telescopes.
  • Don't look at the sun.

Article Info

Categories: Astrology