Impress your friends. Be the life of any
party. You, too, can use the stars to tell
One of the easiest star groupings to use for
this is the Big Dipper. After dark during
mid-March, look for the Dipper shining
midway up in the northeastern sky.
The Big Dipper, of course, is a familiar
group of seven stars that forms the shape of
a bowl with a curved handle. The two stars
at the end of its bowl are known as the
pointer stars since they aim toward
Polaris―the North Star.
As the Earth turns during the night, the
Dipper's pointer stars constantly change
their orientation relative to the North
Star. In fact, we can imagine the stars at
the end of the Dipper's bowl as the hour
hand of a huge 24-hour clock―handy for
telling time by the stars.
But it's not as simple as just looking at
the Dipper to tell time; you'll need to do
some arithmetic before you can amaze your
friends. Here's all you need to do:
1. Estimate the position of the
stars of the Dipper to an accuracy of about
one-quarter hour. For example, in the
illustration they point to about 1 o'clock.
2. Count the number of months past January
1 to the nearest one-quarter month. If you
try this in mid-March, for example, that
number would be 2.5.
3. Add the values of Step 1 and Step 2.
For our example, the answer would be 3.5.
Then double this result; in this case it
would be 7.0.
the answer of Step 3 from 16.25. For our
example, the answer would be 9.25. (If the
Step 3 value is larger than 16.25, subtract
it from 40.25 instead). If the result is
less than 12, the time is p.m. If greater
than 12, it's a.m. In our example, the
time is nearly quarter past 9 in the
evening. This number is in Standard Time;
don't forget to add one hour for Daylight
Savings Time when that comes about.
Remember this is just a very rough estimate
and, with practice, you'll be able to do
this quickly in your head.
But if all your efforts to tell time by the
stars fail, quizzically touch your forehead
while stealing a glance at your wristwatch.
In the dark, no one will ever know!