On a dark night, you can see thousands of stars with the naked eye. What makes the North Star stand out above the rest?
A Moment of Science would like to clarify a small point of navigation: the difference between a mile on land and a nautical mile.
The North Star is the brightest star in the constellation known as the Little Dipper. It is called the North Star because of the special position it occupies relative to the earth’s axis. If you were to stay up all night gazing at the stars, you’d slowly see them revolve around a point in the sky known as the North Celestial Pole.
A sextant is a hand-held gadget that looks like the outline of a large piece of pizza. It is essential for navigation since it helps determine degrees of latitude, telling sailors how far to the north or south of the equator they are located.