A Guide to Star Hopping

After Clare presented her guide to naked eye observing at the 2009-2010 session Members Night, she had a number of requests to make the slides available. That in itself caused the creation of the beginners area on the website. The Star hopping section was the first section to be created. We hope you enjoy the guide, and find something useful here. Clicking on any of the images will open a larger version of the image so you can see each in more detail.

Thanks to Clare Fowler for providing the slides on this page.


Orion - A few hops to get us started

Having found Orion, the hunter in the night sky, there are quite a few stars we can find using Orion as our Start point. Let's start star hopping!

Following the three stars of Orion's belt from Alnitak - the eastern most star through Alnilam - the centre star and Mintaka - the westmost star, we will hop to Aldebaran, the red eye of Taurus the bull. And from there on to the Pleiades (M45).

By tracing a line from Saiph, Orion's left foot, hopping through Alnitak, the left star in his belt, we'll reach Capella in the constellation Auriga. Capella is Alpha Aurigae, the brightest star in the constellation of Auriga.

By starting at Mintaka, the rightmost star in Orion's belt and hopping through Betelgeuse (Alpha Orion), his left shoulder, we'll hop to Castor in the constellation of Gemini. Castor is Alpha Geminorium. Castor is the second brightest star in Gemini, despite it's Alpha designation, Pollox is actually brighter.

Hopping across Orion's shoulders from Bellatrix on the right to Betelgeuse on the left will take us to Procyon. Procyon is Alpha Canis Minoris.

Finally, we can hop along Orion's belt in the opposite direction we did to find Aldebaran to get to Sirius. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky with a visual magnitude of -1.46, and is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. Sirius is Alpha Canis Major.

The Plough - A few more hops, and a link to Orion

The Plough in Ursa Major is one of the most useful asterisms in the northern sky, allowing travellers to find north.

Hopping through the 'pointer stars' Merak and Dubhe will take us to Polaris, the Pole Star. If you're facing Polaris, then you're looking north. Polaris has the common reputation as being the brightest star in the night sky, however with a magnitude of 2.02, it only ranks 48.

Starting at Megrez, the first star in the 'blade' of the plough, and hopping through Dubhe, we will get to Capella. You'll remember getting to Capella from Orion, so now you should be able to get between Ursa Major and Orion!

Again, starting at Megrez, and this time hopping through Merak, we can hop to Castor. As before, we were able to get to Castor from Orion, so now you have two ways to link Ursa Major and Orion.

Back to Megrez again, and this time we'll hop to Phad on our way to Regulus. Regulus is Aplha Leonis, the brightest star in the Constellation Leo.

The next set of hops is a little different to those we've done before, and this time rather than forming a line, we're going to form an arc with our hops. A nice way to remember this one is to remember that we 'Arc to Arcturis'. Start hopping at Alioth, and then hop to Mizar (which is a naked eye double star with Alcor), then on to the only star we've not used yet in the plough, Alkaid, before continuing the arc to hop to Arcturis. Arcturis is Aplha Bootis, the brightest star in Bootes.

The last star we can get to from the plough is Vega in Lyra. Starting at Phad, then intersecting Megrez and Alioth, we can hop to Vega, Alpha Lyrae which is the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere, and the fifth brightest in teh night sky with an apparent magnitude of 0.15