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How do you star hop?

Rebecca wrote:

What is star hopping? What does that mean?

Amateur astronomers use star hopping to go from stars and constellations they know … to ones they don’t know yet. First, look for noticeable patterns on the sky’s dome. One very easy pattern to find at this time of year is the constellation Orion the Hunter. You’ll find it descending in the west after sunset. Orion is easy to find because it contains a very noticeable pattern of three medium-bright stars in a short straight row. These stars represent Orion’s Belt.

If you can find Orion, you can use it to star hop to Sirius, the sky’s brightest star, in the constellation Canis Major. Orion and Sirius are dropping into the sun’s glare at this time of year, so be sure to look for them soon after the sun goes down.

And that’s how you come to know the constellations. You use what you’ve already learned to build outward to find new patterns.

Star field above building roof with long red arrow from pointer stars to Polaris.

View larger. | Another example of star hopping. The two outer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper always point to Polaris, the North Star. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Abhijit Juvekar. Thank you, Abhijit!

Bottom line: Find new stars and constellations by star hopping from ones you already know.

EarthSky astronomy kits are perfect for beginners. Order today from the EarthSky store

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