For the purposes of wayfinding, it's important to have an understanding of the brightest objects in the night sky.
The three brightest objects in the night sky are not stars but planets: The Moon, Venus and Jupiter.
These planets are up to something rather special in our skies at the moment (read on).
It's at interesting times like this that there is a really good opportunity to learn more about the night sky and the motions of the stars and planets.
Why am I writing about this on a bushcraft blog?
Well, natural navigation is a core subject (and skill) of bushcraft.
Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass
Looking after yourself in the wilds, with minimal reliance on equipment and maximum reliance on your skills and knowledge of nature, includes being able to find your way without map or compass.
For millennia, humans have been using the heavenly bodies as aids to our navigation.
More recently, increased trade and exploration of the globe demanded more accurate navigation. As a result more accurate measurements of the positions of stars were made and celestial navigation became more mathematical. This puts people off learning about it.
Even so, the fundamentals of using celestial objects for navigation are the same as they have ever been.
Observe Your Suroundings
At its heart, natural navigation is based on observation and memory.
I have written about using the Moon and Venus for natural navigation purposes. I also argued that the best way to build up a knowledge of your night sky is gradually, over time.
So it is a good opportunity to learn about the motion of The Moon, Venus and Jupiter at the moment.
These three planets, along with Mercury, are in the process lining up in the night sky. With a clear sky and an unobstructed view to the west, you should be able to see these planets not long after sunset. You'll be able to see a triangle of planets this coming weekend (25th and 26th February) and over the next few weeks, Venus and Jupiter will get to within 3 degrees of each other.
Below is a short, straightforward video from NASA. At less than 4 minutes long, it tells you what need to know in order to see this planetary alignment. It also explains some relevant points about how the eye functions, which is useful background knowledge for other bushcraft skills such as tracking.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8br4JiFEik]
Please share this post with your friends so that they also get the chance to see this three-way planetary alignment.
If you have some good sightings, let us know in the comments below.
And if you manage to take good photos, please add them to an online gallery (even Facebook) and share the link with us here. We'd love to see them!
Here's hoping for some clear skies over the coming weeks...
If you'd like to know more about this planetary conjunction, about why it occurs and how the planets move in relation to each other, check out the following links:Skyweek 20-26th February 2012 (5 min video) Sky and Telescope: This week at a glance Jordrell Bank Night Sky Roundup, February 2012
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