No Money Astronomy: Celestial Navigation



Celestial navigation can be a pain in the ass, especially if you have no money.

The sky is unthinkably obese, which means our eyes have plenty of starry real-estate to explore. So much territory, in fact, our eyes don’t know where to look first! They swivel inside their comfy orbital sockets while our irises expand and swallow a barrage of celestial photons.

The night sky is a jumbled mess of nonsense! Whoever says the universe is “balanced” is full of shit! What universe do they live in? Because it surely ain’t the one I been lookin’ at the past 23 years.

We have a squiggly constellation over here and a zig-zagish constellation above our heads—a myriad of stars toward the east—numberless stars toward the west…

Where shall we begin?

We don’t need fancy charts or maps! We don’t need to spend money on intricate computer software! We don’t need expensive screens! All we need is our biological optics (eyes).

We’ll unravel this astronomically massive knot and we’ll use the stars to do it!

The stars are full of secrets, and despite their vast distances, there is a subtle geometric communication.

In other words: some stars point at other stars.

The most famous stellar road sign sits within the asterism of Ursa Major—The Big Dipper. Perhaps you heard of it? Of course! Everyone knows about the Big Dipper! It needs no introduction, so I’ll just skip it. The Big Dipper has quite a few stellar road signs, but let’s first concentrate on Ursa Major’s cup, dipper, bowel, plow—whatever you want to call it.


See the last two stars allll the way toward the right? Hold on—I’ll show you.

Big Dipper-2

These particular stars (Merak and Dubhe) point to a very important star—Polaris.


See what I mean? The convenience of such a stellar alignment is too easy to take advantage of! So…why not take advantage? Stars don’t have to be just mysterious points of light! They could also be road signs. Ancient mariners were well adapted at reading stellar road signs and hold no illusions—they surely knew about this one…and took advantage of it.dipper-3

**Keep in mind** The stars are not permanent tacks drilled into the celestial sphere. Well…they are…kind of…in a way…never mind! Ignore what I just said. Depending on Earth’s orbit, circumpolar constellations will shift position, in relation to Polaris. Keep that in mind.

The night sky is full of stellar road signs and knowing just a few will begin your task of untangling that massive astronomical knot above our heads, which I mentioned earlier. We already unraveled a few threads—before you know it—the cosmos will unfold right before your very eyes.

The next stellar road sign involves a simple geometric pattern.


Vega, Deneb, and Altair form what is commonly known as the ‘Summer Triangle’. This popular asterism is very apparent during northern summer nights, which is why it’s called the Summer Triangle. I don’t know why I felt the need to point that out, but that’s why you come here—for the deep knowledge.


The Summer Triangle provides a convenient way of navigating around a trio of constellations: Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila.

Speaking of the Summer Triangle—Cassiopeia contains a very useful stellar road sign. Not many people know about this particular alignment and it’s not as trendy as the Summer Triangle, but it points directly at two night specters.


Cassiopeia is defined as a distinctive ‘w’, ‘m’, or even a jagged lightning bolt, depending on your imagination. Cassiopeia is also relatively bright, which makes navigation nice and easy. The red magical lines imprinted within the photograph point directly at the stellar road sign: Schedar.

Schedar happens to point toward two lonesome roads near Andromeda and Perseus. If you travel these dark roads long enough—you’ll eventually see something strange—wispy smears of ethereal light.


The road toward Andromeda leads to an island universe located about 2.5 million light years away. The smear of light is a concentration of countless stars, bountiful gas, and an unthinkable amount of dust. Andromeda’s galactic core glows toward the center of the above photograph.


The second lonely road leads to a oddly complicated smudge of light—the Double Cluster. The smudge of light is a collective haze of radiation emitted from two open star clusters. Thousands of stars reside in each cluster and it’s believe the sun was born in a similar environment. Since these night specters are rather dim, you will need access to the darkest sky possible, otherwise their delicate glow will become veiled by light pollution.

Schedar is much brighter than the Double Cluster and Andromeda Galaxy, which means you’ll probably be able to locate Schedar under a relatively bright sky. Even if you can’t physically see the Andromeda Galaxy or the Double Cluster, you can infer their location, while using Schedar as a stellar road sign.

See? What did I tell you? We don’t need maps, star charts, complicated computer programs, or expensive planetariums! The night sky is certifiably a jumbled mess—chaotic stars can be used as stellar road signs—as long as you’re willing to journey along the cosmic highway.


No Money Astronomy: Stars

No Money Astronomy: Constellations

No Money Astronomy: The Moon

No Money Astronomy: The Planets


Published by FlyTrapMan

I have no idea what I'm doing.

11 thoughts on “No Money Astronomy: Celestial Navigation

  1. You gave me a headache, FlyTrapMan. It’s a good thing I never wanted to be an astronaut as a kid. This stuff is too complicated for a simpleton like me.


  2. My friend of the night…you make it so wonderful and it is all so astonishing. Did see a meteorite , made my week, if not month…very bright , streaking across the north sky . Was able to utter my secret wish. Jubilations for that.


    1. Nice! I’m glad you got a chance to witness at least one Perseid, and it was a true burner! I’m sure your wish will be granted — comets are very generous and not as tricky as a genie.


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