The sky-measuring trick that every stargazer should know

There’s a no-nonsense technique for navigating between stars and constellations and all it requires is putting your hand in the air, says Abigail Beall


23 February 2022

HDKGGA Milky Way. Night sky with stars and silhouette of a man

Arnaud Lesueur/Alamy

THIS week, instead of looking for a particular target, we will try a technique for measuring distances in the sky. Once you know how, you will be able to find your way from the constellations or stars you know to anything you wish to find. The great thing is, it is a simple method that works well for kids and adults alike.

Astronomers measure the sky in degrees. There are 90 degrees between the point directly above your head, called the zenith, to the horizon. Each degree is divided into 60 arcminutes, which are in turn made up of …