What is Starhopping?

The night sky is replete with so many wonders. These wonders need just our eyes to be seen. One way to become familiar with the beautiful night sky is by Star-hopping.

In this digital age we are so engrossed with our daily lives that we don’t get to feed our souls. The best way to find a perspective in our meaningless lives is to have a look at the great wonders of the night sky.

But…..if you are not familiar with the sky, your first experience would be just like gazing to a thousands of dots on a big, very big black roof. So to solve this we are going to learn star-hopping.

Star-hopping is a great technique to identify where stars are.

First of all you have to identify your guideposts, (stars which are bright enough to indicate where less brighter stars are)and then once you have found them, you start star hopping.

It’s the same as you jump, jump and jump.

Yeah, you jump with your feet but here you do it with your eyes. That’s why I call it “eye jump”

Benefits of Star hopping

Star-hopping really is awesome. Believe me finding even one constellation out of the 88 constellations or an asterism is purely fascinating. This allows you not only to recognize the patterns of constellations, but in the process….let it be even a life-time…..you’re also learning about star distances, star colours, ages and names.

“You’ll find that the whole of the night sky is an amazing mixture of space, time, history, science and world cultures. It’ll lead you off on all sorts of paths and you’ll learn things that will amaze others. Not to mention the basic reason – you’ll know what you’re looking at.”

 Credits: September 2008 issue of Sky at Night Magazine

Orion the hunter

(credit: NASA).

Orion, the Hunter

In our summer skies (Southern Hemisphere –Mauritius, in the Northern Hemiphere it is Winter), just have a look towards the west, you would find the three stars aligned – these three are the Orion’s belt. This is the easiest to find.

The two stars north of this are Orion’s shoulders. One of these is Betelgeuse (“BEETLE-juice”), which is a giant red star. The two brighter stars to the south are Orion, the hunter’s legs. The bright blue star is Rigel.

Ancient people used Orion to predict the seasons: If it appeared at midnight, the grapes were ready to harvest. If it appeared in the morning, summer was beginning. If it appeared in the evening, winter had arrived.
In the photo below, as we can see, we have already identified seven bright stars. Now taking them as guide-posts, we can find your way to other stars and constellations too. You just have to find your way to them by imagining your straight lines and gradually hopping from one star to another. Quite easy, you see.

seven bright stars in orion

Is it necessary to star hop to understand the sky?

We are living in the digital age of electronic star charts, easy planetarium softwares on our laptops, star apps on Ipads and stars in our palms or GO TO telescopes where with only a push of a button one can travel from the Lunar neighborhood to the far reaches of deep space in just a few seconds.


Despite all of this easily available technology, many star gazers and amateur astronomers prefer doing their night observing without the use of GO TO telescopes, and truely speaking star hopping is the best way to have a complete grip on the night sky.

So  go star-hopping, the night sky is waiting to be seen.


About heavenswithlamps

I am an educator by day and a casual Star gazer by night. I read a lot, surf a lot, cycle at times, like trekking, learning swimming, and philosophize at times. Life = Be Cooool!

Posted on April 21, 2012, in Learning the basics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. when i look at orion, i also see a knife or sword hanging off his belt to the left. the sword is made of three stars. however, the middle star is really another galaxy. it’s just so far away that it looks like a star.

  2. You know, I use my fist to count distance from one star to another as I hop Of course, you have to keep the planets out of the mix. This is how I taught young navigators in the Navy how to find starts when using celestial navigation. For instance, Sirius is five fists first left and about a fist down from Capella. These are two guideposts that can be used to verify you are looking at the right spot.

    • Its always a pleasure to learn something new from you. I use my fist at times, it is roughly 10 degrees, but I never did it to count distances between the guideposts. Will try this technique. Thanks again.

  3. I love finding my way around the night sky by star-hopping, but where we live in Canada at the moment, there is a lot of light pollution from the nearby sports centre and it’s huge spotlights.
    Whenever I DO find myself somewhere where the entire heavens are visible to me i never have my astronomy book to hand!

    • A small astuce for urban light pollution. You can just stand behind the spotlights or bar the light with your hands close to your eyes. They even say that using cereal box close to your eyes and even insert your binoculars in them may helps too. The only inconvenience is you would get the view of a small portion of the sky. And, it seems a bit awkward to take a cereal box to your eyes and look towards the sky. I haven’t tried it but a bit DIY on it could work.

      I am also suffering from this light pollution. Sometimes I think I should work hard to get a beautiful cozy “une maison a la campagne”. Far from the madding crowd type.

  1. Pingback: The winter hexagon v/s the summer hexagon? « Heavens With Lamps

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