CELESTIAL NAVIGATION (using stars)

What is LURD?

L.U.R.D, which stands for left, up, right, down is a unique way of finding what direction you are facing using any star in the night sky. Why not just use Polaris (North Star)? The answer is quite simple. With so many stars in the galaxy, it can be quite daunting to figure out exactly the North Star is. Too many people finding the pointer stars using the big dipper and Cassiopeia is difficult enough. Add to that, the North Star is not the brightest star in the night sky. Using LURD, on the other hand, is easy and works with any star, almost. There is a fix for that, however.

Why LURD works

LURD works by taking advantage of one small fact of nature–The rotation of the night sky. Many of you may recall seeing those interesting time lapse photos of the night sky as the galaxy seems to rotate, counter clockwise,  around one central star, Polaris.

CELESTIAL NAVIGATION using stars

How does LURD work?

Begin by writing down  the Cardinal directions, either on the ground or on a piece of paper. Underneath each letter, place each letter in LURD.–It should look like it does below

N E S W

L U R D

Next, grab a narrowly forked stick, measuring about three to five feet in height and stick it in the ground with the fork end up. Lay flat on your back, feet barely touching the stick, and sight a star through the fork in the stick. Note it’s position then wait a few minutes. Repeat the process and you will notice the star has moved either Left, Up, Right, or Down. Reffering back to the key we wrote. If the star moves left, you are facing North. If the star moves up, you are facing East. If the star moves right, you are facing South. If the star moves down, you are facing West.

That sounds good, but!

There does seem to be a bit of a problem with the way it has been explained so far.  As you can notice, if you site on any of the stars near Polaris they will also rotate. These are called circumpolarstars. If you take a reading on one of these stars you will continue to look north, so the whole concept goes out the window.

Of course, there is a solution.

  1. First and foremost, use a star near the horizon. This will help insure you are not using a circumpolar star.
  2. Using a shorter stick will help force you to sight in on a near horizon star.
  3. Do not trust just one reading. Repeat the process by turning 180 degrees and sighting on a different star.

This technique will also work in the southern hemisphere, but one must still be conscientious of circumpolar stars around the south pole.

There is only one place on earth where one can reliably trust one star, along the equator. Of course, I would still employ the fail safe of sighting on a star in an opposite direction.