The four cardinal directions or cardinal points are the directions of north, east, south, and west, commonly denoted by their initials, N, E, S, W. East and west are at angles to north and south, with east being in the clockwise direction of rotation from north. Intermediate points between the four cardinal directions form the points of the compass, the intermediate directions are northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest. To keep to a bearing is not, in general, the same as going in a straight direction along a great circle, conversely, one can keep to a great circle and the bearing may change. Thus the bearing of a path crossing the North Pole changes abruptly at the Pole from North to South. When traveling East or West, it is only on the Equator that one can keep East or West, anywhere else, maintaining latitude requires a change in direction, requires steering. However, this change in direction becomes increasingly negligible as one moves to lower latitudes, the Earth has a magnetic field which is approximately aligned with its axis of rotation. A magnetic compass is a device uses this field to determine the cardinal directions. Magnetic compasses are used, but only moderately accurate. The position of the Sun in the sky can be used for orientation if the time of day is known. In the morning the Sun rises roughly in the east and tracks upwards, in the evening it sets in the west, again roughly and only due west exactly on the equinoxes. This method does not work well when closer to the equator since, in the northern hemisphere. Conversely, at low latitudes in the hemisphere the sun may be to the south of the observer in summer. If they move clockwise, the sun will be in the south at midday, because of the Earths axial tilt, no matter what the location of the viewer, there are only two days each year when the sun rises precisely due east. On all other days, depending on the time of year, for all locations the sun is seen to rise north of east from the Northward equinox to the Southward equinox, and rise south of east from the Southward equinox to the Northward equinox. There is a method by which an analog watch can be used to locate north and south. The Sun appears to move in the sky over a 24-hour period while the hand of a 12-hour clock face takes twelve hours to complete one rotation. In the northern hemisphere, if the watch is rotated so that the hand points toward the Sun
A compass and map
Image: Polar bears near the Pole
A compass rose showing the four cardinal directions, the four intercardinal directions, and eight more divisions.
A method to identify north and south directions using the sun and a 12-hour analogue clock or watch set to the local time, 10:10 a.m. in this example.