Category Archives: celestial navigation

Astro Navigation in the Forests of the Iroquois

Link: History of the Mason Dixon line Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason plotted the famous Mason Dixon Line in 1765, long before the days of GPS or any other electronic navigation equipment. How was it then that they were they able … Continue reading

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Translating A Celestial Position Into A Geographical Position.

This follows the previous post which discussed the Celestial Co-ordinate System. If we wish to use a celestial body’s position in the celestial sphere to help us to navigate on the Earth’s surface, we must be able to translate that … Continue reading

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The Celestial Co-ordinate system.

In astronomy, we need a celestial co-ordinate system for fixing the positions of the celestial bodies in the celestial sphere. We express a celestial body’s position in the celestial sphere in relation to its angular distance north or south of … Continue reading

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What’s The Point of Astro Navigation When We Have The GPS?

Imagine that you are driving through Birmingham when, suddenly, your ‘Sat Nav’ starts to tell you that you are in Manchester.  In such a situation, you would quickly realise that the GPS had gone haywire; however, if you were in … Continue reading

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Calculating Changes in Longitude and Time Along a Parallel of Latitude.

If two ships are both positioned exactly on the Equator but are separated by 900 nautical miles in an east/west direction, then in terms of longitude, they will be 15o apart and in terms of Greenwich Mean Time, they will be … Continue reading

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The Importance of Azimuth and Altitude in Astro Navigation

 In the diagram above, the celestial sphere is drawn in the plane of the observer’s meridian with the observer’s zenith (Z) at the top.  Point O represents both the observer and the Earth. Z represents the observer’s zenith. X is … Continue reading

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Bearing, Azimuth and Azimuth Angle.

For students of astro navigation, the various definitions of azimuth, azimuth angle and bearing can cause much confusion. It is hoped that the following will help to clarify this topic. Bearing is the direction of something in relation to a … Continue reading

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A Plan Of Mathematical Perfection. (Learning from the Polynesians)

In the two previous posts of this series, we focussed on astro navigation aspects of the ancient voyaging techniques of the Polynesians and the Micronesians.  Because of that narrow focus, we did not do justice to the abounding knowledge and … Continue reading

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Pillars of the Sky (Learning from the Polynesians).

The last post in this series discussed the Polynesian’s Star Compass and their use of ‘steering stars’ for direction finding.  Although the Polynesians made extensive use of a form of dead reckoning to estimate position, as far as we know, … Continue reading

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The Polynesian Star Compass (Learning from the Polynesians)

Updated version. “Know the stars and you will always have a compass”  (The Revenant) * Nainoa Thompson tells us how that, for centuries before European sailors reached the Pacific Ocean, the South Sea Islanders accurately found their way from island … Continue reading

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