A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Geoffrey Kolbe
Date: 2014 Jan 5, 07:43 +0000
Greg, you wrote:
"am I wrong in thinking that can you work a Polaris problem just like any other star?"
Yes, certainly. All sights are all the same from the perspective of modern celestial navigation. The coordinates of Polaris changes more rapidly due to precession, but the significance of this can be exaggerated. Given all this, there's also no particular reason to prefer Polaris over any other second magnitude star. We don't need Polaris.
And Greg wrote:
"I know that the USNO Nautical Almanac has a set of tables [...]"
These are traditional tables, and they're kept in the almanac primarily because of tradition. There are other ways of handling this that are just as good (among many, see for example the attached tables). Note that the calculation for latitude by Polaris is usually SHORTER than a complete sight reduction by hand so it does have that benefit.