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    Celestial navigation in education
    From: Jim Stephens
    Date: 2010 Mar 3, 22:17 -0800

    I'm interested in teaching a little of the basics of celestial navigation at my institution. In my NROTC days we had a navigation course that taught the intercept method (sadly, the Navy has dropped all but a one day lecture on this). In the fleet (1980's) I rarely met a naval officer who was proficient, but enlisted quartermasters took sights and reduced them, and as a naval flight officer (NFO--air navigator, weapons officer) I never practiced cel nav, but there were navigators on patrol planes who did--I think.

    Nowadays I'm teaching intro astronomy, and I like to remind the students that the subject isn't just modern astrophysics, but navigation and cartography grew hand-in-hand with the science of astronomy. Some of the students are really interested in the fact you can locate yourself by looking at the stars. Our department (Physics & Astronomy at Southern mississippi) has a few nice telescope--and I do include observing--and a couple of nautical sextants. No artificial horizons, so I'd have to find one (I know about Celestaire) or perhaps try something else.

    Might try using a telescope as a theodolite, using the analog setting circles, but they're graduated to a degree, so the fix would only be good to about thirty miles. I might try rigging encoders and digital setting circles (DSCs) to a telescope, which (besides the intended purpose of locating celestial objects) would turn a telescope into a pretty accurate theodolite, when used in an alt-azimuth mode. Haven't tried this, but I've seen a thread or two about using aircraft sextants for positioning on land, but I suspect a theodolite would be better. And a lot of people own a telescope, which--with the addition of DSCs, should make a good theodolite.

    I'd enjoy in hearing from anyone interested,
    Jim Stephens
    (James M. Stephens)
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