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    Learning/Teaching Celestial on the Net
    From: Hewitt Schlereth
    Date: 2010 Nov 7, 13:01 -0400
    The recent appearance of the Free Cel Nav site, got me wondering if someone hasn't come up with a virtual sextant. I mean compared to some of the games, how complicated could it be? I see there's a new magic box that lets you operate an on-screen persona. So maybe that doppelgaenger could be swinging a sextant.

    I ask because the sextant is the thing that initially attracts people to our quaint old art. Once they've grasped the notion that it's an instrument for accurately measuring angles, they want to try it out. Then, natch, they right away want to know "How'm I doing." I mean, instant gratification is nice.

    Nowadays with a GPS and celnav calculator, IG is possible. I can now tell my students how close they're coming to our known location. This well before I need to talk about intercepts or the corrections to the raw altitude they've taken, because the calculator (StarPilot) does all that. At first I just preset the sextant so the sun is a couple of diameters above the horizon and tell them to set its lower edge on the horizon. I don't even go into swinging the arc. Just say that when the knuckles of their fingers go down as they turn the micrometer drum, so does the sun, when they go up, so does the sun. When they have sun on the horizon they say "got it" or "now" or "mark." and I write down the time, turn to the calculator and voila! "Got us within 11 miles first try out of the box. Way to go. Do it again," say I. After a few passes that way - in which everyone shows rapid improvement - comes swinging the arc, etc. And so we go,baby step by baby step.

    It occurs to me that given a virtual sextant and access to the Net's many calculators, the combination could well give potential cell navigators the instant gratification of knowing they can master that weird gizmo that attracted them in the first place, and give them the confidence to delve further.

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