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## A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding

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Re: Pointers
From: Fred Hebard
Date: 2004 Oct 9, 12:01 -0400

```Alex,

I believe the pointers are the two stars in the ladle of the "Big
Dipper," Ursa major, that point to Polaris.  I assume somebody will
correct me if I am in error.

In the U.S. & perhaps England, Ursa major is called the "Big Dipper" as
it looks like a kitchen implement known as a ladle, used to transfer
liquids between containers.  A ladle is essentially a large spoon.
Polaris, by the way, is at the end of the handle of the "Little
Dipper", Ursa minor.  The ladle of the Little Dipper is at the other
end of its handle.

Fred

On Oct 9, 2004, at 9:33 AM, Alexandre Eremenko wrote:

> Can anyone explain me that the "Pointers" are?
> I mean this is something in the sky,
> probably a group of fixed stars.
>
> I just read a funny paper:
> Joel Brenner, Determination of latitude in an emergency,
> American Math. Monthly, 51, N 6 (1944) 343-244.
>
> The author recommends a method of determination of latitude
> without almanach, without any tables, using only a sextant
> and Polaris (and the "Pointers").
>
> In general to find lalitude from Polaris altitude with accuracy
> of few minutes, one only needs its LHA, (or LHA Aries, or LHA of
> any fixed star).
> (See the table in the top on p. 274-276 of the 2004 almanac).
> One can neglest the a_1 and a_2 corrections in the
> middle and bottom of this table, which are very small.
> And knowing LHA Aries with only 10 degree accuracy may be OK
> "in emergency". This is because Polaris is so close to the
> North Pole that its altitude changes very slowly with LHA.
> The author
> proposes to use the position of
> the "Pointers" in the sky to find LHA Aries and thus LHA
> Polaris. Instead of using the almanac table, he proposes
> (in emergency) to find the correction graphically,
> just by drawing a picture as explained below.
>
> Then, of course, refraction remains. On this the author remarks:
> "A good navigator knows the refraction corrections.
> For observed altitudes 45d, 30d, 20d, 15d, the corrections are
> -1', -2', -3', -4', respectively.
>
> Here is an Example from this paper:
>
> "As sea, charts lost, clock stopped, tables illegible,
> sextant working, navigator takes altitude of Polaris, 44d30'20",
> IC -0'20", no dip. The refraction can be neglected.
> After consultation
> with the crew, it is decided that the figure shows the approximate
> direction of the pointers [the author includes the figure].
> A circle is sketched and drawn free hand (or by the use of
> two holes on a
> card, or by the use of a coin);
> the hour angle of Polaris next estimated [according to the author,
> Polaris is 135 degrees anticlockwise from the Pointers]
> (an angle of 135d=90d+45d is easy to draw) and last the value of cos
> of the hour angle of Polaris can be read to one place
> of the decimals from
> the figure.
> The latitude equals 43d42' plus or minus 4'
>
> [End of citation].
>
>
> So what are the Pointers?
> The article does not explain this, apparently assuming that this was
> common knowledge in 1944:-)
>
> Alex.
>

```
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